Introducing Cinderella: Lipscomb headed to first-ever NCAA tournament

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ConferenceAtlantic Sun

CoachCasey Alexander

Record23-9 (10-4 Atlantic Sun)

Ratings and Rankings:

– Kenpom177
– RPI: 108
– AP/USA Today: Not ranked

SeedingThe Bisons finished two games out of first place in the Atlantic Sun, and historically that likely means they’re set up for a 16th seed.

Names you need to knowJunior Garrison Matthews can absolutely fill it up. The 6-foot-5 wing averaged 21.7 points per game and had a 43-point outing against Kennesaw State in January. Roby Mayberry is no slouch offensively either, averaging 16.7 points on 61.4 percent shooting. Eli Pepper grabs eight rebounds per game.

Stats you need to knowLipscomb wants to go fast. Overall, they rank seventh in adjusted tempo according to KenPom. Offensively, they have the 12th-shortest average possession length in the country and clock in at 14th defensively. They shoot quickly themselves and then get opponents to go fast as well. Their defensive rebounding kick-starts their transition offense.

Big wins, bad lossesThe Bisons played Belmont home-and-away in the non-conference season and won both times, giving them their only two top-100 wins of the year. Losses to North Florida and Jacksonville are serious drags on the resume. They did top ASun champ Florida Gulf Coast twice, including in dramatic fashion Sunday.

How’d they get here?The Bisons got up by 32 in the second half against the Eagles and then went into near-complete meltdown mode. FGCU pulled as close as five points, but were unable to pull off one of the biggest come-from-behind wins in NCAA history.  Lipscomb has won eight-straight heading into the NCAA tournament.

OutlookLipscomb is going to find itself some tough sledding in the NCAA tournament. The Bisons are likely a 16-seed, a spot from which no team has ever gotten out of the first round, and their high-possession style is rarely a recipe for an upset. There isn’t a lot about their profile that screams Cinderella.

How do I know you?You don’t. Or at least not from the NCAA tournament. This will be Lipscomb’s first-ever trip to the Big Dance. If you’re a big NAIA fan, though, you might remember the 1986 Lipscomb squad that won the national championship in that division.

Video: Belmont claims another late victory vs. Lipscomb

Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images
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History repeating itself led to another heartbreak for Lipscomb.

For the second time in a week, the Bisons fell to Belmont in the final seconds in their Battle of the Boulevard matchups. This time it was a Taylor Barnette 3-pointer with 5 seconds remaining in overtime that gave the Bruins the win over Lipscomb, their 11th-straight over their intra-Nashville rivals, by the score of 78-76.

Last week at home, the Bruins erased an 18-point second-half deficit on Dylan Windler’s layup with under a second remaining to best Lipscomb.

In between to those two bad beats to Belmont, Lipscomb also managed to fit in a 72-71 loss to Tennessee State that came courtesy of a Tigers jumper with nine seconds left. Here’s guessing the 104-85 win over Tennessee Tech the Bisons also snuck in that week isn’t enough salve for those wounds.

2014-2015 Season Preview: Without Mercer in the Atlantic Sun, does anyone contend with Dunk City?

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Beginning on October 3rd and running up until November 14th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2014-2015 college hoops preview package.

Today, we will be previewing the Atlantic Sun.

MORE: 2014-2015 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

For the second year in a row, an Atlantic Sun program captivated the nation in March, as Mercer defeated Duke in the Round of 64. The Bears reached the NCAA tournament after knocking off Florida Gulf Coast in the A-Sun title game, avenging a conference tournament loss from the previous season. Mercer exited the Atlantic Sun on a high note, as Bob Hoffman’s program is now a member of the Southern Conference.

Despite the departure of Mercer, one thing remains the same in 2014-2015: Dunk City will be the favorite once again. The conference’s two best guards — Bernard Thompson and Brett Comer — both reside in the FGCU back court. The three-year starters were part of the Original Dunk City back in 2013, the first No. 15 seed to reach the Sweet 16. Transfers Julian DeBose (Rice) and Brian Greene Jr. (Auburn) provide depth in the backcourt, and while the Eagles lose Eric McKnight to transfer and Filip Cvjeticanin to injury, Joe Dooley feels good about his frontline with returning Jamil Jones and Nate Hicks with newcomers Demetris Morant (a transfer from UNLV), Marc-Eddy Norelia and Eric Moeller.

MORE: Mid-Major Power Rankings Mid-Major All-Americans

Two teams that finished .500 last season could emerge as the biggest challenges to FGCU. Lipscomb has four starters back led by twin brothers Martin and Malcolm Smith. In Casey Alexander’s second season, his Bisons finished strong with eight wins in their last 11 games. North Florida has rookie of the year Dallas Moore in the back court and Beau Beech headlines a host of returnees on the interior who can help combat the loss of Travis Wallace, the team’s second leading scorer and top rebounder.

USC Upstate lost three of its top four scorers from a team that qualified for the Tournament, but Ty Greene, one of two returning starters, can help keep Spartans in the top half of the league standings.

Perhaps the biggest concern for the Atlantic Sun is the number of programs that have left the league. In addition to Mercer, East Tennessee State and Belmont have also left the league in recent years. Those were three of the best programs in the conference.


  • In: None
  • Out: East Tennessee State, Mercer


The 6-foot-3 shooting guard makes up one-half of FGCU’s star-studded back court. The team’s top scorer from a season ago posted 15.1 points to go along with his 4.1 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game. He is also has a presence on the other end of the floor being named A-Sun Defensive Player of the Year as a sophomore in 2012-2013.


  • Brett Comer, Florida Gulf Coast: The Dunk City floor general is the conference’s top returning assist man. First-team all-conference selection in 2013-2014.
  • Dallas Moore, North Florida: The Atlantic Sun Rookie of the Year averaged 12.5 points, 2.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game, shooting 37 percent from beyond the arc.
  • Martin Smith, Lipscomb: The A-Sun’s top returning scorer at 15.6 points per game. Dropped 20 on FGCU twice last season.
  • Ty Greene, USC Upstate: The 6-foot-3 senior posted averages of 14.3 points, 3.0 boards and 3.5 assists per game.



1. Florida Gulf Coast
2. Lipscomb
3. North Florida
4. USC Upstate
5. Northern Kentucky
6. Kennesaw State
7. Stetson
8. Jacksonsville

‘Battle of the Boulevard’ coaches share ride to see the same recruit

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Monday marked the beginning of the first recruiting period of the 2013-14 NCAA calendar, meaning that college basketball coaches are allowed to travel the country to evaluate recruiting targets until November 10th. With the travel requirements (not to mention costs for rental cars and gas), saving a few dollars where you can is something most coaches look to do.

But carpooling with a rival coach on the way to checking out a player you’re both recruiting? That was the case for new Lipscomb head coach Casey Alexander, who shared a ride with Belmont head coach Rick Byrd on Wednesday.

Even with the intense nature of the “Battle of the Boulevard,” the two coaches share a relationship you’ll be hard-pressed to find in any other rivalry in college basketball. Alexander, previously the head coach at Stetson, was both a player and an assistant coach under Byrd at Belmont so it makes sense that these two would share a ride.

That probably makes for some good conversation, and maybe some good-natured ribbing between the two as well.

Despite now being members of different conferences (Lipscomb remains in the Atlantic Sun while Belmont is entering its second season in the OVC) the rivals who are separated by just 2.7 miles continue to play twice a season. Lipscomb will host the first meeting of the 2013-14 season on November 8, with the return match being played on November 20 at Belmont’s Curb Events Center.

Lipscomb leads the all-time series 73-59 but the Bisons have lost the last three meetings, with Belmont winning both games last season (89-60 at Lipscomb and 100-66 at Belmont).

And then there was one: Stetson

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When Lipscomb completed their search for a head men’s basketball coach this past Friday evening, it was supposed to represent the end of the coaching carousel for 2013. However, the Bisons poached Casey Alexander from fellow Atlantic Sun school Stetson, so now that leaves the Hatters as the final Division 1 school remaining without a head coach in place.

With practices set to begin in just about four months from now, Stetson athletic director Jeff Altier understands the sense of urgency in searching and hiring a new coach, he told The Daytona Beach News-Journal: “Obviously, it’s very late in the year for anybody to be transitioning. Most job searches have been completed. The timing is not the best. But we’re ready to move quickly and aggressively.”

The question is, where do they go and just how quickly?

Altier admitted that next season will likely be a rebuilding year whether Alexander remained in DeLand, FL or not: “We were excited to watch the team progress over the last two years, but the process of building the program has just begun. This will be no more than a bump in the road for the program moving forward.”

By all accounts, Altier has not yet mentioned any names as potential coaching candidates. Considering Stetson hasn’t finished above .500 since 2000-01, never been to the NCAA Tournament, and he has admitted next year is a rebuilding one for the program, it’s hard to see the Hatters hiring a current Division 1 head coach.

Keep an eye on former Old Dominion assistant coach Rob Wilkes as a potential candidate. In 2011, when Stetson hired Alexander, Wilkes was a candidate for the job as he is a 1993 graduate of Stetson. Rob’s father, Glenn Sr., was a longtime coach for Stetson compiling a 551-436 record over 36 seasons.

With Jeff Jones now the head coach at ODU, he has brought in his own staff leaving Wilkes on the outside looking in.

You can find Kevin on twitter @KLDoyle11

Former Syracuse walk-on Ryan Cahak hired as assistant at Lipscomb

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Former Syracuse walk-on Ryan Cahak now has a Division I assistant coaching job.

Cahak, who played at Syracuse from 2005-08, was announced as a member of the Lipscomb staff Wednesday, hired by head coach Scott Sanderson. He comes to the Nashville school after serving two years as a graduate assistant at Tennessee.

“Ryan has been with some really good people,” Sanderson said in a statement. “He played for Jim Boeheim at Syracuse and has worked under Bruce Pearl and Cuonzo Martin.  Those are some really good basketball genes in my opinion.

“He’s been around some really good basketball people with different philosophies on how to do things differently. I think that’s a big asset for Ryan.”

Cahak played in four games with Syracuse in 2007-08, a team that finished 21-14 and made an appearance in the NIT.

“It’s a great opportunity here at Lipscomb with Coach Sanderson and the rest of the staff,” Cahak said in the school’s release. “I’m excited to jump in, learn from the guys, and hopefully have a successful season.”

The Bisons finished 13-18 last season, including 8-10 in the Atlantic Sun. They take part in an annual rivalry game with crosstown foe Belmont, which is considered one of the fiercest rivalries in the nation.

“With Ryan being 28, he’s closer to our player’s ages and will hopefully be able to communicate with them really well both on and off the floor,” Sanderson added.

“I also think it will be good having a new set of eyes and someone that will see things the way we haven’t seen it. Ryan will also bring the perspective of the three guys he’s been around and I think it will be good for us to hear a different voice and the players to hear a different voice.”

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_