2016-2017 Overall Rank: #78
Conference Rank: #1 MAAC
Monmouth returns 15 of their 16 players from a team that won 29 games last year. The Hawks won the MAAC regular season title and beat some good non-conference teams along the way. But when it mattered most, Monmouth fell short to Iona in the conference tournament final. That was nearly enough to get Monmouth into the NCAA Tournament, but they had to settle for a top seed in the NIT, where they beat Bucknell before falling to George Washington. Justin Robinson is one of the most dynamic scorers and playmakers in the country. He averaged 19.3 points, 3.7 assists and 2.2 steals, but even those impressive numbers do not tell the entire story. The little 5-8 senior is a superb outside shooter, knocking down 39.4 percent of his 203 three-point attempts. But Robinson is also very good at getting to the basket and finishing, finding a teammate or getting to the charity stripe. He went to the free-throw line 219 attempts and any time a player attempts 200 or more three-pointers and 200 or more free-throws, you know you have a great all-around scorer on your hands.
2015-16 Record: 29-8, 17-3
2015-16 Postseason: NIT
Coach: King Rice
Coach Record: 79-85 at Monmouth, 79-85 overall
That one loss for the Hawks is a big one though. Deon Jones provided senior leadership for the team and he was very good at attacking the basket. On top of his 10.4 points per game, Jones was very effective on the glass for a 6-6 guard. In fact, he led the team with 6.3 rebounds per game. This was still a team that had a negative rebounding margin, but without Jones it could get much worse.
Monmouth adds two newcomers with Louie Pillari and Mustapha Traore. Both were on the team last season as incoming freshmen, but never saw the floor. Pillari is a big 6-6 guard who could help out the backcourt in the rebounding department and Traore is a 6-8, 210 pound forward who could help out on the glass. However, neither will be asked to do much of anything this year, so they will have time to develop.
Who to Watch:
There were many times last season where Coach King Rice played with a smaller lineup, moving Jones out to the four spot and having Robinson join Micah Seaborn and Je’lon Hornbeak on the perimeter. Losing Jones’ versatility is an issue, but the backcourt is set with the returning three players. Seaborn was the team’s second leading scorer last year, averaging 13.2 points per game. He proved to be a very dangerous outside shooter who could also finish around the basket. And all of that was as a freshman and he is only going to get better. At 6-5, Hornbeak will need to help out the frontcourt in the rebounding department more this season as well. Hornbeak is an experienced senior who is another big time three-point shooting threat. Unlike Robinson and Seaborn, Hornbeak is mostly a shooter, but he led the team by knocking down 40.3 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc and will always play tough defense. Josh James could return to a starting spot after averaging 3.6 points and 3.1 assists as a part-time starter last season. The backcourt also returns Collin Stewart, a big 6-8 guard who can certainly help fill that versatility lost with Jones. Stewart is not particularly tough on the glass, but he can knock down shots and provide a mismatch on the offensive end whether playing at the three or the four. Austin Tilghman adds even more perimeter options for Monmouth. He has not proven to be a good shooter, but he is an experienced upperclassman now who could be ready to show what he can do.
There are some more experienced options in the frontcourt this year. Chris Brady is the guy who holds down the middle of the paint. He averaged 6.6 points and 5.9 rebounds during his junior year. At 6-10 and 250 pounds, Monmouth needs Brady to stay on the floor as much as possible. He can block some shots and hit the glass effectively and that is what this team needs from their big man. Zac Tillman is another 6-10 senior center. He averaged fewer than ten minutes per game in 2015-2016, but he can fill in some minutes and at least play solid defense. The return of Greg Noack and the development of sophomore Pierre Sarr could provide some much needed frontcourt depth. Regardless of whether or not Monmouth has depth in the paint, this is the most talented team in the MAAC, but teams like Iona and Siena will be right there with the Hawks, especially in March when the pressure is on to reach the NCAA Tournament.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Justin Robinson, Senior, Guard, 19.3 points per game
Je’lon Hornbeak, Senior, Guard, 8.9 points per game
Micah Seaborn, Sophomore, Guard, 13.2 points per game
Collin Stewart, Senior, Guard, 7.3 points per game
Chris Brady, Senior, Center, 6.6 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 79.5 (32nd in nation, 2nd in conference)
Scoring Defense: 72.3 (187, 5)
Field-Goal Percentage: 43.5 (201, 4)
Field-Goal Defense: 39.5 (17, 1)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.8 (94, 5)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 36.6 (76, 3)
Free-Throw Percentage: 76.8 (9, 1)
Rebound Margin: -0.5 (206, 7)
Assists Per Game: 12.3 (242, 8)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.3 (138, 3)