LIU got off to a similarly strong start last season, riding a five game win streak to a 9-3 peak. But the Blackbirds stumbled during conference play, going 7-11 en route to an 15-15 overall season.
However, this year’s team is unlikely to fold for a variety of reasons.
First: the development of sophomore Kyle Johnson. Johnson, who leads the team in scoring at 15.6 points per game, has upped his scoring and rebounding totals from last year and has formed a solid scoring tandem with junior guard Jaytornah Wisseh. LIU is 8-3 this season when either Johnson or Wisseh scores at 15 or more points.
Second: LIU is playing better defense; allowing almost six fewer points per game. The Blackbirds are also sharing the ball, averaging 11.6 assists per game.
LIU’s schedule will provide chances for even more wins. Of the 11 NEC teams, only three having overall winning records. The Blackbirds also have another date with Bryant University on January 24^th . Bryant is playing in Division I for the first time. (However, unlike recent DII-upgrade NJIT, the Bulldogs have already won two games.)
While soft schedules may not make for a pretty RPI, it gives LIU a great chance to win 20 games, which will make them a contender for at least the NIT tournament.
But even if they don’t reach the NIT, the LIU Blackbirds are already reminding us that there is more to basketball in New York beyond the team that plays in Jamaica.