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First Four: LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds vs. Radford Highlanders

LIU Brooklyn and Radford Will Fight it Out For the Right to Face the Villanova Wildcats

The LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds will take the Radford Highlanders tonight in the first of four games to be played in Dayton, Ohio. The winner of the game will head to Pittsburgh to face the Villanova Wildcats on Thursday night.

The game will tip off at 6:40pm on truTV. As such, in advance of tonight’s match-up, let’s take a quick look at both teams.

Long Island University Blackbirds

Location: Brooklyn, New York

Conference: NEC (Northeast Conference)

Record: 18-16 (10-8)

KenPom: 245 (AdjO: 211, AdjD: 294)

The LIU Blackbirds took down top-seeded Wagner in the Northeast Conference Tournament to advance to the school’s seventh NCAA Tournament. The team is 0-6 lifetime in the NCAA Tournament and actually lost to 4-seed Villanova in 1997. They last appeared in 2013, losing in a First Four match-up to James Madison.

The Blackbirds are led by fifth-year senior Joel Hernandez (6’3, Guard), who scored a career-high 32 points in the conference championship game and was named Tournament MVP. Hernandez averages just under 21 points a game this year after missing the entirety of last season due to injury.

In what is a good sign for Villanova, the LIU Blackbirds rank 39th in AdjTempo. As a result of that pace of play, the Blackbirds take a lot of shots and commit a lot of turnovers, not unlike Villanova’s opponent in last year’s round of 64, Mount St. Mary’s. While Villanova is obviously heavily favored to win regardless of opponent, LIU Brooklyn appears to be the “better” match-up on paper.

Radford Highlanders

Location: Radford, Virginia

Conference: Big South

Record: 22-11 (12-6)

KenPom: 170 (AdjO: 203, AdjD: 133)

The Radford Highlanders will be making their third NCAA Tournament appearance this year having secured the auto-bid out of the Big South Conference with a buzzer-beating win over Liberty in the tournament final.

The Highlanders likely fancy themselves as a tiny Virginia. They play extremely show (346th in AdjTempo) and pride themselves on playing tough defense. Unlike LIU, the Highlanders grind out long possessions and really look to cut off teams trying to play quick in transition.

Radford is led by Junior Ed Polite, a 6’5 forward (13.5 points per game), and 6’0 Freshman point guard Carlik Jones (11.8 points per game). However, reflective of the style of play, the Highlanders do not have much of an electric or impressive offense. They average just 67.4 points a game, good for 314th in the country, but succeed by holding opponents to just 64.4. If the Radford Highlanders were remotely on the level of Villanova talent-wise, this would be the type of match-up that could cause some problems for the Wildcats.

This game, to be completely honest, is actually a pretty compelling First Four match-up considering the complete contrast between the styles of play. All in all, Radford should be able to rely on its defense to capitalize on a LIU team prone to turnovers and sloppy possessions. However, should Joel Hernandez get hot, Radford may struggle to put up the points necessary to keep pace.

The game will tip off from Dayton at 6:40pm tonight. If you’re watching, please free to use this post as a game thread to discuss and scout Villanova’s potential first round opponents.

First Four Schedule (all games on truTV)

Tuesday, March 13

No. 16 LIU Brooklyn vs. No. 16 Radford, 6:40 p.m. ET

No. 11 St. Bonaventure vs. No. 11 UCLA, 9:10 p.m. ET

Wednesday, March 14

No. 16 North Carolina Central vs. No. 16 Texas Southern, 6:40 p.m. ET

No. 11 Arizona State vs. No. 11 Syracuse, 9:10 p.m. ET

Please use this as your Open Thread!