The last two years have been very special for Monmouth University and its basketball program.  The Hawks are 54-13 over that span and fans now pack and rock OceanFirst Bank Center which just a few years ago was at best 50% full and more like a library than a home basketball venue.

Head coach King Rice has become a well-known national figure in basketball circles and senior guard Justin Robinson has taken his place as one of the greatest players in program history.

(Monmouth University Athletics)

The last two years have been magical on the Monmouth campus in West Long Branch and there’s only one thing missing: a spot in the biggest of all dances.

Tonight the Hawks begin a three-game, four-day quest which hopefully will culminate with them earning a spot in the NCAA Tournament, a/k/a “The Big Dance.”  Monmouth, who has won 16 straight games is the top seed in the MAAC Tournament in Albany, New York and will face #9 Niagara in the quarterfinals tonight at 7 p.m.

A win as expected would send them into the semifinals on Sunday against either Siena or Fairfield and the conference championship game is scheduled for Monday night where they could see nemesis Iona or New Jersey rival St. Peter’s.  All of the Monmouth games in Albany can be heard on the Shore Sports Network’s 1160 & 1310AM with Eddy Occhipinti and Steve Bazaz calling all the action

If the favored Hawks can emerge victorious then they will continue to be part of “March Madness” and headed to the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time in school history and first since 2006.  If they lose this weekend then it’s on to the NIT for the second straight year which will be little consolation. Everyone associated with the program knows that for this season to be a success its NCAA or nothing

Here’s hoping that next Sunday in West Long Branch the Hawks are watching the selection show to see where they are headed with their dancing shoes on.