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Lipscomb making name for itself in NIT

Posted at 9:24 AM, Apr 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-04 18:21:13-04

NEW YORK CITY (WTVF) — Let’s face it. Lipscomb was snubbed. A 25-7 team with a resume worthy of a 12-seed, but victim of its status as a relatively unknown mid-major.

The NCAA Tournament selection committee’s slight was so unsurprising it barely even registered outside Nashville on Selection Sunday.

The Bisons weren’t in the field of 68, or one of the first four out, but then the National Invitation Tournament invited them, apparently begrudgingly, as only a no. 5 seed. A bottom half team in its field of 32.

That’s preposterous, and Lipscomb has a chance to laugh in the face of all the doubters with a win tonight against Texas in the NIT Championship.

The school knew it wouldn’t be able to host a first round NIT game over Spring Break, but the low seed ensured they would be playing away from home the entire tournament. Not that it mattered.

Casey Alexander’s squad pulled off the Tarheel state triple, beating Davidson, the tournament’s top seed UNC Greensboro and ACC foe N.C. State to reach the Final Four in New York.

On Tuesday night Lipscomb rallied from 61-50 down with 6:40 to play to knock off perennial March darling Wichita State 71-64. The Bisons got big threes from Nathan Moran and Garrison Matthews and finished the game with seven consecutive defensive stops to cap a 21-3 run.

Alexander said after the game it displayed his team’s toughness. It also showcased its determination to put Lipscomb basketball, and the school itself, on the map.

When the Bisons arrived in New York for the NIT Final Four Rob Marberry, a 6’9 center that looks the part of a big time college basketball player, was spotted in his purple sweats.

“Oh, you must play for TCU. Here for the NIT,” asked the confused New Yorker.

Even after Lipscomb defeated Wichita State Tuesday, Marberry was asked by a reporter that admitted she had never heard of Lipscomb if this should make people take notice?

“I think people should know who we are by now,” Marberry said. “The NCAA Tournament last year, playing North Carolina tight until the end, and then this season. I think we’re getting some recognition. And hopefully now people will see us as a basketball school.”

If you’ve been paying attention, you’d already know that. Under Alexander, Lipscomb has gone from a program that was 15-15 in his first season to 72 wins over the last three years. The Bisons won the Atlantic Sun Tournament to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever a year ago, and have followed it up with a regular season conference title and now a shot at the NIT crown to cap this season.

No, Lipscomb may not yet be a recognizable brand in the same way Texas will be when people turn on their tv’s tonight and see those burnt orange uniforms. But the Longhorns have a century’s worth of tradition and an athletic department budget of more than $200 million, $11.4 million of which goes directly to the operations of Shaka Smart’s basketball program.

Lipscomb’s basketball budget is $1.6 million, including salaries, scholarships and about $45,000 to pay officials. Yet here the Bisons are.

This isn’t David versus Goliath. Perhaps middle class against Warren Buffet is a better fit. But this blue collar team is determined to climb the ladder.

They can take the next step by beating the Longhorns to join a recent list of NIT champions that includes Penn State, Stanford, Minnesota, Wichita State, and South Carolina.

“We’re living in the moment,” Alexander said after Tuesday’s win. “But hopefully five or 10 years from now we look back and say these two years got it all started.”

Lipscomb didn’t have the name recognition to get the benefit of the doubt when March began. But ask N.C. State or Wichita State about the Bisons now.

They would tell you Lipscomb’s for real. And another win tonight against Texas would put the school on the map once and for all.