Monmouth University’s men’s basketball team was hoping that it wouldn’t have to sweat out Selection Sunday March 14.
That’s when the NCAA will announce the 68-team field for March Madness and if the Hawks defeated Iona College March 7 in the Middle Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Tournament championship game, they would not be sitting on pins and needles waiting to see if they made the tournament field. A MAAC Tournament title would automatically put Monmouth in the dance for the first time since 2006.
Despite a high Rating Percentage Index (RPI), the MAAC regular-season crown and significant wins over UCLA, University of Notre Dame and Georgetown University, Monmouth would not be guaranteed a tournament bid if they lost the final to Iona. The NCAA committee is reluctant to give teams from Mid Major Conference’s a second bid therefore winning the conference tournament is essential.
However, if the Hawks lost the final to an Iona team they went 1-1 against during the season, on paper, at least, they should still have done enough to deserve a bid. A tournament win means no waiting for Sunday to see if they are in.
Monmouth (27-6 overall and 17-3 in MAAC) advanced to the MAAC Tournament Championship game by defeating fifth-seeded Fairfield University (19-13, 12-8), 76-63, March 6 at the Times Union Center in Albany, New York.
It was the first MAAC Championship game appearance for Monmouth and a conference championship game for the first time since the 2005-06 season when the Hawks were in the Northeast Conference (NEC).
Micah Seaborn (Fort Worth, Texas/Prime Prep Academy) led all scorers with 17 points, while Justin Robinson (Lake Katrine, New York/Kingston) dropped 15 points and nine rebounds. The game marked the return of Deon Jones (Wilmington, Delaware/Sanford School/Towson), who missed the last five games with a broken hand, with the senior captain scoring nine points, three assists and seven rebounds.
Monmouth’s defense held First Team All-MAAC selection Marcus Gilbert to just 10 points on 2-of-10 shooting. Fairfield shot 35.6 percent from the floor and 25 percent from beyond the arc in the contest.
Hawks receive MAAC honors
Three Hawks received All-MAAC Team honors, led by Robinson. He was a unanimous First Team pick, while Jones and Seaborn were Third Team Selections. Seaborn also made the All-Rookie Team.
Robinson is having an outstanding season, averaging 20.2 points while becoming just the second Hawk to score more than 600 points in a season. He ranks third in the conference in scoring average. The junior guard was just as productive on the defensive end, leading the league in steals (75).
This was his second straight First Team selection.
Jones, also an All-MAAC pick in 2015, is averaging 10.4 points and is the Hawks’ top rebounder at 6.2 a game, which ranks eighth in the conference.
Seaborn was the only freshman to make an all-conference team this year. He is averaging 13 points for the Hawks this season.
The regular-season championship was Monmouth’s first since 2004-05 in the NEC.