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Introducing Cinderella: Lipscomb headed to first-ever NCAA tournament


Conference: Atlantic Sun

Coach: Casey Alexander

Record: 23-9 (10-4 Atlantic Sun)

Ratings and Rankings:

Kenpom: 177
RPI: 108
AP/USA Today: Not ranked

Seeding: The Bisons finished two games out of first place in the Atlantic Sun, and historically that likely means they’re set up for a 16th seed.

Names you need to know: Junior Garrison Matthews can absolutely fill it up. The 6-foot-5 wing averaged 21.7 points per game and had a 43-point outing against Kennesaw State in January. Roby Mayberry is no slouch offensively either, averaging 16.7 points on 61.4 percent shooting. Eli Pepper grabs eight rebounds per game.

Stats you need to know: Lipscomb wants to go fast. Overall, they rank seventh in adjusted tempo according to KenPom. Offensively, they have the 12th-shortest average possession length in the country and clock in at 14th defensively. They shoot quickly themselves and then get opponents to go fast as well. Their defensive rebounding kick-starts their transition offense.

Big wins, bad losses: The Bisons played Belmont home-and-away in the non-conference season and won both times, giving them their only two top-100 wins of the year. Losses to North Florida and Jacksonville are serious drags on the resume. They did top ASun champ Florida Gulf Coast twice, including in dramatic fashion Sunday.

How’d they get here?: The Bisons got up by 32 in the second half against the Eagles and then went into near-complete meltdown mode. FGCU pulled as close as five points, but were unable to pull off one of the biggest come-from-behind wins in NCAA history. Lipscomb has won eight-straight heading into the NCAA tournament.

Outlook: Lipscomb is going to find itself some tough sledding in the NCAA tournament. The Bisons are likely a 16-seed, a spot from which no team has ever gotten out of the first round, and their high-possession style is rarely a recipe for an upset. There isn’t a lot about their profile that screams Cinderella.

How do I know you?: You don’t. Or at least not from the NCAA tournament. This will be Lipscomb’s first-ever trip to the Big Dance. If you’re a big NAIA fan, though, you might remember the 1986 Lipscomb squad that won the national championship in that division.