Last season both Syracuse and Monmouth were on the proverbial NCAA Tournament bubble. As it turns out, Syracuse was rewarded with an at-large bid while Monmouth was left on the outside looking in. Many pundits thought the Hawks were deserving of a bid.
This matchup has absolutely nothing to do with that. In fact, that first paragraph was totally just filler to segue into the q&a segment.
Our friends Mid-Major Madness helped us gather a little bit more intel on the Hawks. We caught up with triple-m’s very own, Ellie Lieberman, who was kind enough to answer our questions. Let’s get into the preview, shall we?
TNIAAM: What does Monmouth bring back from last year?
EL: First and foremost, Monmouth brings back their star player, Justin Robinson. The senior guard makes up for his lack in height, only 5’8, with streaky shooting. He’s averaged 13 points per game thus far, but you can expect his point total to rise above 20 if he heats up from behind the arc. However, the Hawks aren’t only reliant on Robinson as he currently sits as the fourth leading scorer through two games. Center Chris Brady has made huge strides this offseason and now leads the team in both points per game and rebounding, 15.5 and 9 respectively. Finally, Micah Seaborn and Je’lon Hornbeak are two strong guards ready to fill in for Robinson if he’s not having a good night. Both have been arguably more efficient than Robinson and can be counted on to break out any game.
TNIAAM: What can we expect from the bench mob in the carrier dome?
EL: Monmouth’s trio of seniors-Robinson, Brady and Hornbeak all want in on the NCAA tournament this year and to get there, they will need some big wins. Playing Syracuse at home provides a tremendous challenge for the Hawks, but a win would validate them as a top mid major. Look to the Pillari brothers, the two remaining members to lead the charge for “The Monmouth Bench Mom,” and against an in-state powerhouse, I wouldn’t expect anything less than the best.
TNIAAM: Anyone other than J-Rob that represents a problem for Syracuse?
EL: I think the Hawks are a much more balanced team than last year. They’re more experienced than last year and are able to rely less on Robinson. Chris Brady has been by far the most efficient player, shooting 68.4% on the year, and Seaborn and Hornbeak have led Robinson as well. Brady can match up especially well against Syracuse forward Tyler Roberson as he has a size advantage, making this a battle to watch.
TNIAAM: Monmouth wins if...
EL: They feed Chris Brady in the paint. He has been such an underrated talent for the Hawks this year and can truly become an NBA prospect if he continues his fiery FG percentage. Equally important will be his role as a defender against Syracuse bigs and lengthy guard, Andrew White III.
TNIAAM: Syracuse wins if...
EL: They play their game. The ‘Cuse lost some phenomenal seniors last year, but they have three phenomenal players in White, Roberson and Gillon, their three leading scorers. Monmouth will sure be a test to their chemistry. All guards, including Frank Howard and Tyus Battle, must contribute, but the ultimate question is up Jim Boeheim: how do you split the minutes?
What do you think, Orange nation? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comment section below.