By Payton Havermann
The Liberty Flames were a Cinderella team after winning the Atlantic Sun title last year and, as a No. 12-seed, upsetting No. 5-seed Mississippi State in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Now, they return most of that same team, and one player to watch will be Scottie James. The 30-game starter does it all, averaging 11.1 points and 7.3 rebounds a game. He’s currently shooting 61% from the field and is an integral part of the well-oiled Liberty machine.
Liberty is the team to watch, currently sitting at 27-4 and 13-3 in conference. Liberty has built a very compelling case for an at-large bid after starting the season 14-0, including a victory over a Power 5 school in Vanderbilt. Their one non-conference loss was to LSU. Liberty plays a very defensive style of basketball. Their opponents average a mere 53.6 points a game while Liberty themselves averages 68.9 points a game.
A sleeper team to watch for the tournament is actually the No. 2-seed North Florida. The team actually finished the year with the same record in conference as Liberty, and even managed to beat Liberty 71-70 in January. So why is North Florida a sleeper instead of an outright favorite? Well, North Florida struggled in non-conference play to start the yea against Florida National University and LIU, two teams that aren’t even Division 1. That, added to the fact that they didn’t really have a signature win, make this team a tad weaker than Liberty.
Liberty is the most likely to win this tournament. Most of the team is already experienced in the tournament, and the rest of the Atlantic Sun is rather weak outside of the top 2. Those two things should work in Liberty’s favor and the team should easily win the Atlantic Sun, possibly returning as a popular Cinderella pick in March.
Edited by Emma Moloney | firstname.lastname@example.org