Saturday, March 23, 2013

Liberty: a lucky No. 13 seed?

While we believe Hampton has every reason to gripe about its No. 15 seed, we couldn't be more thrilled for Big South champion Liberty, an NCAA Tournament regular and a No. 13 seed.

Liberty (27-6) meets Purdue (24-8) in a first-round game at 12:10 p.m. Sunday. A delicious matchup -- we couldn't resist the phrase -- the game will be played at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ky.and ESPN2 is broadcasting.

Don't get us wrong. Purdue is a daunting matchup for Liberty; the Boilermakers won the Big 10 Tournament for the ninth time and boast a balanced offensive attack led by 5-6 guard Courtney Moses (C-Mo), 6-2 forward Drey Mingo and 5-6 redshirt junior KK Houser. Mingo, awarded a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA, has had a tumultuous career, if you recall, that includes a transfer from Maryland, an ACL injury and a dangerous bout with bacterial meningitis.

Moses, putting in a magnificent junior year, buried nine 3-pointers in Purdue's last NCAA Tournament first-round victory a year ago against South Dakota State.

But we like the 13 seed for Liberty, which has won 14 straight since falling to High Point at home. We like the neutral court (remember, Hampton's reward for sweeping the MEAC and leading the nation in defense is a visit to Durham, where No. 2 Duke looms). We like the memory of Liberty getting a 13 seed in 2005 and upsetting another Big 10 Team (Penn State) for the biggest win in school history.

Likewise, that Liberty team was led by five seniors as is this one in Devon Brown, Terika Lunsford, Tolu Omotola, Brittany Campbell and LaKendra Washington. Defense and rebounding account for another successful season under Carey Green; the Lady Flames are the top rebounding team in the nation with a plus-17 advantage. Liberty has kept 28 consecutive teams below 50 percent shooting; Purdue ranks 25th in field-goal efficiency.

Another note on Brown -- Richmond Times-Dispatch's state player of the year and hint, hint, perhaps the LadySwish selection, too -- the senior needs 20 points for a career 2,000.

"They've got great height; they've got inside play; they've got good shooting guards," said Purdue coach Sharon Versyp.."They have the ingredients of a really good basketball team, and that's why they've won as many games as they have."

We'd like to see them win another on Sunday.

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