Previewing Monmouth

Former Tar Heel King Rice is in his first year of a rebuilding effort at Monmouth and brings his Hawks squad to Chapel Hill for a New Year's Day matchup with North Carolina. Tip-off at the Smith Center on Sunday is set for 3 p.m. and will be televised by ESPNU.

North Carolina (12-2) vs. Monmouth (2-11)
Chapel Hill, N.C. -- Dean E. Smith Center
3:00pm -- ESPNU (Jim Barber & Fran Fraschilla)


"Our guys don't believe they should win. They just don't. I feel bad for them in some areas, because as 20-year-old guys you should be confident just as guys." – First-year Monmouth head coach King Rice following his team's 69-54 loss to Lafayette on Wednesday


Season to Date: Monmouth enters Sunday's contest with a 2-11 (0-2 NEC) record. The Hawks lost their first eight games of the season by an average of 27.4 points. First-year head coach King Rice's squad broke that losing streak with a pair of victories over Navy (69-67) and Fordham (80-65), but have since lost three straight. The Hawks were picked 10th in the Northeast Conference's preseason coaches' poll.

Balanced Scoring: While 5-foot-8 junior guard Jesse Steele paces Monmouth with 11.2 points per game, the Hawks' offensive balance is evident with five players averaging between 6.5 and 8.8 points per game. All six players have led Monmouth in scoring at least once this season. Forward Ed Waite (8.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg) provides the post production to go along with Steele's perimeter play.

Height Discrepancy: The average height of Monmouth's starting five is a hair under 6-foot-1. Only two players stand taller than 6-foot – forwards Mike Myers Keitt (6-foot-7) and Waite (6-foot-3). That helps to explain the Hawks' minus-6.8 rebounding margin.

Heels Return Home: Rice took the Monmouth job last March after spending the past five seasons at Vanderbilt under Kevin Stallings. The 1992 UNC graduate has 13 years of coaching experience, including 10 years with Stallings (five at Illinois State). Rice walked into a difficult situation as Monmouth has been picked ninth or lower for five straight seasons in the NEC preseason poll. Joining Rice on the bench as assistant coaches are former Tar Heels Brian Reese and Derrick Phelps.

Stat Breakdown: Monmouth ranks 260th or worse in 16 of the 18 team statistical categories that the NCAA tracks. The Hawks ranked dead last in Division I in field goal percentage defense (51.5) as of Dec. 18, but have slightly improved that percentage to 50.9 over their last two games. Opponents are shooting 41.7 percent from the 3-point line, while Monmouth is connecting on just 38.6 percent of its field goal attempts.

A Host of Newcomers: The Hawks' roster includes seven newcomers to the program – Daniel James (forward), Dion Nesmith (guard), Khalil Brown (forward), Max Dileo (guard), Mykel Harris (forward), Andrew Nicholas (guard) and Austin Tillotston (guard). Nesmith (7.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg) and Nicholas (7.5 ppg) have been the top contributors of the group, combining to start 21 games.

Brown Ineligible: The NCAA denied Khalil Brown's waiver to play this season after giving his Westwind (Ariz.) Academy principal assurances in 2010 that the 6-foot-9, 190-pound forward would be "fine," according to Monmouth's official website. The NCAA cited its "delayed enrollment" legislation in making the decision, which states that a student-athlete must be enrolled in a school within 12 months of their high school graduation.

RPI Hit: The Hawks rank No. 314 in the latest RPI rankings and represent UNC's fourth opponent in seven outings with a RPI of 240 or higher.

Random Fact of the Day: Monmouth led for a total of eight minutes and five seconds during its season-opening eight-game losing streak.

Series History: Sunday's contest marks the first-ever meeting between North Carolina and Monmouth.

Projected Starters:
2 Jesse Steele (5-8, 180, Jr.) - 11.2 ppg, 3.0 apg
10 Will Campbell (5-10, 175, Sr.) - 6.5 ppg, 2.7 rpg
1 Dion Nesmith (6-0, 200, Jr.) - 7.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg
32 Ed Waite (6-3, 215, Jr.) - 8.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg
20 Mike Myers Keitt (6-7, 180, Sr.) - 7.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg

Top Reserves:
13 Andrew Nicholas (6-6, 205, Fr.) - 7.5 ppg, 2.3 rpg
21 Marcus Ware (6-8, 215, Jr.) - 5.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg
23 Austin Tillotson (5-11, 175, Fr.) - 5.1 ppg, 1.8 apg

Location: West Long Branch, N.J.
Enrollment: 4,500
Conference: Northeast
Nickname: Hawks
Colors: Midnight Blue & White
Head Coach: King Rice (1st season)

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