For far too many casual fans, college basketball season is now just beginning.
While the NCAA Tournament and upcoming conference tournaments are more enthralling than anything in sports, the regular season also remains riveting, with the Metropolitan Area providing a look at multiple teams and stars who could soon barge into the Big Dance.
But before we move forward, let’s take a look back, with this season’s Courting the Area award winners:
Team of the Year: Monmouth
Even without the bench theatrics stealing the national spotlight, King Rice’s crew takes home the top prize for the second straight year. Monmouth steamrolled through the MAAC to win another regular season title and reeled off one of the nation’s longest winning streaks, led by star guard Justin Robinson. Few Goliaths will feel comfortable matched up against the senior-heavy Hawks in the big bracket.
Honorable mention: Seton Hall, Stony Brook, LIU Brooklyn
Haggerty Award (Player of the Year): Angel Delgado (Seton Hall)
With Isaiah Whitehead gone, Delgado took a massive leap as a junior, averaging 15.7 points — nearly six more than last season — while leading the nation in rebounding (13.1). The 6-foot-10 Dominican is second in the country with 22 double-doubles and is on pace to set the Big East’s all-time single-season rebounding record.
Honorable mention: Justin Robinson (Monmouth), Shamorie Ponds (St. John’s), Marcus LoVett (St. John’s), Khadeen Carrington (Seton Hall)
Coach of the Year: Jeff Boals (Stony Brook)
After reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time last March, Stony Brook’s rebuilding was supposed to begin, with star Jameel Warney, longtime coach Steve Pikiell and the rest of the team’s core gone. The Seawolves were picked to finish seventh in the America East, but first-year head coach Jeff Boals kept them in contention after a slow start, leading an unproven roster to a surprising second-place finish in the conference.
Honorable mention: King Rice (Monmouth), John Dunne (St. Peter’s), Jack Perri (LIU Brooklyn)
Freshman of the Year: Shamorie Ponds/Marcus LoVett (St. John’s)
It’s only appropriate the Red Storm’s starring backcourt share the honor, having spent much of the season alternating as the team’s most electric player. The young guards became two of the Big East’s best playmakers — combining for more than 34 points, along with 7.1 assists and 3.4 steals — while showing strong chemistry, content to allow each other to shine.
Honorable mention: Mike Smith (Columbia), Eli Pemberton (Hofstra), Jashaun Agosto (LIU Brooklyn)
Most Improved: Justin Wright-Foreman (Hofstra)
As a freshman, Wright-Foreman averaged 4.1 minutes and 1.6 points. As a sophomore, the Queens native became the nation’s most improved scorer. He unexpectedly became the Pride’s go-to guy this season, averaging 17.9 points while shooting over 50 percent from the field. He has averaged 26.3 points over the past 10 games.
Honorable mention: Lucas Woodhouse (Stony Brook), Angel Delgado (Seton Hall), Nate Hickman (Columbia)
Under the Radar Award: Jerome Frink (LIU Brooklyn)
LIU Brooklyn’s senior deserves a little recognition before finishing his career. Frink, a 6-foot-7 forward, has scored in double-figures in all but two games this season, carrying the Blackbirds to second-place in the Northeast Conference with a team-best 16.8 points and 8.9 rebounds per game. In the early season upset of St. John’s, Frink posted 20 points and 12 rebounds.
Honorable mention: Joseph Chartouny (Fordham), Zane Waterman (Manhattan), Luke Petrasek (Columbia)
Best win: Wagner over Connecticut (Nov. 11)
It has lost some luster, with the Huskies now barely hovering above .500, but the small Staten Island school will remember this upset of the four-time national champions for a long time. With the 67-58 win over then-No. 18 UConn, the Seahawks became the first team to beat the Huskies in a season-opener on their campus.
Honorable mention: Fordham over VCU, St. John’s over Butler, LIU Brooklyn over St. John’s, Monmouth over Memphis
Brooklyn Dodgers (Wait ’Til Next Year) Award: St. John’s
For the second straight year, St. John’s knows next season should be even better. After one of the school’s worst seasons ever, the Red Storm struggled again in non-conference play, but finally showed their potential in the Big East. Ponds and LoVett will be joined by transfers Marvin Clark (Michigan State) and Justin Simon (Arizona), providing enough depth to warrant expectations from Chris Mullin’s team for the first time.
Honorable mention: Manhattan, Stony Brook, Fordham
Washington Generals (Wait ’Til Next Generation) Award: St. Francis Brooklyn
Just two years ago, the Terriers won a regular season title and hosted a conference championship game, but their first NCAA Tournament appearance seems as far away as ever. St. Francis (4-26) enters its final game of the season with 15 straight losses.
Troy Dyer (Reality Bites) Award: Monmouth
College basketball is never crueler than in conference tournaments. Monmouth has won 52 games over the past two seasons, but without three wins in Albany at the MAAC Tournament, the Hawks will head to the NIT again. Monmouth clearly was bothered by the pressure of being the heavy favorite last season, and will face even more stress this time, with its senior-heavy core knowing it is their final opportunity.
Honorable mention: Seton Hall
Stony Brook at Vermont (Saturday, 2 p.m.)
The Catamounts are undefeated in conference play and already have locked up the America East regular season title, along with home court through the conference title game. With a win in a potential championship preview, the second-place Seawolves could be seen as a true threat.
Monmouth at Iona (Sunday, 4 p.m.)
The Hawks have been as dominant as last season, but their second straight MAAC regular season title was claimed in far quieter fashion. Still, this season’s version needs to avenge last year’s title game loss to Iona, which remains a sleeper with its always impressive offensive arsenal.
Georgetown vs. Seton Hall (Tuesday, 6:30 p.m.)
The Pirates are back on the right side of the bubble after wins over Creighton and Xavier, but they remain one slip-up from danger. Though the Hoyas have lost four of their past five games — including a home loss to last-place DePaul — they took Seton Hall to overtime earlier this month.
1. Seton Hall
Record: 17-10, 7-8
Up next: Saturday (2 p.m.) at DePaul
Record: 25-5, 17-2
Up next: Sunday (4 p.m.) at Iona
3. St. John’s
Record: 12-16, 6-9
Up next: Saturday (Noon) vs. Georgetown
Record: 19-11, 12-7
Up next: Sunday (4 p.m.) vs. Monmouth
Record: 13-16, 2-14
Up next: Tuesday (6:30 p.m.) vs. Maryland
Record: 13-15, 7-8
Up next: Saturday (2:30 p.m.) vs. Richmond
7. St. Peter’s
Record: 17-12, 13-6
Up next: Sunday (2 p.m.) at Canisius
8. Stony Brook
Record: 17-11, 12-3
Up next: Saturday (2 p.m.) at Vermont
Record: 14-16, 6-11
Up next: Saturday (Noon) at James Madison
10. LIU Brooklyn
Record: 19-11, 12-5
Up next: Saturday (4 p.m.) at Wagner
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