The Monmouth Hawks were this close to joining the folklore of college basketball’s history of smaller schools capturing the hearts and imagination of the nation. Just a whisk away from being mentioned alongside The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels under Jerry Tarkanian, Loyal Marymount and the "Guru’s of Go" or perhaps the Brad Stevens led Butler era.
Instead, we are left wondering if Monmouth was just a one hit wonder who will more likely to be remembered in the same breath as 90’s Brit-band The Verve who topped the charts with their 1997 hit Bitter Sweet Symphony. The band was then sued by The Rolling Stones (over the use of a sample in the song) who took every penny The Verve made off the song, thus fulfilling the true irony of the songs meaning.
The 2015-16 Monmouth Hawks were a bitter sweet symphony themselves. They had their best season in school history finishing with a 28-8 record and a regular season Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) title. Their head coach King Rice was adorned as conference coach of the year as well as the John McClendon national coach of the year and the team and their "Bench Mob" were a nightly feature on SportsCenter and Instagram vines from November to February. However, come March, they were left outside of the party yelling at the bouncer insisting that the name Monmouth was supposed to be on the guest list.
The numbers and accolades were enough to earn King Rice a 5 year-extension and no doubt helped in his off-season recruiting, but the Monmouth Hawks need to translate their off court success into on court success come November (and of course come March). Twitter followers and Instagram likes can feed your ego for a short time, but neither is the secret to happiness and a life of fulfillment.
Monmouth can claim the selection committee did them wrong, but the truth of the matter is that it was conference rivals Iona (22-11) who did them wrong, beating Monmouth twice in the month of February, including a 79-76 win in the MAAC conference title game which landed Iona the automatic tournament bid and left Monmouth on the wrong side of the red velvet rope.
There is plenty of reason to believe the Hawks are more than just a one hit wonder. The 28 win team of last season only lost one senior to graduation, leaving Coach Rice with a cupboard full of motivated and talented players including their two leading scorers in senior guard Justin Robinson (19.3 PPG) and sophomore guard Micah Seaborn (13.2 PPG) which should leave plenty of reason for optimism in West Long Branch, NJ.
All told, this upcoming college basketball season will decide if it all was just a bitter sweet symphony or if Monmouth can become the Wonderwall of March.