Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Liberty toughens up its sked

Think Carey Green is tired of being a teen seed in the NCAA tournament? He'll tell you as much, and that's one reason why Liberty's schedule, released Wednesday, has a look as daunting as Maya Moore's jump shot.

Nope, the Flames don't have those guys on the sked. But check this out. They play Baylor (Final Four 2010 and Brittney Griner is just a sophomore). They play Texas A&M (Big 12 Conference Tournament champions). JMU is on the bill (Dukes won the CAA Tournament behind Dawn Evans, now a senior). The Maryland tournament is on tap after Christmas. Upstart St. John's is Liberty's first-round opponent with a potential second-round matchup against the Terps (Frese brought in a great class, too). CAA stalwart VCU is on the sked, too, and you know what? Every one of these games is on the road.

The Flames go 48 days without a home game in November and when they get one, on Nov. 30, it's against a Division II team that's no patsy. Glenville State led Division II in points and 3-pointers last year.

"Easy, isn't it," Green joked about the schedule he set up. "It's a great schedule full of opportunities. We've got a team that can compete. How well? That will be determined."

Green welcomes the challenge on the heels of a team that returns all but one starter, including last year's Rookie of the Year Devon Brown. That doesn't mean he wouldn't like to play a few of those games at the Vines Center. Both JMU and VCU are home-and-home deals.

"It's very difficult for Liberty to get home games," he admitted. "They end up being guarantee games."

Green said he doesn't remember a year when scheduling has been so chaotic. He says his email box has been full of teams looking for guarantee games, and while he's not sure why there has been such a spike, he speculates that the pressure to win has more teams looking to line up lightweight opponents.

"We may be reaching the point where there's greater accountability," Green said, noting coaches are under increased pressure to rack up wins. "It's at the point where everybody is looking for an easy game."

Here's the secret, though. Liberty is no check-that-off-for-the-win-column game. The Big South Tournament champions were 27-6 last year and return four of five starters plus have added the services of TCU transfer Tolu Omotola, a 6-3 forward. But Green knows that even a dream year by the Flames still most likely gets them only a seed in the teens come NCAA Tournament time. The toughest team in their conference is Gardner Webb (which, by the way, has added ODU transfer Sierra Little). But eeking out a win over a Maryland, Texas A&M or Baylor could pay off big in March.

"I'd love to get a 10 or 11 seed," Green said.

But that's all way, way down the road, and it's no surprise when asked how his Flames will defend Griner, Green responded by saying it's all about the Wolfpack Invitational on Nov. 12-13. Matchups aren't set yet, but that's when Liberty kicks off the 2010-11 season.

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