Vanderbilt's first round win over the Hampton Pirates, 100-85, was a good win over a scrappy, capable opponent. Dawid Przybyszewski's 10 of 11 shooting performance from the field was the highlight. Dawid also led the Commodores in rebounding with eight and he was more than a handful for the shorter Pirates. The Commodores made 13 of 24 three-point shots, with Brendan Plavich (7-4) and Dawid (3-3) leading the way in that category. The overall shooting performance (55-35 from the field and 21-17 from the three-point line) was outstanding. On the downside, the Pirates did score a lot of points include 27-11 from the three-point area.
The Monmouth Hawks of West Long Branch, NJ belong to the Northeast Conference and won their first round game in the Hawaii Pacific Thanksgiving Classic by defeating the Akron Zips of the Mid-America Conference 64-61, after leading all the way and usually by a comfortable margin. The Hawks had a 21-10 record last year, 15-5 in conference play, and represented their conference in the NCAA where they had the misfortune to face the Duke Blue Devils in the first round. Of course, Duke ultimately won the NCAA crown, and took their first step by beating Monmouth 95-52.
The Hawks, coached by Dave Calloway, have four of their five starters back from last year. Their best player is Rahsaan Johnson, 6'0" senior, who led them in scoring and assists (19.1 ppg, 6.1 apg), and was player-of-the-year in the NEC. "Explosive" and "electrifying" are adjectives you see applied to Johnson, excellent in the open court and difficult to defend, and a pesky defender. He led the team in scoring in their opener, a 50-45 win over Rider, also getting an amazing 13 rebounds, and scored 20 points against Akron.
Johnson's running mate is Cameron Milton, 6'3" senior, a "steadying-influence" to Johnson, who scored only 4.2 ppg last year. Senior Steve Bridgemohan, 6'8", 225 lbs, 5.5 ppg and 4.3 rpg, usually guards the best big man on the opposition (probably Matt Freije, in the case of Vanderbilt). Junior Kevin Owens, 6'10" center, is a fairly good scoring threat (9.4 ppg last year), and usually the best rebounder (5.8 rpg). Jason Krayl, 6'5" sophomore, and son of one of the Monmouth assistant coaches, has moved into the starting lineup after putting up good figures as a freshman (7.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg), and he scored 12 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the opener. Krayl and Johnson will probably take most of the three-point shots.
The sixth man is 6'7" junior Russ Anderson, who averaged 5.4 points and 3 rebounds last year. 6'1" freshman Dwayne Byfield will be the first substitute in the back court. Two others who will play are 5'9" Brandon Owens and 6'7" Blake Hamilton, both freshmen. Calloway has four other players available, but none of them are likely to play much against the Commodores.
Monmouth will be a plucky opponent that is capable of giving Vanderbilt plenty of trouble, and not likely to beat themselves by making mistakes. If Johnson plays under control (he had a whopping 11 turnovers in the Rider opener), and the team shoots well, they may stay in the game all the way. However, they clearly aren't going to overwhelm the Commodores with their talent or size, despite the fact that Johnson will be a handful. This looks like another Vanderbilt win, probably by 6 to 12 points. If the Dores shoot like they did against Hampton, they should win by more than that. On the other hand, if they have a cold night, they will struggle to win.