The March to Madness Begins this Friday

The men’s basketball team is set to tip-off their season on Friday, Nov. 14, at West Virginia. The team is coming off an 11-21 season last year, which includes a conference record of 5-15. That placed them ninth out of eleven teams in their first season as members of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC). The MAAC was won by Iona during the regular season, while Manhattan won the conference tournament to move on to the NCAA tournament. MU lost to Rider in the first round of the MAAC tournament to finish their season.

This season looks to be a more promising one for the Hawks, who hope to make it back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006. They will be lead by fourth year head coach King Rice. Four of five starters will return as the team is filled with experience; something that many collegiate teams do not have the luxury of. The team will be led by junior guard, and All-MAAC preseason third teamer Deon Jones.

Jones was the Hawks leading scorer (15.1 ppg), rebounder (6.9 rpg) and free throw shooter (.772) a season ago. He will be joined in the backcourt by senior guard Andrew Nicholas. Nicholas was the team’s second leading scorer (14.3 ppg) a season ago, and a key contributor behind the three point line. The pair will be joined by Max DiLeo, a senior guard who shot 48.2 percent from behind the three point arc last season.

Alexis Knowles, a sophomore economics and finance major who attended the majority of the men’s home games last season, loves what Dileo brings to the team. When asked who her favorite player was, Knowles responded, “It’s hard to pick a favorite because each of them played such an instrumental role in the teams’ success last year. If I did have to pick one, Max DiLeo would be my pick because of the nonstop energy he brings to the court.”

DiLeo, Jones and Nicholas will be joined by sophomore Josh James, senior Brice Kofane, sophomore Greg Noack, freshman Micah Seaborn, sophomore Justin Robinson, freshman Austin Tilghman, and sophomores Collin Stewart, Zac Tillman and Chris Brady. Junior transfer Je’lon Hornbeak will sit this season out and freshman Ba’shawn Mickens will redshirt. The Hawks have some encouraging stats to build off from last year, with a positive rebounding margin of +.9 and positive turnover margin of +.5. If the Hawks can build on this +1.4 possession margin, the wins should follow.

It won’t be a walk in the park this season, however, as the MAAC has several talented teams. In a preseason poll, MU ranked sixth in the MAAC. Iona and Siena seem to be co-favorites this season, but Iona won the preseason poll, placing them first. Iona has tons of talent, and will be led by MAAC preseason player of the year, David Laury, a junior forward. He will be joined by guards A.J. English and Isaiah Williams.

When asked who he saw as the toughest competition in the conference this season, Nicholas responded, “I would say Siena probably over Iona because they have all their starters back, they didn’t lose anybody and they have a great coach.”

Led by head coach Jimmy Patsos, Siena has tons of depth and has potential to be much better defensively. They are led by their leading scorer from last season, Rob Poole as well as defensive stalwart Brett Bisping. Ranked third in the preseason poll is the team that represented the MAAC in the NCAA tournament last season, Manhattan.

Manhattan only returns two starters, but with plenty of incoming talent and tons of depth, they are certain to bring some competition.

Fourth in the poll was St. Peter’s, who return eleven players, and will be led by forward Marvin Dominique. If the Peacocks improve on offense, they can be dangerous.

In fifth in the poll is Quinnipiac who dominated on the boards last season. They will be led by rebounding machine Ousmane Drame. After Monmouth, whose experience and returning talent surely makes them a sleeper to win the conference, the poll is rounded out by Rider, Marist, Fairfield, Canisius and Niagra.

After kicking off the season in West Virginina, the Hawks will return home for their first home game of the season on Nov. 21 against Bethune-Cookman. MU’s first conference game will come at Marist on December 4, followed by the first home conference game on Dec. 7 against Iona.

The Hawks will wrap up their regular season at home on March 1 against Siena, before heading to Albany for the MAAC tournament on March 5-9. If all goes well in the MAAC tournament it will be a fun Selection Sunday for Monmouth on March 15.