The road to a third straight NEC championship for Jason Brickman and LIU Brooklyn will include a stop in Lexington, where Blackbirds face reigning national champion Kentucky November 23rd. (Photo courtesy of New York Post)
There will be a different feel at LIU Brooklyn's Wellness Center this season after the Blackbirds promoted assistant Jack Perri to become the program's newest head coach after Jim Ferry was hired at Duquesne. However, that is the only thing different about the two-time reigning Northeast Conference champions; who return all but two players from last year's team, one that fought Michigan State briefly before falling to the Spartans in their round of 64 matchup in the West regional.
Just as LIU has done under Ferry, the Blackbirds will once again test themselves under their new head man; most notably on November 23rd, when Brooklyn's finest travel to Rupp Arena for a meeting with John Calipari and reigning national champion Kentucky. After a season in which the Wildcats won their first national title since 1998 behind four first-round NBA draft picks, including the top two selections in Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Calipari's latest group of freshmen will get a strong nonconference opponent that certainly has the edge in experience even if some people feel they are overmatched in terms of talent. It will be interesting to see senior forwards Julian Boyd and Jamal Olasewere go up against the imposing presence of Nerlens Noel, who has received rave reviews from those who covered the big man in high school.
For those writing the Blackbirds off in this matchup, don't be so quick to dismiss this bunch. Not only did LIU contend with Michigan State, but this same group; which also includes arguably one of the best backcourts in both the NEC and nation in junior Jason Brickman and senior C.J. Garner, played North Carolina equally as hard two years ago when scoring 87 points against a Tar Heels squad that yielded an average of just 69 per game. Throw in the fact that Kentucky has generally played a number of close nonconference games while their freshmen are still getting acclimated to college play, and the chances of an upset; although still realistically slim, improve ever so slightly for a school that has played the underdog role to perfection several times over the past two seasons.