NIT Preview: Men’s basketball vs. Monmouth

Graduate student Alex Mitola dribbles the ball in GW's win against Hofstra in the first round of the NIT. Mitola hit the game-winning shot with under three seconds left in the win. Kiana Robertson | Hatchet Staff Photographer
Graduate student Alex Mitola dribbles the ball in GW’s win against Hofstra in the first round of the NIT. Mitola hit the game-winning shot with under three seconds left in the win. Kiana Robertson | Hatchet Staff Photographer
What:
Men’s basketball (24-10, 1-0 NIT) at Monmouth (28-7, 1-0 NIT) in the NIT second round.
Where: Multipurpose Athletic Center, West Long Branch, N.J., ESPN (T.V.)

When: Monday, March 21 at 7 p.m.

After a last-second game-winner got them by No. 5-seed Hofstra at home, the Colonials travel to No. 1-seed Monmouth Monday night with a chance to advance in the National Invitation Tournament.

GW has shown that it has a higher ceiling than Monmouth this season. The problem for the Colonials, though, is that they haven’t always played up to that ceiling. Meanwhile, Monmouth has exceeded expectations in a year in which the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular season champions knocked off USC, UCLA, Notre Dame and Georgetown.

The winner will play either No. 3-seed Ohio State or No. 2-seed Florida after the Buckeyes and Gators face off Sunday afternoon. If the Colonials beat Monmouth, they would definitely be traveling as the lower seed for a quarterfinals game.

First, though, they would have to get past Monmouth, a good team that poses matchup problems for GW. Here’s what to expect from the game:

The Case for the Colonials:

If the Colonials win Monday, it will likely be because they’ve succeeded in pounding the ball inside, controlling the rebounding battle and getting to the line – as has been the case in wins all year.

Monmouth has a 6-foot-10, 240 body inside in junior center Chris Brady, but Brady doesn’t have the numbers (6.7 points, 6.0 rebounds per game) to show that he could compete to GW’s one-two punch of Kevin Larsen and Tyler Cavanaugh. Of the five players who see the most minutes for Monmouth, none are above 6-foot-7.

Monmouth has played good defense this year, owning the 55th-best adjusted defense in the country according to Kenpom while forcing 15 turnovers per game, but dominating the interior could help the Colonials counteract that.

The Case for the Hawks:

Monmouth is a guard-driven team in the clearest sense. The Hawks’ five leading scorers are all guards and it’s a group of five guards who get the most playing time.

Justin Robinson, a 5-foot-8 junior guard, leads the Hawks in scoring with 19.6 points per game while dishing out 3.7 assists. Micah Seaborn and Deon Jones, both long, athletic guards, add 12.9 and 10.4 points per game, while Jones adds 6.2 rebounds per game.

That gives Monmouth some fast horses. With their personnel, the Hawks play at one of the fastest tempos in the country. Their average possession on offense takes 14.7 seconds, eighth-fastest in the nation according to Kenpom.

Typically, GW struggles to stop teams with quick guards. Another game in which they allow an opponent to shoot over 50 percent from the field would likely spell the end of the Colonials’ season.

The Bottom Line:
In March, anything can happen. Monmouth, playing at home as one of the first four teams left out of the NCAA Tournament field, is the favorite. If the Colonials can find their defensive presence, though, they could extend their season.

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