I’m going to go ahead and say what every one is thinking. All of this waiting an entire week in between Kentucky basketball games is the worst for the fans. The weather is feeling like winter, and there’s nothing I want to do more when I get home from work during the week than flip on the TV and watch some hoops. Unfortunately, we don’t get to make the schedule, so here we sit and wait.
Later today, the Monmouth Hawks travel in to Madison Square Garden for their first ever match up versus the Kentucky Wildcats. While the Cats have won 5 straight since the loss to Kansas in the Champions Classic, the Hawks have been on a different trajectory. Monmouth has lost 5 of their last 6 and hold a 3-6 record on the season.
Head Coach King Rice, who is currently in his seventh season at Monmouth, had the Hawks rolling before this season. He had coached Monmouth to a 55-15 combined record over the past two seasons, while winning back to back MAAC Coach of the Year awards. Let’s take a look at the potential starting lineup for the Hawks today.
#10 Micah Seaborn, Junior Guard, 6’5″
Micah Seaborn returns as a main contributor for Coach Rice this season. Including this season, Seaborn is a three year starter and was the second-leading scorer on last year’s team. Seaborn was also the MAAC Rookie of the Year in 2015-16, his freshman season.
After a really solid scoring season last year, Seaborn is stepping into the roll of the primary scorer this season. He currently leads the team with 16.7 points per game and is also pulling down 4.1 rebounds and dishing out 2 assists per game. He’s been shooting really well of late, hitting 50% of his threes on the season and making 11 of his last 17 attempts.
The junior brings a lot of experience to the table against the most inexperienced team ever assembled. Seaborn plays the 3 for the Hawks, meaning that he should match up with Kentucky’s Kevin Knox for the majority of today’s game. At 6’5″, Seaborn gives up 4 inches Knox. This size advantage is what Knox has been utilizing to score in the paint recently.
#23 Austin Tilghman, Senior Guard, 6’1″
Austin Tilghman has been a four year contributor to the Monmouth program. However, despite contributing from the moment he stepped on campus, Tilghman had only started one game before his senior season. Tilghman was actually thought to be going to play Division I football before coming to Monmouth, receiving offers from both Villanova and Coastal Carolina as a talented running back.
As a senior for Coach Rice, Tilghman is seeing a jump in opportunities to make his mark on the game in the stat book. So far this season, he is the team’s second leading scorer at 9.8 per game, to go along with 4.6 rebounds, and a team leading 4.3 assists. He is also leading the team in steals. He is a do-it-all type of guard.
Tilghman is the primary guard for the Hawks, meaning he will most likely be given the task of guarding Quade Green for the Cats. While Green is only one inch shorter than Tilghman, he gives up a whopping 50 pounds to the experienced senior. It will be interesting to see, in this match up, how Tilghman will keep up with Green in the open floor, and how Green will manage to defend a player who has an ability to push him around.
#32 Diago Quinn, Junior Forward, 6’9″
Diago Quinn is the resident big man for Coach Rice’s lineup. The starting lineup has changed at various points this season, but Quinn has been a stalwart, starting every single game. Today will be a bit of a homecoming for Quinn, as he grew up in Manhattan before moving to Illinois to play for Lake Forest Academy.
Quinn was barely playing 10 minutes per game in his first two seasons at Monmouth, but is seeing his playing time double with his new starting role. With that newfound playing time, Quinn’s stats are increasing as a result. This season, he is putting up 7 points, 4.6 rebounds, and a team-leading 1 block per game.
The New York native is the tallest player in the starting lineup for the Hawks and will most likely be matching up with Nick Richards. Richards has the slight height advantage, but Quinn makes up for that with a muscle advantage and an experience advantage. Today is also a slight homecoming game for Richards as he went to high school in New Jersey.
#0 Ray Salnave, Freshman Guard, 6’3″
Ray Salnave is starting as a freshman for Coach Rice, after sitting out all of last season with a redshirt. Salnave joins the list of players playing near home in today’s game, as he is a native of Elmont, New York. In fact, Salnave played his high school basketball at Benjamin N. Cardozo High School, which is just about a half hour drive from Madison Square Garden.
Despite not playing at all last year, Coach Rice has been liking what he is seeing out of Salnave’s first action in a Monmouth uniform. He’s playing just under 20 minutes per game, and averaging 8.2 points, 2.6 rebounds, and hitting a third of his attempted 3’s on the year. The redshirt freshman is struggling a little bit at the charity stripe, recently going only 4 for 12 in Monmouth’s quadruple overtime loss to Penn.
Salnave will match up, at the off-guard position, with fellow New York native, Hamidou Diallo. Diallo’s performance in this game could be largely predicated on whether or not he presses and tries to do too much in front of his friends and family. He has publicly stated that he is pumped up to come back and play in New York.
#4 Mustapha Traore, Sophomore Forward, 6’8″
Mustapha Traore is a redshirt sophomore, who didn’t see a ton of the court last season. He played only 205 minutes in 30 games last season, while he has already played 161 minutes in just 9 games so far this season. Being from Philadelphia, Traore played his high school basketball about 40 minutes from Quade Green’s high school.
Given that this is Traore’s first chance to really showcase what he can do with extended minutes, his stats aren’t going to jump off the page at you. He’s currently giving the Hawks 4.6 points, a team-leading 5.3 rebounds, and 1 assist per game. He’s only shooting 47.4% from the free throw line, making 9 of his 19 attempts on the season.
At the power forward position for Monmouth, Traore will go head-to-head with Kentucky’s PJ Washington. Washington gives up two inches in this match up, but he has more than 25 pounds on Traore, as well as the athleticism to cause him problems. I’ve said it before, but fingers crossed this is the game that PJ breaks out and we start to see the “beast” that people raved about in summer scrimmages.
Kentucky has taken an entire week to work out the kinks from the Harvard game, and coach John Calipari is looking for the first 40-minute performance of the season for these young Wildcats. Nothing against Monmouth at all, but today is a game that Kentucky should be able to have their way on both ends of the floor and show every one why they deserve to keep losing ground in the polls.
Go Cats. Beat Hawks.