(Collegeinsider.com with a brief all-access piece on last year’s Blackbirds)
With it being Thanksgiving, I feel as though the fine people who read this site would feel cheated if they didn’t know what I’m thankful for in the world of basketball. I’m of course thankful for John Calipari, the character kids he brings in to represent the University, and our eighth national title, but I’m also thankful for something else. What’s that something else you ask? LIU-Brooklyn basketball of course! Now, I’m not an actual fan of the LIU-Brooklyn basketball squad, but I’m a huge supporter of the style they play. If you don’t know, the Blackbirds are consistently one of the nation’s most up-tempo teams, ranking top 3 nationally the past two seasons at 74 possessions a game! Compare that to Kentucky who has only averaged 66 the past two seasons (around average for D-1) and you’ll see that LIU plays a dying breed of basketball. Seeing teams like this take me back to my childhood when teams like Kentucky, Arkansas, and Loyola-Marymount were running through college basketball as quickly as they could (and winning a lot in the process). Seeing those exciting styles of play are part of the reason why I’m such an avid fan of the college game today. Which is why I’m sad the up-tempo game isn’t as widespread anymore, but it does make me all nostalgic when I see a team playing with reckless abandon like LIU does. So here’s to you Blackbirds, keep running and don’t you ever change!
Now that you’ve made it through that here’s what to watch for tomorrow.
The Blackbirds are 0-3 on the young season under the guidance of first year head coach, Jack Perri. He spent seven seasons under former coach Jim Ferri (now the head man at Duquesne), where he learned the ins-and-outs of the up-tempo game. While the coaches have changed, the tempo has not. LIU is averaging 80.7 points and possesses the ball over 74 times a game. This is mainly due to their most efficient player, Jamal Olasewere, who is averaging 22.3 points per game. The 6’7” Senior, who does everything on the floor, is the Blackbird’s version of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. In addition to his lofty point average, he pulls down 7.3 rebounds, blocks 1.3 shots, and turns the opponent over 2.3 times per game. He’s not the only player who can produce offensively either, Julian Boyd and Jason Brickman can do that as well. Boyd is averaging 18 points and 7 rebounds in three game while Brickman is dishing out a staggering 8.7 assists per contest. While they’re 0-3, the Blackbirds will have no problems putting up points against a Kentucky defense that is still finding its identity.
Defense for the Blackbirds is an entirely different story. While LIU-Brooklyn has no problem scoring they are having trouble stopping their opponents from doing the same. In terms of Adjusted Defense (from Kenpom.com), Perri’s Blackbirds are allowing 1.053 points per possession which places them 284th nationally. In terms of the “Four Factors” which are basketball statistician, Dean Oliver’s, four most highly correlating events to basketball success, LIU can only do one thing well (play defense without fouling). While that’s important, it’s the least important of the four, behind effective field goal percentage, turnover percentage, and offensive rebound rate. They’re not ranked above 198th in either of those three previously mentioned categories. In addition to that they’re allowing opponents to shoot a mind blowing 58.3% from the field. Even worse, they’re allowing opponents to shoot 49% from three. Pair that porous defense with the likes of Julius Mays and Kyle Wiltjer roaming the perimeter and you have a recipe for a Kentucky blowout.
Tomorrow’s game should be void of any surprises from Long Island. Unlike Morehead State who is somehow still fouling, the Blackbirds do not bother themselves with that silly concept called defense. Yes, tomorrow’s game should bring you out of that Thanksgiving food coma with the up-tempo play and the massive amount of points being poured in. Ken Pomeroy’s ratings see Kentucky as 25 point favorites tomorrow and give us a 96% chance of coming out victorious. Given that LIU will likely not play defense against the nation’s 2nd most efficient offense, it’s hard to envision a scenario of this one being close.