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Preview: Liberty vs. North Carolina A&T

Preview: Liberty vs. North Carolina A&T

Liberty's remarkable journey has given it a chance to do something special. The Flames, who started the season with eight straight losses, play North Carolina A&T in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Tuesday at Dayton, Ohio. If Liberty can win its first NCAA Tournament game in history, it will get a chance at top-seeded Louisville in the second round of the Midwest Region on Thursday. The Flames won their last five games - including their final four to win the Big South tournament and earn their first bid since 2004. They also became the second 20-loss team to qualify.

North Carolina A&T also made an improbable run from the seventh seed in the MEAC tournament to reach the NCAAs for the first time since 1995. The Aggies scored less than 60 points in five of their last seven games - and won six of them. North Carolina A&T is an experienced group, with seven seniors - five of them four-year players.

TV: 6:40 p.m. ET, truTV

ABOUT LIBERTY (15-20): The Flames put it all together in the Big South tournament, beating the three teams with the best regular-season records. Liberty made 36 shots from behind the 3-point arc in the last five games, shooting 48.6 percent. Davon Marshall led the way from long range, draining 23-of-35, and averaging 18 points. John Caleb Sanders also came through with 27 points in the championship game and Tavares Speaks averaged 15 points in the last three. "We played four of our best games in these four games of the tournament," Sanders told reporters. "Talk about peaking at exactly the right time."

ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA A&T (19-16): The Aggies finally added a 16th MEAC championship banner by limiting eight of their last nine opponents to 57 points or less and finding ways to win. North Carolina A&T had to play good defense. The Aggies are shooting 39.9 percent from the field and just under 30 percent from behind the 3-point line. Senior Adrian Powell and junior Lamont Middleton both stepped up in the last four games, averaging 15.8 and 13.8 points, respectively. Another senior, Austin Witter, had a big championship game. The Aggies will lean on their defense, which allows only 38.3 percent shooting.

TIP-INS

  1. Before the Big South tournament, Liberty had not strung two wins together against Division I tournaments.

  2. Liberty is 0-2 in the NCAA Tournament and the Aggies are 0-9.

  3. North Carolina A&T started the season 1-4, including a 93-39 loss to Cincinnati.

PREDICTION: North Carolina A&T 64, Liberty 60.