The Flames beat Stetson 77-64 in the semifinals Friday in Jacksonville, Florida, and since North Alabama -- a school transitioning to Division I athletics -- is ineligible for the NCAA tournament, Liberty was granted the league's automatic berth.
Can we punch our ticket early? 🔥— Liberty Men's Basketball (@LibertyMBB_) March 6, 2021
With UNA defeating FGCU, we have clinched the ASUN auto bid to the NCAA Tournament! pic.twitter.com/KoKRtUKnmv
North Alabama joined the Atlantic Sun and commenced its move from Division II to Division I in the 2018-19 season. Per NCAA rules, a Division II program making the jump to Division I cannot compete in the NCAA tournament until it has completed the four-year transition requirement.
The potential scenario that unfolded for Liberty was anticipated entering the tournament, but most assumed the conference's regular-season champion ultimately would have to go through a different ineligible team -- Bellarmine, not North Alabama, which went 1-7 in its final eight games of the regular season before making a run to the conference tournament title game, including a win against Florida Gulf Coast in the semifinals.
Bellarmine, which began its transition from Division II to Division I this season, finished second to Liberty in the conference's regular-season title race before losing to Stetson in the first round.
In back-to-back games against North Alabama last month, Liberty won 74-54 in both matchups.