By: Jack O’Keefe
Spread: Monmouth -4.5
5:00 pm Central – Draddy Gymnasium, Riverdale, NY
Monmouth Hawks (7-4, 7-3)
Love it or hate it, the Monmouth Hawks have historically been one of the most exciting teams in years past to watch… for their bench players. What? Look back at the bench celebrations from a few years ago if your memory is a little fuzzy. My personal favorite, not shown in the video clip unfortunately, was their excellent rendition of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. We as fans sometimes have a tendency to lose sight of the human element to sporting events when watching them on television or in person. In terms of college basketball, these are 18-22 year old kids being, well, kids at times. Basketball is a game, and it can sometimes be refreshing to see a team show a little goofiness during the game.
We should note that if you are dancing like a fool on the sidelines during a game, you have better make sure your team wins that game. The particular year of the dancing escapades, the 2015-16 season, Monmouth went on to win 27 games that season. The Hawks finished with a 28-8 record; however, they fell short to Iona in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Tournament. The Hawks did not dance, and I mean in the literal sense, their way into the NCAA Tournament. The Hawks have not been to the NCAA Tournament since 2006, so we cannot wait to see what dances moves they have for us after waiting over a decade for an appearance in March Madness.
A trio of seniors leads the Monmouth Hawks in scoring this season: Deion Hammond, George Papas and Melik Martin. Hammond, a Preseason All-MAAC First-Team selection, is averaging 18.3 points per game this season. Papas and Martin are averaging 13.7 and 10.0 points per game this season, respectively. Monmouth has been scoring collectively as a team with great success this season. The Hawks are averaging 79.6 points per game this season (32nd in Division-I), and shooting a scorching 40% from beyond the arc (9th in Division-I). The Hawks do not hoist up a ton of three-pointers (21.4 attempts per game; 185th in Division-I); however, the ones they do shoot usually have a good chance of hitting the bottom of the net. The Hawks like to play at an up-tempo pace, which allows them to take a high amount of field goal attempts (63.3 per game; 24th in Division-I). As great as the Hawks are offensively, they are not exactly a lock-down defensive team. The Hawks are allowing 73.5 points per game this season (230th in Division-I), but the Hawks have made improvements defensively during their conference games this season. The Hawks are 6-0 when holding teams to under 42% shooting from the field this season and 1-4 when teams shoot 42% or better. Could this be the year the Hawks make it back to the NCAA Tournament? If it is the year they go back to March Madness, rest assured they will have their dance moves ready.
Manhattan Jaspers (5-4, 4-4)
There is an old Chinese proverb that says, “Good Things Come in Pairs”. Take for example the NCAA Tournament appearances for the Manhattan Jaspers. Their first appearance, in 1956, followed by their second appearance two years later in 1958. The Jaspers next appearance came in 1993, and the following one two years later in 1995. Manhattan made the NCAA Tournament in 2003 and the next one, not two years apart this time, came the following season in 2004. Every two years was so 20th century for Manhattan. Sticking to the back-to-back theme, the Jaspers made the NCAA Tournament in 2014 and once again the year after in 2015. At a record of 5-4, I think Manhattan will need some help from above to make the NCAA Tournament this year. We can assure you if/when they do make it to the tournament again, another one will be looming on the horizon the following season.
A trio of juniors leads the Manhattan Jaspers in scoring this season: Anthony Nelson, Elijah Buchanan and Warren Williams. Nelson joins the Manhattan program after representing Seton Hall for the first two years of his collegiate career. Since becoming a Jasper, Nelson is averaging 14.4 points per game this season. Buchanan and Williams have been fine work scoring and rebounding the ball for Manhattan this season. Buchanan is averaging 11.8 points per game and 6.1 rebounds per game this season. Williams is averaging 8.6 points per game and 7.1 rebounds per game this season. Manhattan has struggled to score points this season (62.4 points per game; 322nd in Division-I), but they know how to play solid defense (64.6 points allowed per game; 44th in Division-I). While playing solid defense is key to a successful team, you also need to be effective offensively. The Jaspers are shooting an abysmal 36.4% from the field this season (338th in Division-I). Earlier this season, the Jaspers lost to conference opponent Rider 61-39. The Jaspers were held to 29.5% from field that game and a horrendous 9.1% from three-point land. To the Jaspers credit though, they have played much better basketball as of late, winning three games in a row while shooting 34.4% in that span. The Jaspers are 4-0 this season when holding their opponent to 60 points or fewer and 1-4 when teams score 61 points or more against Manhattan. Manhattan will surely need to play at their grind-it-out tempo tonight against Monmouth if they want a chance to win this game.
I am going to rely on the trends to support my pick tonight. As I mentioned earlier, Monmouth has been terrific when teams are shooting under 42% from the field this season. Manhattan has only had two games where they shot 42% or better this season, both games in which the Jaspers won. Both teams have also played fellow MAAC opponent Marist this season. Monmouth crushed Marist by an average of 13 points two times this season. Manhattan lost both of their matchups against Marist this season, losing by an average of 13.5 points. I look for this to be a close game with either team leading by a bucket or two at halftime. The second half of the game though will pose a different result. I believe Monmouth will really then start to wear down the Manhattan defense. For that reason, I will take Monmouth -4.5 as my best bet.
Jack’s 2020 CBB picks: (14-13)