In the days leading up to the Northeast Conference Tournament, Long Island U. guard David Hicks was confident his team would win the championship and earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The 6-1 senior said if the Blackbirds lost in the NEC Tournament, they wouldn't want to even play in the NIT, a berth they secured after winning the regular-season conference title.
He was speaking figuratively, but his point was well taken. LIU (27-5) had done too much to be denied its goal of making the NCAA Tournament. The Blackbirds reached that objective in earning the program's first NCAA bid since 1997 with an 85-82 overtime win over Robert Morris in the NEC title game Wednesday night.
"We knew we had a special group," Hicks said. "We were pretty focused on making the tournament all year."
Hicks got to experience a little of what the NCAA Tournament had to offer last season. His best friend Kwadzo Ahelegbe is the starting point guard for Northern Iowa. Hicks was on hand as Northern Iowa beat UNLV and upset Kansas on its way to the Sweet 16.
"I got to experience through a best-friend aspect," Hicks said. "After seeing that, I knew that's where I wanted to be."
But the job isn't finished.
LIU doesn't fancy itself as a typical mid-major team.
The Blackbirds are riding a nation-best 13-game winning streak, and through Thursday, were fourth in the country in scoring (82.6) and third in rebounding (41.8). Four of their starters are scoring in double figures, and a fifth is averaging 9.3 points.
Sophomores Julian Boyd and Jamal Olasewere average 12.9 points each, Hicks 11.0 and and fellow senior Kyle Johnson 10.8.
The team will gather together on campus on Sunday to watch the selection show.