Entering this weekend it seemed as if the contenders for the MAAC regular season title were known, with preseason favorite Manhattan being joined by Canisius, Iona, league newcomer Quinnipiac and Rider. However following Canisius’ 85-83 win at Iona on Friday night the unexpected happened in two games.
On Saturday Manhattan lost 71-67 at previously winless (in conference play) Fairfield, with the Jaspers trailing by as many as 19 points in the second half before mounting a rally that fell four points short. Sunday provided another stunner, with Monmouth’s Andrew Nicholas hitting two three-pointers in the final 8.1 seconds of the game to give the Hawks the 83-82 win over Canisius in West Long Branch, N.J.
After two Bill Baron free throws made the score 82-77 with 14 seconds remaining Nicholas, who scored a game-high 28 points, hit a three-pointer to cut the Golden Griffin lead to two. At that point the Hawks received a break in the form of Baron, who finished the game with 21 points, missing the front end of a one-and-one. Monmouth raced down to the other end, with Nicholas’ shot with about three seconds remaining gave them the win.
Canisius’ defeat drops them back into a three-way tie for first place with Manhattan and Quinnipiac, and one thing to take out of the result is what Monmouth was able to do defensively against Baron and his teammates. Baron may have scored 21 points but he was made to work for them, as evidenced by his eight turnovers. And as a team Canisius committed 24 turnovers, which allowed the Hawks to hang around throughout.
The turnover count in this defeat is something Jim Baron will have to address, and the same goes for Monmouth as they committed 20 turnovers. But if anything, Sunday’s surprising finish is just another reminder that it’s unlikely that any team is going to run away with the MAAC crown.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.