Monmouth Misses the Big Dance, Heads for the NIT
Those that work in the Monmouth University marketing department are well aware that the success of the school’s basketball team has brought them an incredible amount of publicity that you couldn’t even put a value on. Clearly there are thousands of people who never heard of West Long Branch now quite familiar with the Hawks from head coach King Rice to their well-documented “Bench Mob.”
The attention to Monmouth ramped up these last few days as the Hawks were the poster child when it comes to teams “on the bubble” to make the 68-team NCAA Tournament. Sunday night Hawks faithful had their hearts broken when Monmouth was not extended an at-large invitation to the “big dance” despite a school-record 27 win season.
I’m not going to debate whether an injustice was served as there are plenty of others who have already done so, none more than ESPN analyst and former Duke player Jay Bilas who has been on the Monmouth bandwagon and clearly felt the selection committee made a terrible mistake.
The fact is as one of the final four that did not make the NCAA’s the Hawks get a consolation prize, a #1 seed in the National Invitation Tournament where they will host Bucknell Wednesday night in a game that will be on ESPN3 or of course the Shore Sports Network’s 1160 & 1310AM which is the radio home of Monmouth basketball.
Unfortunately the school is on spring break so students are not on campus this week but hopefully fans will pack the MAC so the Hawks have a true home-court advantage. If Monmouth wins Wednesday they will get another home game against either George Washington or Hofstra in the second round of the 32-team tournament.
Regardless the success of the basketball program this winter has put the school on the map in a way only marketing officials could have dreamed about four months ago. Let’s hope the Hawks can overcome the disappointment of Sunday and make the most of their NIT opportunity.
A quick girls’ basketball note. St. John Vianney and Manasquan won state group championships over the weekend and will return to the Pine Belt Arena for this week’s Tournament of Champions. The Lancers received the top seed in the six-team TOC and will get a bye into Friday’s semifinals. Manasquan, who routed High Point on Sunday is the #3 seed and will face University on Wednesday in Toms River. The Warriors are the defending champions.