NCAA

Mid-Atlantic College Hoops Power Rankings: Get familiar with the Liberty Flames

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Only a handful of teams in the Mid-Atlantic area will be able to dance in March. 

One of those teams will likely be the Liberty Flames who are having an incredible season after nabbing their first NCAA Tournament victory a year ago. Over halfway through the season there is only one loss to the Flames name - a road loss to ranked LSU. As such they have risen to No. 2 in these rankings. 

Under the direction of Ritchie McKay in his seventh season, he has directed Liberty to their best start in program history. He instills a tough defense with a traditional offensive flow that tripped up No. 5 seeded Mississippi State last year. 

After that success and being the class of the Atlantic Sun this season, their record has drawn attention across the country. 

Six players averaging more than eight points each has Liberty as one of the most balanced offenses in the entire country. Senior forward Scottie James is who everyone remembers from last season (10.1 points, 7.3 rebounds this year), but they now have other weapons to utilize. 

Aside from their trip up at LSU, the Flames have rolled all season long. In conference play, no one is getting close to them. If you're unfamiliar, they're a lot like Virginia and even though the scores may be close, it doesn't mean the game was. 

If Liberty keeps up this pace they may not need their conference's automatic bid to even make the tournament. It also helps there is a slight cachet with the program now. 

 

Liberty will be a team no one wants to face in the first round of the tournament. They'll also be a popular upset pick.

Mid-Atlantic matchups to watch: 

Virginia vs. No. 19 Florida State - Wednesday, January 15th at 7:00 p.m. (ESPN2)
No. 25 Creighton vs. Georgetown - Wednesday, January 15th at 7:00 p.m. (CBSSN)
Purdue vs. No. 17 Maryland - Saturday, January 18th at 2:00 p.m. (ESPN2)
Marquette vs. Georgetown - Saturday, January 18th at 2:00 p.m. (FS1)
Richmond vs. George Mason - Saturday, January 18th at 2:30 p.m. (NBCSN)

Mid-Atlantic Power Rankings

1. Maryland Terrapins (Big Ten):
Record: 13-4 (3-3)
Last Week: #1 (N/A)

Two sides of the coin for Maryland this past week. A clear-cut, season-defining victory over No. 11 Ohio State, who Mark Turgeon considers a national championship contender. Their defense held the Buckeye to 31% and 18% shooting from the field and behind the arc and led by 10 points for the near entirety of the second half. 

Then came Iowa and all the other reasons why Maryland has been questioned throughout the season. The defense stood tall, but the offense could not keep pace. They were down by 14 at the half and never got much closer. Only Jalen Smith reached double figures. Rinse and repeat against Wisconsin, yet the offense did wake up but not enough.

Just when it seemed like Terps had turned a corner and were having fun, they turn to be exactly who everyone thought they were: a good team with a lot of question marks on offense.

2. Liberty Flames (Atlantic Sun):
Record: 18-1 (4-0)
Last Week: #4 (+2)

There are only two teams in Division I that have a better record than the Flames, undefeated San Diego State and Auburn. 

Most recently they knocked off Jacksonville by 27 points and are dominating the opposition in the Atlantic Sun.

In a year predicated on the lack of elite teams in the sport, Liberty could be a team to rise to the occasion. Their mindset is quite similar to Tony Bennett's Virginia crew that won a national championship a year ago - play stout defensively and make every shot count on offense. 

They haven't really been tested but have beaten every opponent minus LSU. Still, they're up to a No. 11 seed in Joe Lunardi's latest bracketology and will face an unsuspecting Power 5 team in the NCAA Tournament. It's the prime position for a Sweet 16 run if they can hang in there. Honestly, they probably don't want to be seeded any higher either.

3. Virginia Cavaliers (ACC):
Record: 11-4 (3-2)

Last Week: #2 (-1)

Alright, now it might be time to realize that Virginia is not as good as everyone thought they were. It is rather shocking at how bad too. 

 

The Cavaliers' offense is 229th out of 353 teams in adjusted offensive efficiency according to KenPom. A year ago only Gonzaga had a more efficient offense in the entire country. Back-to-back losses to Boston College and Syracuse, neither of which are in consideration for the NCAA Tournament makes it worse.

Part of their deficiencies is due to the lack of depth. They have three players, Kihei Clark, Mamadi Diakite and Braxton Key that had a significant role in their 2019 championship. After them, there is a big drop-off. 

This should have been addressed in nonconference play, now it is costing Virginia. Cavaliers are unranked for the first time in over two seasons.

4. VCU Rams (A-10):
Record: 12-5 (2-2)
Last Week: #3 (-1)

Uh, what happened VCU? This was the prime week to break into the top-2 of the rankings.

The offense (sensing a theme?) went quiet as Marcus Santos-Silva struggled against the lengthy Rams, notably Cyril Langevine. It was only the third time this year that they failed to score 60 points. 

A loss though catapults the VCU Rams in the at-large picture. Without an ironclad nonconference resume, the last thing they could afford was an Atlantic 10 was a home loss to any team other than Dayton. 

Now they have lost, which leaves pretty even less wiggle room for the Rams down the stretch. Losing an all-important game against Dayton gives them one less chance to earn that quality win they still need.

5. Virginia Tech Hokies (ACC):
Record: 13-4 (4-2)
Last Week: #5 (N/A)

Three straight wins in ACC play shows that the Hokies have a legitimate shot at NCAA Tournament appearance. They're fourth in the league as it stands with three AP top-11 teams ahead of them. 

Against Syracuse, it was an electric 21-4 run in the second half that got them in control. In all of their other contests, it was other players stepping up beside Landers Nolley II. Jalen Cone had 19 points against the Orange. Tyrece Radford had 21 in a road win over Wake Forest. 

6. Richmond Spiders (A-10):
Record: 13-4 (3-1)
Last Week: #7 (+1)

Two huge road wins for the Spiders to start Atlantic 10 play. They got two of the toughest venues out of the way by beating Rhode Island and Davidson.

However, they lost their leading scorer Blake Francis with an upper-body injury. His status going forward is uncertain.

7. Georgetown Hoyas (Big East):
Record: 11-6 (1-3)
Last Week: #6 (-1)

Mac McClung returned to his dominant self by dropping 21 points against St. John's in the first half of their contest.

And they are a team that will go as far as he can take them. There are nice pieces, but he is their heartbeat. 

 

8. George Mason Patriots (A-10):
Record: 12-4 (1-2)
Last Week: #8 (N/A)

Losing at home to St. Bonaventure really took the air out of what many assumed to be the best Patriots team in the Dave Paulsen era.

At least for them, their top scorer from last season, Justin Kier, is back from injury and appears to be fully healthy.

9. William & Mary Tribe (CAA):
Record: 13-5 (5-0)
Last Week: #9 (N/A)

The Tribe looks a full tier ahead of every team they've faced in CAA play. An incredible job by first-year head coach Dane Fischer that may finally get the program into the NCAA Tournament.

Nathan Knight's double-double counter check: is now 14 in 18 games. 

10. Radford Highlanders (Big South):
Record: 8-7 (3-0)

Last Week: #11 (+1)

Radford is performing as expected now that Big South play has started. Three straight wins to get them back over .500.

11. Delaware Blue Hens (CAA):
Record: 12-6 (2-3)
Last Week: #10 (-1)

Delaware beat inferior opponents in nonconference play, have drastically struggled since. Blue Hens have lost six of their last nine games.

12. James Madison Dukes (CAA):
Record: 8-9 (1-5)
Last Week: #12 (N/A)

13. Towson Tigers (CAA):
Record: 9-9 (3-3)
Last Week: #14 (+1)

14. Navy Midshipmen (Patriot):
Record: 8-7 (2-2)
Last Week: #15 (+1)

Finding a consistent offense has been a struggle for Navy throughout the years. Cam Davis has 20+ points in three of the last four games.

15. Old Dominion Monarchs (C-USA):
Record: 6-10 (2-1)
Last Week: #13 (-2)

16. American Eagles (Patriot):
Record: 6-9 (2-2)
Last Week: #16 (N/A)

17. Loyola Greyhounds (Patriot):
Record: 9-9 (1-4)
Last Week: #17 (N/A

18. Hampton Pirates (Big South):
Record: 7-9 (2-1)
Last Week: #20 (+2)

Jermaine Marrow missed some games in December but overall has had an up and down year. Against Longwood, he dropped 30 on 11-for-20 shooting.

19. UMBC Retrievers (A-East):
Record: 7-11 (0-3)
Last Week: #18 (-1)

20. George Washington Colonials (A-10):
Record: 6-10 (0-3)
Last Week: #19 (-1)

21. Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers (NEC):
Record: 6-11 (2-2)
Last Week: #22 (+1)

22. Norfolk State Spartans (MEAC):
Record: 7-11 (3-0)
Last Week: #23 (+1)

23. Morgan State Bears (MEAC):
Record: 8-11 (2-2)
Last Week: #21 (-2)

24. Longwood Lancers (Big South):
Record: 6-11 (1-3)
Last Week: #25 (+1)

 

25. Coppin State (MEAC):
Last Season: 4-15 (0-4)
Last Week: #24 (-1)

26. VMI Keydets (SoCon):
Record: 5-13 (0-5)
Last Week: #26 (N/A)

27. Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks (MEAC):
Record: 2-16 (1-2)
Last Week: #27 (N/A)

28. Delaware State Hornets (MEAC):
Record: 2-15 (1-2)
Last Week: #29 (+1)

29. Howard Bison (MEAC):
Record: 2-14 (0-4)
Last Week: #28 (-1)

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