Posted on: March 7, 2012 9:57 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2012 10:01 pm

Tiny Dancers: LIU-Brooklyn

When LIU-Brooklyn clinched homecourt advantage throughout the Northeast Conference tournament, the Blackbirds became the heavy favorites to win the automatic bid. After all, they have won 27 in a row at the WRAC in Brooklyn. Jim Ferry’s troops followed through, cruising to a 90-73 victory over Robert Morris in Wednesday’s championship game.

C.J. Garner led the way with 21 points, as LIU-Brooklyn will head to its second-straight NCAA tournament. In the second half, the Blackbirds turned an eight-point halftime lead into a run-and-gun show, including a halfcourt alley-oop from Garner to Julian Boyd that gave LIU a 14-point lead.

With Boyd and Jamal Olasawere dominating the paint, and Jason Brickman controlling tempo and making plays for himself and teammates, the Blackbirds won’t be an easy out. They like to get out and push the tempo, and they have plenty of finishers. LIU also has Big Dance experience, losing by 15 in the first round of last year’s NCAA tournament to North Carolina.

LIU-Brooklyn is heading to its second straight NCAA tournament after beating Robert Morris in the NEC title game. (AP)

Player to know: Julian Boyd. He was the NEC’s Player of the Year for a reason, and that reason is his dominance at both ends of the floor. The 6-foot-7, 230-lb. big man is a load to handle in the paint and on the glass, totaling 14 double-doubles this season. He had 18 points and 10 rebounds in the championship win, and has finished with 20 or more points in five of his last eight games. Boyd won’t be pushed off the block, as long as he stays on the floor (he’s fouled out five times). 

The Vitals:
Record: 25-8 overall, 16-2 in Northeast Conference
Most recent tournament appearance: 2011, 16 seed, lost to North Carolina
We’re thinking: 16 seed
KenPom ranking: 174
Sagarin ranking: 163
RPI: 90
Best wins: vs. Wagner, vs. Vermont
Worst losses: at Hofstra, at Norfolk State, at Monmouth
Notable stat: The Blackbirds don't fly -- they run. The team averages 74.5 possessions per game, third-most in the nation.

-- Jeff Borzello and Matt Norlander

Posted on: February 5, 2012 10:25 am
Edited on: February 6, 2012 6:52 am

Homecourt advantage gives LIU edge in NEC race

By Jeff Borzello

NEW YORK -- Some teams downplay homecourt advantage, especially in a balanced league like the Northeast Conference.

Not Jim Ferry and LIU-Brooklyn -- they know what kind of edge playing at the WRAC gives the Blackbirds.

“It’s huge in this conference,” Ferry said. “It’s the most important thing.”

Long Island has won 21 straight on its home court, including Saturday’s 95-80 victory against Central Connecticut State -- a game that was marred by three technical fouls and a brawl during the post-game handshakes.

The win improved the Blackbirds to 11-1 in the conference, one game ahead of St. Francis (N.Y.). The two teams will play twice this week, but LIU has a pretty easy finish to the season after that. If Long Island ends up getting the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament again this season, mark it down: no one is beating the Blackbirds on their home floor. It doesn't matter if it's a sold-out gym or a sparse crowd, LIU-Brooklyn just plays with a different confidence on its home court. 

“I didn’t think about it until a few weeks ago, but we clearly shoot better,” Ferry said. “Being at home definitely helped us.”

Last season, LIU won the regular-season title, getting homecourt advantage throughout the conference tournament. The Blackbirds survived two close games in the semifinals and finals and got to the NCAA tournament.

Don’t be surprised if that happens again this season.

Long Island has won 12 of its past 13 games, including a road contest at Wagner two weeks ago that changed the momentum of the conference race. While this week’s two games against Brooklyn rival St. Francis (N.Y.) -- including the “Battle of Brooklyn” and a game at Madison Square Garden -- will decide the temporary league leader, it still looks like LIU has the inside track for the top seed.

Many of the same characters from last year’s team are still major factors on this season’s version. Julian Boyd (right) and Jamal Olasewere form the best inside tandem in the conference, with Boyd providing a go-to option offensively and Olasewere bringing his relentless activity at both ends. Jason Brickman is one of the best point guards in the league, and Michael Culpo can knock down shots. Kenny Onyechi provides legitimate depth inside. Long Island ranks third in the country in tempo, and many teams simply can’t keep up with them.

“We had so many good players [last year],” Ferry said. “We don’t have as much depth. Out returning players are better, we just don’t have the depth -- but we still have enough.”

The personnel is almost secondary to homecourt advantage, though. If the Blackbirds get the top seed in the conference tournament, they’re likely heading to the NCAA tournament.

Photo: US Presswire

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