Fairleigh Dickinson at Monmouth (Northeast)
Boylan Gym - West Long Branch, NJ
7:30 PM EST
In tonight's only league game, we have a couple of case studies in how difficult it is to maintain success, much less consistency, at the low-RPI end of the mid-major pool. In 2005, Fairleigh Dickinson's Horse-Men
broke onto the national scene briefly by holding Illinois close for a half before falling by 12 in their first-round matchup. A year later, Monmouth had won its second title in three years, and earned the NEC its first NCAA win since 1983 with a convincing 71-49
play-in performance versus Hampton. The 2006 title game between these two teams, a 49-48 Monmouth upset
, was one of the lost classics of that season's Championship Week.
These days, both are Not Even Close to their prior glory. Since FDU's 20-win season and one-point near-miss in 2005-06, the program hasn't found anything to work with in a massive rebuilding project, dropping to 14 and then eight wins. This year's bunch offers no seniors and a six-junior core that's suffered through a lot of losing, with nobody held over from the good years. The fortunes of the 2008-09 team look to be no better than the last, as it's winless in six games and averaging one of the widest scoring margins in the country: 54.7 point for and 81.5 against. Junior guard Sean Baptiste
is the leading scorer with 11.5 ppg, but he's only shooting 31 percent from the floor.
Monmouth would also be winless if not for a Nov. 29 visit from college basketball's version of the mulligan, New Jersey Tech
. The 1-8 Hawks won 19 games in 2005-06, the same number as they did the next two seasons combined, and look to broach that mark again with a cold-shooting squad that manages just 40.1 percent floor shooting and 59.3 points per contest. But as Monmouth prepares to move out of cozy Boylan and into a new facility next year, 6-8 freshman Travis Taylor
may help lead the team back to its old perch atop the NEC. He's averaging 11.3 ppg (62.5 percent) and 6.1 boards -- this league has been won by teams highlighting a single dynamic big guy in the past, and Taylor could be one of those players.Basketball State Preview/Box
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