Punching Their Ticket

Player of the Week

Justin Robinson, G, Senior, Monmouth Hawks

Justin RobinsonJustin RobinsonWhen you think of the hottest teams in the country right now, you probably think of the usual suspects. Gonzaga, UCLA, Kansas, etc. Not everyone thinks of one team that has ripped off 14 straight though: Monmouth. Yes, it’s the Hawks who are sitting pretty at 24-5, in first place in the MAAC Conference with a 16-2 conference record. They are led by our Player of the Week, Justin Robinson, who is their consistent anchor and leader. He averages 19.8 points per game and 4.8 assists per game and he has been spectacular down the stretch this season. In conference play, he has 11 games of 20 or more points and facilitates the offense. He is also a great defender and a ballhawk. He has 14 games this year with at least two steals. He leads a team that is 27th ranked in the nation in points per game scoring, with 81.1 per game. His best game of the season came against Siena on 2/13, where he scorched the Saints for a season high 40 points in a victory.

Last season, many thought that the Hawks were a big snub from the NCAA Tournament after a strong season like they are having now. Robinson had another solid year last season, averaging 19.3 points per game, and you know he wants nothing more than to get Monmouth into the tournament after last year’s missed chance. His team is rolling along in their conference and looks very solid to make the Big Dance this year. As long as Robinson keeps up his dominant play and the Hawks keep winning, there should be no debate about if they should punch their ticket this season.

Who’s Hot

Jalen Adams, G, Sophomore, UCONN Huskies

For the first time since the first week of December, the Huskies make it back onto the weekly blog and in a positive light for the first time since Thanksgiving week! After a horrendous start to the season and having their postseason chances all but erased in the regular season, head coach Kevin Ollie has gotten UCONN to play much better in the last couple of weeks. One of the biggest reasons has been their guard Jalen Adams. Not to be confused with Saint Bonaventure’s Jaylen Adams (who has also made the blog), Jalen has been their best, most consistent player this season. After Terry Larrier went down with injury early on, he stepped up for the Huskies. He averages 15 points per game and 6.6 assists per game. Dating back to the end of January, the Huskies have turned it around in their conference and won seven of their last nine games. Adams has been one of the biggest reasons for their turnaround, hitting double figures in points in six of those games and leading in assists throughout. While UCONN’s postseason chances are very slim, the conference tournament always gives you one last shot and we all know the history of how good UCONN has been in their conference’s tournament. Who knows! Maybe Adams will lead them to a run through the conference tourney and they will make it back to the Big Dance in improbable fashion. Odds are low for this, but his play can give some UCONN fans hope!

Mike Daum, F, Sophomore, South Dakota State Jackrabbits

Daum has been mentioned here before for the right reasons. On the season, he is averaging 24.8 points per game and is up there as one of the best scorers in the nation. He has accomplished a new feat though: setting the season high for points scored. Last Saturday (2/18), he ripped off a crazy 51 points in a road victory over Fort Wayne (who beat Indiana earlier in the year). For this feat, he must make this list. A couple of weeks ago, Central Michigan’s Marcus Keene notched 50 in a game and Daum one-upped him. He was effective all over the courts, securing 15 rebounds, making 16-17 free throws, knocking down seven three pointers and staying out of foul trouble to stay on the floor. His performance may not be topped again this season and if he comes back to the Jackrabbits next season, he could perform even better than he has this year.

UNC Wilmington Seahawks

The Seahawks round the Who’s Hot list this week by earning the title of Colonial Athletic Associating Conference regular season champions. They clinched the title with a 25-5 record (14-3 in conference) and after a victory over Towson on 2/23. UNC Wilmington has been consistently one of the most prolific and efficient offenses in the country, ranking 12th overall in points per game at 84.9. They are led by solid three-point shooting and their forward Devontae Cacok leads the nation in field goal percentage at 78.7 percent. This is a Seahawk squad that is bad and dangerous and come tourney time, they could seriously be smelling upset no matter who they play.

Who’s Not

Akron Zips

Last week, Akron was talked about in my praise of their forward Isaiah Johnson when they were on a hot streak. They were sitting comfortably in the MAC East at 22-4 (12-1) and just came off an undefeated January. As soon as mid-February hit, they lost their mojo and have now rattled off two straight loses and three of their last six. They fell to a decent Kent State team at home, but then went on the road against a poor 12-16 Bowling Green team and lost by one point and had their 17-game win streak against them snapped. This is not a good sign for the Zips, as they head into the final stretch of the regular season reeling. They were already on thin ice to get into the Big Dance, most likely needing to win their conference to do so. If they go into the conference tournament not on their game, they could easily be eliminated early and miss out on the post season all together.

What to Watch For

As the regular season is winding to a close, there is one conference to keep an eye on and specifically one team in that conference. The VCU Rams holds a very slim lead in the Atlantic Ten conference, but have the talented Dayton Flyers and red hot Rhode Island Rams on their tail. Who does VCU play next? At Rhode Island on 2/25 and at Dayton on 3/1. Watch out folks. These are the most important games for VCU right at the end of the regular season. If they can win them, especially against Dayton who is in a virtual tie atop the standings, they look like a lock to wrap up the Atlantic Ten regular season title.

Mid Major Bracketology

With just about two weeks left in the regular season (including conference tournaments), most conferences look set on who will get in. Now comes the best science field not taught at your schools (or at least I don’t think so): Bracketology. It’s time to project what teams are LOCKS or very good shots to make the Big Dance as of right now and where they will fall.

Gonzaga Bulldogs: 1 seed

The Bulldogs remain the only undefeated team in Division I basketball. No debate here

St. Mary’s Gaels: 5 seed

They have only three losses on the year (two to Gonzaga), but their lack of competition keeps them from a higher seed

Cincinnati Bearcats: 4 seed

Ferocious defense and veteran leadership propel this team. Mick Cronin’s best Bearcat team to date.

SMU Mustangs: 5 seed

Semi Ojeleye and their stout defense give the Mustangs a combination of scoring and defensive presence.

Wichita State Shockers: 8 seed

They are playing hot and look in control of their conference.

UNC Wilmington Seahawks: 11 seed

Explosive offense and efficient scorers present them as a big upset/Cinderella candidate.

Dayton Flyers: 9 seed

VCU Rams: 9 seed

Nevada Wolfpack: 12 seed

Valparaiso Crusaders: 13 seed

Monmouth Hawks: 13 seed

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders: 14 seed

Belmont Bruins: 14 seed

Vermont Catamounts: 15 seed

Florida Gulf Coast Eagles: 15 seed

Princeton Tigers: 15 seed

North Dakota: 16 seed

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