With college basketball conference play getting underway across the nation, there’s no better time to start looking at some teams that you might not necessarily be familiar with that could make some noise in March.
The first team we will be highlighting is the Monmouth Hawks out of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference – a team you might know for reasons not related to actual basketball. Yeah, we’re talking about the dancing.
The Hawks were picked a close second behind Iona in the preseason coaches poll after going 18-15 and 13-7 in conference. Their season ended after losing to Iona in the conference semi-finals, but Monmouth is building off of their first winning season since 2005-2006 and has put together a high quality non conference campaign that has the Hawks ready to return to the tournament.
Record: 11-4 (3-1)
Monmouth started the season with a bang with an overtime win at UCLA. Two weeks later the Hawks again scored a huge upset over No. 17 Notre Dame in an opening round game of Advocare Invitational at Disney’s Wide World of Sports. After losing to Dayton in the second round of the event, Monmouth bounced back with a win over USC to avenge an early season loss to the Trojans. In the month of December the Hawks went 5-2 including two more name wins at Georgetown and instate foe Rutgers.
Note: all stats listed below do not include today’s game, which the Hawks just won 88-74 over Quinnipiac.
On the offensive side of the ball the Hawks are lead by junior 5-foot-8 guard Justin Robinson, who is scoring 20.9 points per game while also distributing three assists and chipping in three rebounds. Robinson does a lot of his damage from behind the arc, where he shoots 40% on six attempts from deep per game. Robinson is not just a jump shooter, however, and can create his own shot off the bounce with his quickness
After Robinson, scoring duties are distributed across a committee of 10 Hawks who have played in at least 13 of the team’s 14 games. Micah Seaborn, a 6-foot-5 freshman, is second in scoring, averaging 12.0 points. However, the freshman has been slumping as of late, averaging less than six points per game on 23% shooting, including hitting just one of his last 12 shots. In order for Monmouth to make a run to the tournament Seaborn must break out of his slump and get back to performing at the level he did out of conference. One of the Hawks’ strengths is their free throw shooting ability, as six different players shoot over 80% from the charity stripe.
The Hawks are a solid all-around defensive team, ranking 21st in the nation in opponent shooting percentage. They play an aggressive man to man defense that switches on most screens, and they jump the passing lanes very well. If given the opportunity the Hawks will run in transition off of turnovers. Monmouth is 10-1 when they limit their opponents to under 80 points; however, the Hawks are just 1-3 when their opponents get to at least 81 points. Teams that have found success against the Hawks relied heavily on the three point shot, going a combined 38 of 101 over four games. While not spectacular it was enough to get the job done against the Hawks
The Hawks are a very good college basketball team that excels at forcing their opponents into bad shots. They’re lead by one of the best small guards in the nation in Robinson, who should be in the running for conference player of the year. If they make the tournament they have the ability to compete with the best of them. To top it all off they are a bunch of college kids who are just enjoying the ride, and have one of the best benches in America: