Beginning tomorrow night in Brooklyn Heights, one of college basketball’s best rivalries will be renewed as St. Francis Brooklyn men’s and women’s teams will face their cross-borough rivals from LIU Brooklyn in annual Battle of Brooklyn matchups.
The LIU men’s team will walk up the Fulton Mall from their Fort Greene campus to face the Terriers at 7 p.m. on Thursday at the Generoso Pope Center. On Saturday the St. Francis women’s team will likely take the #4 subway to Barclays Center for a noon tip-off against the Blackbirds.
Clear trends have defined the St. Francis vs. LIU Brooklyn rivalry, and both schools hope for a change in fortune.
Since the 1928-29 season, LIU Brooklyn men’s team—previously known as Long Island University—has won more than 60% of their games against St. Francis, racking up a 62-36 record. Of late, LIU has been even more dominant, winning six straight and eight of nine games.
The Blackbirds’ edge over the Terriers mirrors their success in the NEC. Since 2009-10, LIU has gone 55-17 in conference regular season play and 10-1 in the NEC tournament. Currently on a nine game tournament win streak, the Blackbirds have won an unprecedented three straight NEC titles, qualifying each time for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
Over the same four-year period, the Terriers have compiled a pedestrian 38-34 record. Reaching the NEC playoffs the last three seasons, St. Francis has been one and done in those tournaments.
Even though the school has fielded basketball teams since 1896—five years after Dr. James Naismith invented the game—St. Francis is one of five original Division I schools to never qualify for the NCAA tournament. Nor have the Terriers ever captured a NEC title.
Is this the year that the tables finally turn for St. Francis? In their annual preseason poll NEC coaches didn’t see it that way, selecting the Terriers as the 8th best squad in their 10-team conference (LIU was picked fourth). But a season opening 66-62 overtime win at defending Atlantic Coast Conference champs University of Miami signaled that this could be a special year in Brooklyn Heights. Beating their closest rivals would certainly make the 2013-14 season memorable for St. Francis fans.
For St. Francis women’s team, the transformation from NEC doormat to winning program that began last season with the hiring of John Thurston continues apace. The Terriers are 11-2, riding a seven game winning streak, and—for the first time in program history—are ranked in the Top 25 Mid-Major Poll. The latest CollegeInsider.com ranking has St. Francis at number 25.
LIU Brooklyn—which for years dominated this rivalry and holds a 47-21 career edge over the Terriers—are at the opposite end of the spectrum, at 2-11 and struggling for victories.
For information about either Thursday’s or Saturday’s games contact Meghan O’Brien, SFC Director of Athletic Marketing (firstname.lastname@example.org/718-489-5411).
Photo: Michael Randazzo