Introducing Cinderella: LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds

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Conference: Northeast

Coach: Derek Kellogg

Record: 18-16 (10-8 NEC)

Rankings and Ratings:

Kenpom: 261
RPI: 249
AP/USA TODAY: Not ranked

Seeding: Given the computer numbers, the question for LIU Brooklyn is likely whether they’ll be headed to Dayton for the First Four or if they’ll be one of the two 16-seeds that is placed directly into the “main” bracket. Either way, expect the Blackbirds to be on the 16 line when the bracket is unveiled.

Names you need to know: Junior guards Joel Hernandez and Raiquan Clark are the Blackbirds’ top two scorers, with Hernandez averaging 20.5 points per game and Clark chipping in with 17.3 per. With LIU Brooklyn battling first half foul trouble, Hernandez scored 19 first-half points as the Blackbirds took a 34-18 halftime lead at Wagner in the NEC title game. As for Clark, in addition to his scoring the 6-foot-4 guard leads LIU Brooklyn in rebounding at 7.1 per game. Sophomore guards Jashaun Agosto and Julian Batts are also averaging double figures on the season, with senior forward Zach Coleman averaging 6.6 rebounds per game.

Stats you need to know: LIU Brooklyn entered Tuesday’s NEC title game averaging 77.7 points per game. In conference games the Blackbirds were the best in the NEC in free throw rate (39.8) by a solid margin, and they also led the NEC in two-point field goal percentage (54.2 percent in league games). With regards to perimeter shooting Batts, who’s shooting just over 40 percent from three, and Hernandez have been the best options percentage-wise, but Agosto is a capable shooter as well.

Big wins, bad losses: The two wins over Wagner, the first being a 69-67 thriller back on January 13, are the most noteworthy wins for LIU Brooklyn this season. Tuesday’s win at Wagner gave LIU Brooklyn its first Quadrant 2 victory of the season, and 14 of the team’s 18 wins have come in Quadrant 4 games.

How’d they get here?: LIU Brooklyn took care of business at home in its first two NEC tournament games, beating St. Francis-Brooklyn and Fairleigh Dickinson, to reach the NEC final. From there the Blackbirds took care of Wagner, 71-61, handing the NEC regular season champions their first home loss of the season.

Outlook: If they can get to Dayton, LIU Brooklyn may be able to pick up a win (and for the NEC a valuable second NCAA tournament unit). The team’s lack of size inside could be an issue however, with no player taller than 6-foot-7 (Coleman) seeing much playing time.

How do I know you?: Kellogg should be a recognizable name, as he spent the nine seasons prior at UMass (his alma mater) before taking the LIU Brooklyn job this past offseason. As for the program, LIU Brooklyn reached the NCAA tournament three consecutive years earlier this decade (2011-13).