Top-seeded Charleston Southern will take on Cinderella story Liberty on Sunday for the Big South title and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The game airs on ESPN2 at noon ET and streams live on ESPN3.
Charleston Southern got to this game by traditional methods, earning a first-round bye and knocking off two lower-seeded opponents — Winthrop and VMI. They enter the final as the top Big South team in Kenpom's efficiency rating, ranking 171st in the nation. The team starts the championship game with a 12-4 conference record behind leading scorers Saah Nimley and Arlon Harper, who make up the most efficient backcourt in the conference.
Liberty is much more limited on offense, scoring five fewer points per game than the Buccaneers — 73.9 to 68.6 — and shooting a lower percentage from the field. So just how did Liberty get to this point? After soundly beating Coastal Carolina in the opening round of the tournament, the Flames squeaked by top-seeded High Point, 61-60, and Gardner-Webb, 65-62. Neither game got into the 70s, which is where the Buccaneers like to take things.
To win, Liberty will have to slow the game down and play for the last possession, which is what has them at the brink of an NCAA Tournament berth. It would be the third in their history and their first since 2004. Charleston Southern must rely on their star backcourt to push the tempo and keep the Flames on their heels. A win would be the Buccaneers' second trip to the Big Dance, their first coming in 1997.