Monmouth (0-0) at Hofstra (0-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, November 8, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Mack Sports Complex (5,123) -- Hempstead, New York. Television: None. Home Record: Monmouth 0-0, Hofstra 0-0. Away Record: Monmouth 0-0, Hofstra 0-0. Neutral Record: Monmouth 0-0, Hofstra 0-0. Conference Record: Monmouth 0-0, Hofstra 0-0. Series Record: Monmouth leads, 5-1.
GAMES NOTES: New beginnings will be the theme on Friday at the Mack Sports Complex as the Hofstra Pride and the Monmouth Hawks take part in a non-league contest to begin the 2013-14 season.
Monmouth is beginning its first season as a member of a new conference as it will be competing in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference this year. The change of scenery could be a good thing since the Hawks have largely been ineffective in the Northeast Conference recently. Last year the Hawks had a losing record for the seventh straight year as they finished 10-21 overall and 5-13 in league play. King Rice is now tasked with ending that rough stretch in his third season as head coach, but he will have to do so without three of his starters from last season.
Hofstra is still a member of the Colonial Athletic Association, which added a few new squads itself, but there is a new man patrolling the bench. Enter former Niagara head coach Joe Mihalich, who takes over for Mo Cassara. The Pride won 21 games in Cassara's first season, but had just 17 victories in the two seasons since, including a program-worst seven victories a year ago. Poor offensive play derailed the Pride last season and Mihalich's teams at Niagara had a reputation of being solid in that regard. Mihalich brought a pair of high-scoring guards with him in Juan'ya Green and Ameen Tanksley, but neither is eligible until next season, meaning this year could be a work in progress.
If the history between these squads is any indication, Monmouth should be in for a nice start to the year. In six previous meetings the Hawks have come out on top five times.
The Hawks can certainly commiserate with the Pride when it comes to offensive failures. Last season Monmouth was one of the worst scoring teams in the NEC, posting 64.8 points per game on 39.7 percent shooting. Those marks ranked 11th and 12th in the league, respectively. Making matters worse was how poorly the Hawks defended, as they surrendered 73.1 points per game on 46 percent shooting. The good news for this year is that leading scorer Andrew Nicholas (13.9 ppg) is back. Nicholas only played in 18 games last year and still needs to improve his efficiency (.376) but he is a solid option that has good range. The bad news is the five scorers below him all left to graduation. That puts quite a burden on Tyrone O'Garro (2.5 ppg), Khalil Brown (3.9 ppg) and Christian White (3.5 ppg). None of the three played more than 16 minutes per game last year.
While Monmouth certainly wasn't an offensive force, it was in comparison to Hofstra. The Pride were at the bottom of the CAA in just about every offensive category, including scoring (58.5 pg) and field-goal percentage (.383), while fitting in second to last in assists (9.8 pg). Unlike Monmouth there is no sure-fire scorer on the roster. Taran Blue (12.4 ppg) and Stevie Mejia (11.9 ppg, 4.1 apg) were the only double-figure scorers for the squad and both have moved on. The top returning offensive threat is Stephen Nwaukoni (6.8 ppg, 7.9 rpg), who is better suited to make room in the post and fight for rebounds. Jordan Allen (5.0 ppg) is another returning starter of which much will be asked. Moussa Kone (6.5 ppg, 4.4 rpg) played 16 games as a starter and just as many as a reserve. He will now be a full-time starter. New additions Zeke Upshaw and Dion Nesmith, who are eligible to play right away, will be in the mix as well.
Points will be at a premium in this contest as two teams that had very little offensive identity last year will try to establish themselves. If there is any advantage to be had it is that the Pride are playing at home. That might be enough.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Hofstra 60, Monmouth 56
11/08 10:46:14 ET