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Everything in front of Lipscomb men’s basketball as it approaches crucial point of the season

The Lipscomb men’s basketball team has had a rollercoaster 2023-2024 season up to this point. From injuries to comebacks, and from heartbreaks to triumphs, the Bisons have just about seen it all in its 24 games of play this season.

But the road doesn’t get easier for Lipscomb. As the calendar turns to February and just seven games remain in the regular season, the Bisons are inching closer to the ASUN Championship tournament and their play over the next few weeks will be its most important to this point.

Considering that, let’s take a look at where the Bisons currently stand, how they have gotten here, and what will be important to look out for during this final stretch of the regular season.

Where Lipscomb currently stands

Overall Record: 14-10

Conference Record: 5-4 (4th in ASUN standings)

KEY WINS: 88-79 vs North Alabama (1/20), 98-72 at FGCU (1/25), 91-77 vs Austin Peay (1/13)

KEY LOSES: 59-80 at Stetson (1/27), 76-85 at North Florida (1/31), 86-96 vs Central Arkansas (1/18)

The Bisons began the season with one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the ASUN. Lipscomb faced off against multiple high-major programs such as Arkansas, UCF, and most notably Florida State who they defeated on the road.

The Bisons’ non-conference gauntlet didn’t stop there however, as they also battled some of the country’s toughest mid-major teams, including Drake, Chattanooga, and arch-rival Belmont.

Head coach Lennie Acuff’s team was battle-tested coming into what was expected to be a tightly contested ASUN conference this season. And it’s safe to say that this tough competition in the non-conference has paid off for the Bisons in ASUN play.

After nine conference games, the Bisons have an identical record to last year in ASUN play at 5-4. Lipscomb finished last season with an 11-7 conference record which was fifth in the ASUN, just one spot outside of a top-four finish in the standings, which would’ve allowed them to host their eventual quarterfinals matchup vs Stetson.

This time around, the Bisons look to be in a slightly better position, as Lipscomb currently holds the fourth and final spot that would allow them to host during the conference tournament.

Additionally, Lipscomb is just one game outside of a tie for second in the conference standings with North Florida and Stetson. However, since the Bisons lost to both teams in January and are not scheduled to play them again in the regular season, they will have to rely on losses from Stetson and North Florida elsewhere in their schedules to gain ground in the standings.

A mix of old names and new names stepping up

Dylan Faulkner, Will Pruitt, Derrin Boyd and Cody Head standing on the court
Lipscomb players standing together during a timeout – Photo taken by Micah Barkley

This is a very different Lipscomb team from a year ago. The Bisons lost multiple key pieces last season to both graduation and the transfer portal. The biggest losses were players such as Ahsan Asadullah, Quincy Clark, Matt Schnerr, and Trae Benham; as all three played significant minutes for the team last season.

Not only this, but the Bisons have been without All-ASUN selection Jacob Oganacevic due to a knee injury. The team then announced on January 9th that Oganecivic would medically redshirt and miss the entirety of the 2023-2024 season.

However with holes to fill comes roles to fill, and multiple players both old and new have taken advantage of that opportunity to step up and make a difference.

The Bisons’ returning guard trio of Derrin Boyd, Will Pruitt, and AJ McGinnis have each taken a massive leap in their production compared to last season. All three are averaging more than 12 points per game and are shooting at over 44% from the field.

Joining Boyd, Pruitt, and McGinnis in the starting lineup have been two newer faces; Furman transfer Joe Anderson and Presbyterian transfer Owen McCormack.

Anderson has emerged as a true “floor general” for the Bisons this season on both offense and defense. The Bisons’ guard leads to team in assists at 4.0 per game and in steals at 1.9 per game (which also ranks second in the ASUN).

McCormack has come in and has made his mark in the lineup as a center who can impact the game in multiple ways. The graduate transfer is currently averaging 9.0 points per game and 4.6 rebounds. McCormack is one of just three Bisons to start in every game this season (McGinnis and Anderson are the other two).

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention Bisons’ guard Cody Head. The true freshman has solidified his place in the lineup this season, appearing in all 24 games and averaging 17.6 minutes per contest.

Head is also averaging 7.8 points per game while shooting 55% from the field, making a case to be named to the ASUN All-Freshman team at the end of the season.

Boasting one of the country’s best offenses

Grant Asman dunk in win vs Jacksonville
Grant Asman dunk in Lipscomb’s Feb. 2 win vs Jacksonville – Photo taken by Micah Barkley

I know that’s a big statement, but it’s not hyperbole. Quietly enough, Lipscomb has emerged as one of the country’s elite scoring teams in Division I this season. Don’t believe me? Look at the numbers.

Out of more than 350 Division I teams, Lipscomb ranks in the Top 50 nationally in multiple offensive stats.

The Bisons average 81 points per game, ranking them 37th in the country. This has been the highest-scoring team that Lennie Acuff has had in his five seasons at Lipscomb. This is also Lipscomb’s highest-scoring team since the 2018-2019 season which saw them make it to the NIT Championship game.

Not only have the Bisons been able to score, but they’ve also been one of Division I’s most efficient offensive teams in the process. Lipscomb ranks 15th in the country in effective field goal percentage (56.5%), 23rd in field goal percentage (48.7%), 35th in three-point percentage (37.2%) and 38th in free throw percentage (75.6%).

There are very few teams in college basketball that have this strong of an offensive resume, and if the Bisons can keep Lennie Acuff’s offense flowing, it could be the catalyst to a deep postseason run.

Where do the Bisons go from here?

This Lipscomb group has many of the characteristics that you tend to see from teams that have success this time of year. They’re battle-tested, they’re elite offensively and they are a team that has experience.

The biggest questions for this team now are will they be able to play at a high enough level defensively and will they be able to find a consistent run of winning at its most crucial points of the season?

The Bisons allow 75.8 points per game, which ranks 279th nationally. For comparison, the Bisons last season allowed 71 points per game, which was ranked 201st in the country.

Lipscomb also has several key conference matchups coming up against Kennesaw State, Queens, Austin Peay, and Central Arkansas. The Bisons are only separated by each of these teams by one game in the ASUN standings, meaning that each of these matchups will be pivotal. They also have a matchup against Eastern Kentucky which is currently first in the conference.

Fortunately for the Bisons, recent history seems to be on their side. Lipscomb is 21-13 in February since Lennie Acuff was hired in 2019, including a 7-2 record in February last season.

Everything is in front of the Bisons with just seven games remaining in the regular season. A chance to host during the ASUN Championship, a chance to win a conference title, and a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament.

The opportunity for a magical run in March is there. Now it’s up to the Bisons to take advantage of it.