Sunday March 10th, 2013

(h/t @ESPN)

The first true "Cinderella story" of this March emerged on Sunday afternoon when Liberty polished off a four-game run through the Big South tournament to claim an auto bid. The Flames finished the season at 15-20 and will enter the NCAAs as one of the worst teams (on paper) ever to make the field.

Now, you can argue both sides of championship week and whether a team with Liberty's regular-season credentials deserves a chance to make the NCAA tournament, but there's no denying that the Flames earned their way in this week. They beat tournament host Coastal Carolina in the first round, and then followed that up by beating the three best teams in the league on the way to the auto bid. Also, the Big South appeared headed to the play-in round no matter which team advanced from its tournament, so gnashing teeth over the "worthiness" of this league's champ this season is overwrought. They'll get a national showcase a week from Tuesday or Wednesday and have a chance to earn the Big South an extra "win share" by taking the play-in game before meeting a 1-seed. And, hey, at least the Flames have a celebrity fan in their corner. ESPN's @samsteeleponder is a proud alum today.

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