LYNCHBURG, Va. — The 2017-18 season is extended for at least one more game for a pair of teams who put together impressive runs during the regular season and conference tournaments.
Monday marks the start of postseason tournament basketball across the NCAA, as the 10th anniversary of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament (CIT) will begin play with a slew of games across the country. Programs from outside of the power conferences who weren’t selected for the NCAA Tournament or the NIT make up the field and will vie for the tournament title.
Earlier this week, the Liberty Flames accepted an invitation into the 2018 CIT, and they learned who their first opponent would be on Saturday. The Flames will welcome the North Carolina A&T Aggies to Lynchburg, VA on Monday night, with tip-off scheduled for 6:00pm EST.
The game is an intriguing match-up, and both teams are coming off of lengthy runs in their conference tournaments. Here’s what you need to know in advance of Monday night’s tilt between the Flames and the Aggies.For Liberty, the 2017-18 season continued a historical two-year run for the Flames. For the second year in a row, the Flames have accumulated at least 20 wins, and are making back-to-back trips to the postseason for the first time in school history in the process.
Their back-to-back seasons of 20-plus wins is also the first time in school history that the Flames have had such a run. They have 41 wins over the last two seasons, which is a school record.
Liberty will be taking part in the CIT for the second year in a row, and the third time overall. Last season, the Flames picked up wins over the Norfolk State Spartans and the Samford Bulldogs, before falling in the quarter-finals to the UMBC Retrievers on the road.
The Flames are 3-2 all-time in the event.
After an up-and-down regular season, the Flames entered the Big South Tournament as the fifth-seed, finishing up at 9-9 overall in conference play. Wins over the Campbell Fighting Camels in the quarter-finals and the top-seed UNC Asheville Bulldogs in the semifinals propelled the Flames into the tournament championship game against the Radford Highlanders. Liberty missed out on a trip to the NCAA Tournament at the buzzer, as freshman Carlik Jones hit a three ball to give the Highlanders the 55-52 victory.
Monday marks the second-ever meeting between the Flames and the Aggies. The two programs met back in the First Round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament in Dayton, OH. The Aggies picked up a slim 73-72 victory over Liberty.
Coming into the 2017-18 season, the Aggies were picked to finish 13th in the MEAC preseason polls. Instead, they finished with a conference record of 11-5, and finished fourth in the league standings. They advanced to the semifinals of the MEAC Tournament, where they fell to the Hampton Pirates.
The last time that the Aggies made the MEAC Tournament Final was back in 2013, when they advanced to the Big Dance. This season will be their first appearance in the CIT.
Both the Aggies and Flames enter Monday night with a record of 20-14 overall on the year. North Carolina A&T and Liberty will be looking to keep their seasons alive for at least one more game, and advance in the tournament and take a step closer to hoisting the hardware when all is said and done.
Players to Watch
– 13.5 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 1.0 apg, 0.8 bpg; 61.8% FG, 73.9% FT
– Sophomore forward has back-to-back double-doubles over his last two games (19 ppg, 13.5 rpg).
– 11.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.3 spg; 38.9% FG, 83.1% FT
– Cabbil has three straight double-digit point games since missing the regular season finale against High Point on February 24th.
North Carolina A&T
– 16.6 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.1 apg, 0.7 bpg; 54.4% FG, 77.6% FT
– Olujobi recorded two 30+ point games over the first four games of the season, including a 34-point, 10-rebound outing in his debut for the Aggies.
– 7.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 5.2 apg, 1.7 spg; 51.5% FG, 71.6% FT
– The freshman point guard recorded five or more assists on 20 occasions this season.
Now in its’ tenth year, the CIT is selected by a 10-member selection committee, consisting of current Division I athletic directors, who select the 32-team field. The tournament invites will be officially announced on Sunday, March 11 and the first round will begin on Monday, March 12.
– T. Bennett