Before the beginning of the 2014-15 college basketball season, Junior Guard A.J. English of Iona was the early favorite to win MAAC player of the year. He ended up losing to his teammate David Laury, Who was a senior at the time. Now English is a senior. And despite an injury setback that nearly wiped out his player of the year chances, he’s making a feverish push to win the award this season.
Speaking of that injury, English missed five games mid-season due to a broken bone in his left hand. Even though the time missed could have been much worse, Iona stumbled to a 2-3 record during arguably the easiest five game stretch on their schedule. Once English came back, however, it was business as usual for the Gaels. They racked up four straight victories with English scoring a combined 83 points (20.75 PPG) in those contests. Iona would then go on to lose against conference leading Monmouth, 110-102. But in that game, English was a scoring freak. He posted a season high 45 points in the loss, shooting over 60% from the field. A heroic effort that came up short.
In that same game, Junior Guard Justin Robinson of Monmouth also had a career day. He finished with a season high 29 points while shooting just under 60% from the field. It’s fair to say Robinson is the biggest competition for English, their stat lines are fairly close to identical. English is averaging 21.3 PPG, while Robinson is averaging just a point under at 20.3. English leads in the rebounding and assist compartment, averaging about 5 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game. Robinson holds the slight edge in field goal percentage, though, shooting about 47% from the field this season. It’s a close contest to say the least.
So what will be the tiebreaker? Right now, I think Robinson deserves the award. In six games against “big” conference teams, Robinson averaged about 21 points per game. Proving he’s just as good on the big stage. And to me, that’s the difference maker. Time after time this season, Robinson continues to impress against the powerhouse teams. Iona hasn’t had that tough of a schedule compared to Monmouth. And while I do think English is the better player, Robinson has been more impressive this season.
However, when March rolls around, it’s all business for these guys. As it should be. The conference tournament is getting closer and i’m already hyped to see who wins it all and gets that bid to the big dance. We still have a few games to play before we get there, though. Here are a few contests you might want to check into as we creep up on the tournament.
2/19: Siena at Rider 7:00 PM on ESPN3
2/19: Iona at Monmouth 10:00 PM on ESPNU
2/21: Monmouth at Saint Peter’s 2:00 PM on TBD
2/26: Iona at Manhattan 7:00 PM on ESPNU
2/27: Fairfield at Saint Peter’s 2:00 PM on TBD
MAAC Tournament: March 3-7, Albany, NY.
TV scheduling provided by ESPN.