Monmouth Earns First Playoff Win For King Rice

Monmouth held off a late surge from Canisius Saturday afternoon to earn a 60-54 win over the Golden Griffins and move on to the MAAC semifinals Sunday afternoon. Justin Robinson proved his worth as an all-MAAC first team member, leading four Hawks in double figures with 16 points. Continue reading “Monmouth Earns First Playoff Win For King Rice”

Some observations of Monmouth’s strengths and weaknesses

Last night, I attended my first NEC game as a fan when I purchased tickets with a co-worker to see the Monmouth Hawks lose by more than 30 points to ACC foe Maryland. It really wasn’t a fair fight, after all Maryland has the fifth tallest roster in the country versus Monmouth who has the seventh shortest team. Obviously, the blowout loss in College Park isn’t a proper barometer to measure the Hawks, but the Terrapins were able to exacerbate some of Monmouth’s issues. Here are my thoughts on the Hawks as they will soon move forward into NEC play:

1) Swarming the Basketball – Monmouth may have one of the shortest teams in the country, but they sure are quick. On defense, they fly around the court creating havoc a majority of the time. Their defensive rotations, for the most part, are crisp and clog up passing lanes in a hurry. Even a team that has superior size and athleticism in Maryland, struggled mightily in their half-court set. In all, the Terps coughed the ball up 24 times, which is right on par with the number of turnovers this Hawks’ defense extracts every game. With their excellent turnover rates (top 10 nationally), any NEC team opposing Monmouth should be content if they give the ball away less than 20 times. If they break 15 turnovers, then they should be thrilled. And if they break 12 turnovers, well then it was a marvelous performance. This team can flat out defend when they’re clicking on all cylinders. No one, and I repeat no one, will look forward to play these Hawks in conference.

2) Offensive Struggles – Monmouth was in quite a quandary on Wednesday night. King Rice tried to instill an aggressive mindset on the offensive end, as his Hawks clearly weren’t shy about driving the lane. Maryland’s size, however, made life extremely difficult for Monmouth’s bigs and slashers. Alex Len, all 7’1 of him, registered five blocks and altered a countless number of other shot attempts. In all, Monmouth only connected on 21% of their shots last night. Of course, Monmouth won’t see this type of size in the NEC, but the Hawks currently cannot buy an outside jumper. For the season, the Hawks are scoring 0.85 points per possession. I don’t care how good your defense is, an offense playing at that level simply won’t cut it if you truly want to break into the NEC top four or five.

3) Who is the Go-To-Guy? – If you have a KenPom subscription, head to Monmouth’s scouting page. On it, you’ll unfortunately see a lot of red boxes (red means BAD) when it comes to offensive statistics and metrics. It’s been a real struggle shooting the basketball for a majority of the Hawks. Senior Jesse Steele is shooting 27% from the floor. Andrew Nicholas, after his 0-9 performance against Maryland, has only drained 36% of his shot attempts. Not one player, with the exception of freshman Christian White who doesn’t have many attempts, has a three-point percentage greater than 32%. Quite simply, this is one of the worst shooting teams in the country, which truly places a premium on transition points off turnovers. If the Hawks have an off day turning their opponent over, they’ll have real trouble winning the game.

Despite all of the offensive issues, this team is significantly better than a season ago. King Rice has his players bought in on the defensive end, but he’ll need to figure out how to create better looks offensively. His go-to-guys, Steele and Nicholas, have disappointed in the early going, so one of the biggest issues moving forward is if those guards can improve their numbers. Without a sizable tick up in performance, the Hawks won’t have enough offensive firepower to compete with teams like LIU, Robert Morris, and even Central Connecticut.