March Madness First Four Preview
Radford vs. LIU Brooklyn
Two programs looking for their first NCAA Tournament victory meet when LIU Brooklyn takes on Radford in the First Four on Tuesday night in Dayton, Ohio, with the winner moving on to face top seed Villanova two days later in the East Region at Pittsburgh. The Highlanders won their last seven contests, including the Big South title game, while the co-16th seeded Blackbirds are on a five-game win streak that ended with a Northeast Conference championship.
LIU Brooklyn is in the field for the seventh time – the first since making it three straight years (2011-13) – and the NEC’s second-leading scorer Joel Hernandez (20.9) has been the go-to player, including a 32-point explosion in the championship game victory over Wagner. The Blackbirds are coached by Derek Kellogg, who is in his first season after spending nine years at Massachusetts where he took the Minutemen to the Big Dance once. Radford, in the tournament for the first time since 2009 and third overall, won its championship game in dramatic fashion as freshman guard Carlik Jones drained a long 3-pointer at the buzzer to beat Liberty 55-52. “Everybody’s shocked because nobody believed in us but Radford,” Highlanders junior forward Ed Polite Jr. told reporters. “We played with that chip on our shoulder the whole year.”
TV: 6:40 p.m. ET, truTV
ABOUT RADFORD (22-12): The Highlanders have only two players averaging in double figures and Polite leads the way in points (13.5), rebounds (7.7) and steals (1.9), but he was just 5-for-20 from the floor the last two games. Jones is the only other double-digit point producer at 11.8 and averaged 14.5 in the Big South Tournament, including 13 in the final to go along with six assists and five rebounds. Sophomore forward Devonnte Holland contributed 11 points and seven boards in the final and sophomore guard Travis Fields Jr. averaged 11.5 in the last two.
ABOUT LIU BROOKLYN (18-16): Hernandez, a senior guard, also contributes 5.9 rebounds and three other players average at least 10 points for the Blackbirds – who were second in the league in scoring (77.5). Junior guard Raiquan Clark (17.4 points, team-high 7.1 rebounds) connects on 55.7 percent of his shots, while sophomore backcourt mate Julian Batts scores 10 per contest. Sophomore guard Jashaun Agosto (11.7 points) tops the team in assists (4.1), although he must rebound after going 5-of-28 from the field over his last three contests.
1. LIU Brooklyn did not face anyone from the NCAA Tournament field this season and Radford lost against three – Ohio State, Nevada and Virginia Tech.
2. Radford sophomore G Donald Hicks is third on the team in scoring (7.8) but totaled four in the last two games.
3. The Blackbirds played in the First Four at Dayton in 2013 and lost to James Madison 68-55.