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LIU-Brooklyn is here to stay

Long Island players celebrate after defeating Robert Morris

Long Island players celebrate after defeating Robert Morris 85-82 in overtime to win the Northeast Conference Championship. (March 9, 2011) Credit: AP

It turns out LIU wasn’t just a one-year passing fancy. Hoops Scoops never thought for one second that the Blackbirds were a one-year wonder. After Thursday night’s 91-81 win over FDU, no one else should think that either.

LIU (22-7, 16-1 NEC) won the NEC regular-season title for the second straight season and guaranteed itself an automatic NIT bid should it fall short of the NCAA Tournament.

So why exactly aren’t the Blackbirds a one-year wonder? The team will return all but two players next season. Its top three scorers –Julian Boyd (17.2), Jamal Olasewere (17.2), C.J. Garner (12.3)– will all be back next season as well as sophomore point guard Jason Brickman (9.1 ppg, 7.0 ast).

Most mid-major programs typically make a run when their freshmen class becomes juniors and seniors. LIU, thanks to strong recruiting by coach Jim Ferry, has a chance to be a force for several more seasons.

“This is what we are,” said Ferry. “We’ve been this all year…I have ultimate confidence in all these guys.”

Boyd, Olasewere and Garner have been major contributors since their freshmen seasons. Brickman, the NEC leader in assists, averaged 5.5 assists per game last year. It’s rare that mid-major programs get such production from first-year players, especially from more than one.

The play of Brickman and Garner notwithstanding, the production LIU has gotten from its frontcourt has been a big key to its success. Many mid-major programs struggle to find solid post players that can rebound and score at a high rate. The Blackbirds have to of the best in the conference in Boyd and Olasewere.

Junior forward Kenny Onyechi has also given the Blackbirds quality minutes this season.

“I think we have the most depth in the frontcourt of anybody in our league,” added Ferry.

LIU isn’t the only NEC team with a bright future. Wagner (23-4, 14-2) and Robert Morris (21-8, 12-4) also had banner seasons. Unfortunately only one team from the conference will get an NCAA bid, but there is a strong possibility that the conference will produce an NIT bid.

Shout out to St. Francis NY (15-12, 12-4) for the strong season it had. The Terriers will be back next season, too, as they return all but two players. Second-leading scorer Stefan Perunicic (11.7 ppg) is the only rotation player that needs to be replaced next year.
 

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