The majority of my MAAC articles I’ve written this season have been about Monmouth. One of those articles specifically related to Monmouth getting an at-large bid in the upcoming NCAA tournament. It’s a hot topic for sure. Especially since the MAAC hasn’t had an at-large team get in since 2012. But I have learned over the past week that the only way Monmouth is getting shot out of a trip to the tournament, is by losing to the teams in their own league.
Monmouth getting an at-large bid would require a strong finish, that goes without saying. But the Hawks are slowing down rather than gaining speed as we near a close on the regular season. After a miraculous comeback victory over seventh place Rider, the Hawks churned out a single digit victory at Manhattan. A team that they lost to earlier in the year. If that doesn’t convince you of a decline, their next game, an 83-67 home loss against Iona, certainly will. Potential player of the year A.J. English was dominant for the Gaels, as always. Showing Monmouth player of the year candidate Justin Robinson who is boss.
The title might mislead you here, but the biggest regret Monmouth is going to have is their early season loss to Dayton. The Flyers are also a bubble team. And their 73-70 victory over the Hawks might end up saving their season. Perhaps another factor that might save the season for both teams is the Louisville tournament ban. Louisville not making it in just opens the door for a very lucky team to make it in. Monmouth still has two more relatively easy conference games remaining in the regular season before the MAAC tournament. But considering their lack of consistent play lately, who knows how these final two games will end.
Right now, I would put Monmouth in my last four in. Breaking it down, they still only have two non-conference losses on the year. Their conference losses are not something to cheer about, but compared to who they will be competing against for an at-large? Those losses aren’t as bad as you think. Keep in mind the Hawks beat Notre Dame earlier in the year. The Fighting Irish are another bubble team, right now I have them on the outside looking in due to their crushing loss to Monmouth. You would have to think it would kill the committee to leave Monmouth out this year though, right? A small conference team with the most entertaining bench in basketball. Combine that with the fact that they have played their best basketball against “big conference” teams, and you’ve got a Cinderella story on your hands.
I’ve said this before and i’ll say it again; Monmouth can put this talk to bed by winning the MAAC tournament. So can all the other bubble teams by winning their conference tournaments. It sounds simple, but it’s far from it. Monmouth can lose to any team. They’ve lost to Canisius, Manhattan, and Iona in conference. They could certainly lose to a Siena, Fairfield, Saint Peter’s, or to one of the three who have already beaten them. That’s why I keep writing about this topic. Because we’ve seen things go drastically wrong in conference tournaments before. And in case Monmouth does lose, it would be good to have that safety cushion of an at-large bid.
To see my last four in and first four out, click here.