Sometime in late January, as the Liberty Men’s Basketball team was sitting at 18-4, with a NET ranking in the mid-40’s, the whispers around the fan base started. LU had never been in the top-100 this far into a season. After a rough performance against Austin Peay, the Flames had gone on the road and handily beaten UCLA, then rattled off seven more wins in a row. Was this possibly the best Liberty Men’s Basketball team ever? Too early to tell, but it was a really great start.
Then came the hype. Lipscomb was coming to town, and it had the flavor of a tournament match up. We all know how that went, and the whispers about the 2018-19 team’s possible GOAT status were quieted…temporarily. Liberty would go on to get revenge on Lipscomb’s home floor just two weeks later, and the Flames would win 10 of their last 11 games. It all culminated on Sunday, when Liberty upset that same Lipscomb team again, in a deafeningly loud and hostile Allen Arena.
If you are reading this, you probably saw the game. Every time ASUN Player of The Year Garrison Mathews tried to put his team on top in the second half, the Flames had an answer. The moment was never too big for Coach McKay’s team, and Liberty is going to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in school history.
Only, this time it is different than those previous three appearances.
Those teams, and those Big South Championships were all great in their own respects. The 1994 Flames will always be known as the first, and their gutsy effort against #1 North Carolina with Dr. Falwell in the stands is forever part of Liberty lore. The dominant 2004 Big South final performance by Freshman Larry Blair against High Point also stands out. And with all due respect to the exciting run of the 2013 team, Liberty had one of its worst regular seasons in memory that year.
The 2018-19 Liberty Flames go into Selection Sunday as a threat to slay giants. While we don’t know their match up yet, most analysts are predicting a 13 or 12 seed for the Flames. Liberty has never sniffed that territory in the past. The rest of the country knows the answer to the question that our fan base has been discussing for months. This is the best Liberty Basketball team ever. They’ve won 28 games, a team record. LU shared the regular season conference title, something they hadn’t been able to do since 2004. They just finished the ASUN Tournament in the top 60 of NET Rankings. Liberty has never even finished in the top 150 before. And oh yeah, they just won the ASUN Tournament in one of the more high-pressure games in memory.
The debate is over.
The consistency, the depth of talent, the coaching, and the clutch performances all point to one thing. We as fans just watched the best Liberty Flames Basketball team of all-time. So enjoy this week. Enjoy the good vibes, the great stories, and the hype that is to come. Watch these athletes take their victory lap in the NCAA tournament, as they attempt to achieve another first in program history and pull off an upset in the national spotlight. And most importantly, take it all in and soak in these memories, because we are watching something special. We are watching the best team in program history.