Bucknell at Monmouth, 8:00 PM Eastern, espn3
Welcome to the 2017-18 college basketball season!!! The past several months have been filled with some crazy adventures off the court, from FBI investigations to players locked in Chinese prisons, but it is finally time to get the games underway! Almost every day from today through the end of the regular season, I will be bringing you my Under the Radar Game of the Day, a highlighted game involving two teams that are neither from a regular multi-bid league nor ranked in any of the national polls. Tonight we begin our journey in West Long Branch, New Jersey where the Monmouth Hawks out of the Metro Atlantic will be hosting the Patriot League’s Bucknell Bison.
Monmouth has been one of the most noteworthy Under the Radar stories the past couple of years, especially given that the team did not make the NCAA Tournament in either of those seasons. During the 2015-16 campaign, the Hawks were an impressive 27-7 during the regular season including wins over Notre Dame, USC, UCLA and Georgetown. They were also, in our opinions at least, an awful snub by the Selection Committee when they got passed over after being upset in the MAAC tournament. The 15-16 year also introduced us to the crazy antics on the Monmouth Bench.
Last year, Monmouth again took the MAAC regular season title, losing only twice in conference play, and again got upended in their conference tournament. Two great seasons, and two NIT bids for the Hawks. Unfortunately for head coach King Rice’s squad, this year is not as promising as the last two were, especially now that Justin Robinson, the team’s heart and soul, has graduated. They are not without weapons, however, as Micah Seaborn should step up and big a big-time scorer this year.
The bigger story about tonight’s game, and the main reason why it is our choice for Game of the Day, is the road team. Bucknell has won three straight Patriot League regular season titles, and added a bid to the NCAA’s last season to boot, where they lost a hard fought game to West Virginia. All five starters return from last season’s team, led by Patriot League Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year Nana Foulland. As if he is not tough enough to stop, Zach Thomas won the Patriot Tournament MVP Award last year. Beyond the two of them, Kimbal Mackenzie and Stephen Brown were both double-digit scorers. The Bison are deep and talented, and if they are able to pick up enough notable non-conference wins, could be seriously in the discussions for an at-large bid come March, if by chance they end up needing one. Road wins are always tough to get, and will be even more important in the Selection Committee room this year than in the past. Getting a victory tonight in one of the toughest venues to win at in the MAAC would definitely give the Bison a solid early notch in their belts.