Sunday’s TBS Selection Show brought plenty of anticipation as the Lipscomb basketball team learned the destination of its first-ever NCAA tournament game. The answer? A date with the North Carolina Tar Heels in Charlotte.
After the initial excitement wore off, a harsh reality set in: the Bisons must take down Goliath for their season to extend past Friday’s matchup against the defending national champions.
Nearly every national analyst has picked the Tar Heels to win, and rightfully so. Coached by Roy Williams, North Carolina has won seven national titles and is routinely in the hunt for a Final Four berth. Most Vegas oddsmakers have the Tar Heels as a 19-point favorite against the Bisons.
But North Carolina hasn’t been untouchable this season. While most of their losses came against highly ranked teams, the Tar Heels dropped a 79-75 contest to Wofford on Dec. 20 at home. Just three days earlier, Tennessee came within five points of beating the Tar Heels in Knoxville.
Nonetheless, ESPN’s Matchup Predictor gave the Bisons just a 3.3 percent chance of beating the 25-10 Tar Heels. The Athletic’s Ken Pomeroy echoed those sentiments, giving Lipscomb a 4.1 percent chance of reaching the second round.
Other media outlets acknowledged Lipscomb’s outside chance at an upset. SB Nation’s Alex Kirshner listed the game his “Category 4: It’s possible. Don’t laugh” upset pick, while Tennessee State coach Dana Ford told 104.5 The Zone’s Midday 180 show that the Bisons’ shooting prowess makes them a contender.
“I like Lipscomb’s chances because in order to win in (the NCAA) tournament as a lower seed, you must make threes,” Ford told the radio station. “And we know Lipscomb can make some threes.”
Athlon Sports also tabbed Lipscomb as one of eight “red-hot” teams to watch during the tournament, citing the squad’s 12-1 record since Jan. 20.
To pull off the miracle, the Bisons will have to contain North Carolina’s Luke Maye (17.2 PPG) and Joel Berry (17.1 PPG), who both helped key the Tar Heels’ 71-65 victory over Gonzaga in last April’s national title game. Berry is projected as a possible late-round pick in June’s NBA Draft.
The game is set for approximately 1:45 p.m. central time on Friday, and it will be televised nationally by CBS. For those willing to make the 400-mile trip from Nashville, tickets are still available for as low as $50 on Ticketmaster.