LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds (1-0)
Last time out: W, 87-80 vs. Saint Peter's
Despite being outshot by Saint Peter's 51.6 to 44.6 percent, LIU Brooklyn was able to outlast the Peacocks in a game that was tight down the stretch. The Blackbirds used a late 7-0 run to take an 81-72 lead with 49 seconds to go and held off Saint Peter's the rest of the way.
Junior guard Gerrell Martin scored a team-high 24 points on 6-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc for LIU Brooklyn. As a team, the Blackbirds shot 45.8 percent (11-of-24) from deep. Senior guard Jason Brickman dished out a game-high 14 assists and scored 13 points for a double-double. More on those two later.
Record: 20-14, 16-2 Northeast Conference
The Blackbirds finished tied for second in the conference but won the conference tournament to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive season. They made it in as a 16-seed in the East Region and would have faced Indiana in the Round of 64 had they been able to beat James Madison in the opening round. LIU Brooklyn lost 68-55.
LIU Brooklyn has lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament each of the last three seasons. It was a 15-seed in 2011 and a 16-seed each of the past two tournaments.
Head coach: Jack Perri
At LIU Brooklyn (entering 2nd season): 20-14. Career (2 seasons): 40-23
What they do well:
Shoot the three and score at will
LIU Brooklyn finished last season as the fourth-highest scoring team in the country with an average of 78.7 points per game (just 0.1 points ahead of Indiana, incidentally).
Indiana coach Tom Crean noted that the Blackbirds' offense was predicated more on driving to the hoop last season but is now built around outside shooting.
"They have midseason-form spacing right now," Crean said. "So you can tell that they've got some guys that have done and have been a part of it and I think Jack's an excellent coach even though I don't know him. They just continue to get better. They're doing an excellent job where they score a lot of points, they get to the rim, they make the next pass, they get back in transition. This is going to be a very good game for us."
In particular, Crean said he is keeping an eye on how well his team — especially his freshmen — are able to defend LIU Brooklyn's frequent and varied use of ball screens, with Brickman running the show.
Crean also said the Hoosiers have to avoid over-helping when defending the three. The Blackbirds ranked 26th in the country in 3-point shooting last season (38 percent), and if their performance against St. Peter's was any indication, they won't be shy about letting it fly from deep.
"If this becomes a ‘scramble game,' that plays right into their favor," Crean said. "If this becomes a game where we're in over-help, it plays right into their favor because they make open threes. They know how to score."
G Jason Brickman, SR
Brickman's 14-assist performance vs. Saint Peters was certainly eye-opening, but it's nothing new for him. He lead the country with 8.5 assists per game last season and is the school's all-time leader in assists by a wide margin.
Crean had especially high praise for Brickman, whom he likened to one highly-regarded Big Ten guard."I think getting ready for somebody like Brickman is like getting ready for somebody like Aaron Craft because he knows how to find people, he makes everybody better on the court, he's a capable scorer, he's certainly a capable shooter," Crean said.
"I would put him in the category of one of the best guards that we will have seen in the last couple years in being able to use all the different aspects of the ball screen. That's going to put a lot of pressure on us tomorrow because we're doing different things defensively and we could do different things in the game, but the bottom line is we've got to get the ball stopped."
G Gerell Martin, JR
Martin played just 10.4 minutes per game last season, but made the most of his opportunities by shooting 44.1 percent on 3-pointers. He appears ready to take on a more significant role in the offense after his breakout performance against Saint Peter's.
"Well we can't over-help and he's a great example of that," Crean said of Martin. "We can't over-help. He's an excellent 3-point shooter … and he's made some big threes in his life of college basketball.
"We know that and we're trying to get locked into some of the key aspects of personnel that we try to take away. But the biggest thing is we want to shrink the floor and do the best job we can against their spacing because a guy like Martin is a beneficiary of that."