A.J. English finally gets his chance to play in the NCAA Tournament. The Iona Gaels knocked off the top ranked Monmouth Hawks 79-76 on Monday night in the MAAC men’s basketball championship. Now, Monmouth is the team that has to hold their breath on “Selection Sunday.” Really, I was not impressed with Monmouth, particularly star guard Justin Robinson. He shot 2-9 from the field and made a bad pass on the final possession . Not very appealing for the MAAC player of the year. On the other side, A.J. English was business as usual. After only making one field goal in the first half, English was able to lead his team back from a four point halftime deficit and finished with 19 points. That is player of the year worthy, ladies and gentleman.
Like I said, the danger intensifies for Monmouth on Sunday. In my mind, it would be absurd to leave Monmouth out of the field of 68. They have been “giant killers” all season long. They have a top 80 BPI, they are far superior to anyone in the MAAC as far as quality wins go. And unlike some other mid-major bubble teams (Wichita State, Valpo) Monmouth advanced to their conference tournament final. At one point, in fact, they lead by as many as eight points. Those are just a few valid reasons on why Monmouth needs to get in. As for other teams playing in the postseason? It’s possible that we see Siena and/or Fairfield compete in the CBI or CIT tournament. Both teams are definitely worthy. But it is entirely up to the school, of course.
Where these two teams place on Sunday, assuming Monmouth gets in, is another hot topic of discussion. There are big conference bubble teams that the committee would love to put in over Monmouth. So as a compromise, Monmouth will most likely have to play-in to get into the field of 64. Not as a sixteen seed, of course. Maybe a twelve or thirteen with the opportunity to play a five or a four in the round of 64. You would think because of their great play of late, Iona would get a top twelve or maybe even top ten seed. The committee has other ideas. Seriously, why do they call it “March Madness?” It’s simple, the upsets. And let’s be real here, only a select few people in the country know how good this Iona team can be. The committee will put them as a thirteen or fourteen seed, and you have an upset on your hands. Why do you think UAB and Georgia State made it as far as they did last year? They were great teams who got little recognition because of their overall record. I think the same situation is unfolding here with Iona.
Both teams have the potential to go far. But we unfortunately have to play the waiting game, too. It’s impossible to predict anything until Sunday, so I will keep quiet about it until then. The undefeated MAAC predicting champion isn’t going to tarnish his perfect record. Stay tuned.