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Full Court Press: Can Monmouth be a giant killer?

(Photo by Jeff Auger - Double G Media)

(Photo by Jeff Auger – Double G Media)


The Monmouth Hawks (25-6, 17-3 MAAC) finished first in the MAAC regular season and enter the conference tournament with high hopes to wrap up an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Coach King Rice and his Hawks open tournament play this evening (7 p.m. ESPN3) against Rider (13-19, 8-12 MAAC) who edged Quinnipiac (9-21, 6-14 MAAC), 60-57, in the opening round.

With a win, Monmouth will advance to take on the winner between Fairfield (18-12, 12-8 MAAC) and Saint Peter’s (14-15, 12-8 MAAC) on Sunday at 4:30 pm.

The championship game will be played on Monday evening, March 7 (7 p.m. ESPN).

Iona (19-10, 16-4 MAAC) and Siena (20-11, 13-7 MAAC) are battling it out on the other side of the bracket.

Even if the Hawks fail to win the championship, many bracket sooth-sayers predict they will be a serious candidate for an at-large bid (last appearance 2006) because of their early season, non-conference wins over UCLA, Notre Dame, USC and Georgetown.

If I were Rice I would take care of business in the tournament and not leave a bid hinge on the whims of the selection committee process.


‘Nova falls from No. 1

Coach Jay Wright’s Wildcats (26-4, 15-2 Big East) had a short-lived stay as the No. 1 team in the country when they lost an old-fashioned Big East battle on the road to Xavier (25-4, 13-4 Big East), 90-83.

However, the Wildcats are still in the running for one of the top four seeds in the NCAA tournament, assuming they can run the table in next week’s Big East tournament.

The battle is ferocious with Virginia, Oklahoma, Kansas, Michigan State and Indiana all vying for one of the top seeds.

Seton Hall (21-8, 11-6 Big East) is looking like one of those teams that is capable of putting together a five or six game run in the NCAA tournament.

The Pirates, who beat Xavier 90-81 followed by a 85-78 road loss to Butler last week, have the talent and they will need a consistent defensive effort and take care of the basketball to make it happen.

When Isaiah Whitehead plays within himself the Hall is tough to beat, but when the talented sophomore goes school-yard they don’t look so good.


Pride No. 1 seed

Coach Joe Mihalik’s Hofstra Pride (22-8, 14-4 CAA) will begin their bid for an NCAA automatic bid on Saturday (12 noon, CSN) when they face the winner of Friday’s opening rounder between Elon (16-15, 7-11 CAA) and Drexel (5-24, 3-15 CAA).

With a win, the No. 1 seed Pride will meet the winner of James Madison University (21-10, 11-7 CAA)/ William & Mary (19-10, 11-7 CAA) on Sunday at 1 p.m. (NBC Sports).

If the Pride hold serve, they would advance to the CAA championship game which is scheduled for Monday at 7 p.m. (NBC Sports).

Hofstra senior guard Juan’ya Green was selected as the CAA men’s basketball Player of the Year. Green was third in the CAA in scoring at 17.7 ppg, first in assists with 7.2 per contest and was second in the league with 53 steals.

Earlier this season Green became the fourth player to score more than 1,000 points at two separate NCAA Division I schools.

Green is Hofstra’s third CAA Player of the Year, joining Loren Stokes (2006-07) and Charles Jenkins (2009-10 and 2010-11).

Other conference award winners were UNCW’s Kevin Keatts as the Coach of the Year, College of Charleston freshman forward Jarrell Brantley as the Rookie of the Year and William and Mary senior guard/forward Terry Tarpey as the Defensive Player of the Year. Northeastern senior guard Caleb Donnelly was chosen as the recipient of the Dean Ehlers Leadership Award.


Can Yale close?

Yale (20-6, 11-1 Ivy) and Princeton (20-5, 10-1 Ivy) are on a collision course in the fight for the Ivy League championship and with it an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. For Yale, they must win their last two games against Cornell and Columbia. Princeton, which is riding an 8 game winning streak, has three games left, starting with two road games against Harvard and Dartmouth. The Tigers close out the season at Jadwin Gym on Tuesday, March 8, against the Penn Quakers.

My guess is that Yale and Princeton are headed for the winner-takes-all, one- game playoff to determine who receives the NCAA automatic bid.

It’s been 54 years since the Bulldogs played in the big dance. And the bid would be a welcome reward for a superb season.

And it would help bring some short-term comfort to a team that was rocked by the sudden withdrawal from the university by their senior captain Jack Montague on February 10.


Good luck Boston College

The Boston College Eagles are on the cusp of making history, but it’s not the kind that a school can be proud of having accomplished. The Eagles are winless this season in ACC play and if they drop their final game tomorrow against Clemson the Eagles will be the first major conference school since World War II to go winless in conference play in basketball and football.

Best wishes to graduate-transfer Eli Carter (Patterson, NJ/St. Anthony’s HS) who will be playing his final collegiate game against Clemson.

Carter, who leads BC in scoring at 16.1 ppg, started his career at Rutgers University and then transferred to play for Billy Donovan at the University of Florida.


Well done coach

Monmouth University and Men’s Basketball Coach King Rice agreed to a new five-year contract through the 2020-21 season.

Building off of last year’s solid 18-15 (13-7 MAAC) campaign, Rice, in his fifth year at the helm, has led the Hawks to a school record 23 victories this season, including wins over UCLA, Notre Dame, Georgetown, and USC.  At 17-3 in league play, Monmouth captured its first regular season MAAC title since entering the league in 2013-14.

Rice, 47, spent 13 seasons in the collegiate coaching ranks before taking over the Monmouth program in 2011. He spent time at Vanderbilt and Illinois State with Kevin Stallings, while also stopping at Providence and Oregon.

A Binghamton, N.Y. native, Rice is a 1992 graduate of the University of North Carolina where he played guard for legendary coach Dean Smith. Rice finished his career ranked third on the Tar Heels’ all-time assist list with 629.


A parting shot

There is a ton of speculation that Rick Pitino may be coaching his final game for Louisville tomorrow (at Virginia) amid the escort scandal that has encircled the Cardinals basketball program.

Maybe it’s time for Pitino to escape the heat and finish out his coaching career somewhere else (like Bobby Knight).

If so, Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich would be wise to give Providence Coach Ed Cooley a serious look.

The Friar coach is a great recruiter, coach, teacher and mentor of young men plus, he is well-respected in the community and with the media.


Let the madness begin … Selection Sunday is March 16 …. Keep shooting!


(Various wire reports used in the compiling the column)

Follow Bob on Twitter for all the latest in college hoop happenings, game highlights, features and more: @WhitneyBob

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Bob Whitney

Bob is a college basketball columnist here at He also covers Yale football and the Connecticut Sun of the WNBA.
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