Justin Robinson is gone, but King Rice and a strong core remain for Monmouth as Hawks begin life without their leading Division I scorer with arguably toughest non-conference schedule in Rice's tenure. (Photo by Vincent Simone/NYC Buckets)
Six years have passed since King Rice first arrived in West Long Branch, but one thing remains certain of Monmouth's head coach: He remains unafraid to play anyone and everyone in the non-conference season to test his Hawks for the rigors of Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play.
That much remains true after Monmouth released its non-league schedule Thursday afternoon, a 12-game slate that features games against blueblood programs and formidable mid-majors alike in what could be the most arduous slate the Hawks have faced, no easy feat considering the likes of UCLA, Notre Dame, Syracuse and North Carolina have appeared on the ledger over the past two seasons in the Garden State.
Regardless, the season commences at home on November 10, when Monmouth welcomes Bucknell to the OceanFirst Bank Center. The reigning Patriot League champion Bison will be making their second visit to West Long Branch in the span of 20 months, as Bucknell and head coach Nathan Davis were the Hawks' first opponent in the 2016 National Invitation Tournament after the well-chronicled and unceremonious NCAA Tournament snub.
A pair of local road contests await the Hawks after that, beginning on November 12 at the Prudential Center against in-state rival Seton Hall. The Pirates, led by a four-pronged senior class still looking for the program's first NCAA Tournament win since 2004, will host Monmouth for the first time since November 18, 2013. Two days later, a stretch of three games in five days concludes with a trip to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania for a November 14 skirmish against Lehigh.
The Hawks remain on the road for two additional contests that will be part of the NIT Preseason Tip-Off, taking on Virginia in Charlottesville on November 19 before traveling further south to meet UNC Asheville on November 22. Following the Thanksgiving holiday, Monmouth returns home to welcome Army and Albany to the Jersey Shore on November 25 and 27, respectively.
The month of December is the most attractive to the casual fan, and it begins with a trek to Gampel Pavilion to visit the University of Connecticut on December 2. The final of four home games before MAAC play takes place on December 6, when Monmouth hosts Hofstra in the first meeting between the two schools since the 2013-14 season opener, when the Hawks erased a double-digit lead to leave Long Island victorious. On December 9, the marquee matchup will be the order of the day, as Monmouth and Kentucky lock horns inside Madison Square Garden for the first of two battles between the Hawks and Wildcats, who will reprise the newly-created series in Lexington next season.
Three days after the Kentucky game, the Hawks return a home game by heading to Jadwin Gymnasium for a December 12 affair against Princeton, whom Monmouth defeated in a wildly entertaining 96-90 decision last December. The final tuneup before MAAC play takes place in New Haven, where Ivy League contender Yale awaits on December 22.
Monmouth's MAAC schedule will be released at a later date.
2017-18 Monmouth Non-Conference Schedule (all times TBD)
Friday, November 10: vs. Bucknell
Friday, November 10: vs. Bucknell
Sunday, November 12: at Seton Hall
Tuesday, November 14: at Lehigh
Sunday, November 19: at Virginia
Wednesday, November 22: at UNC Asheville
Saturday, November 25: vs. Penn
Monday, November 27: vs. Albany
Saturday, December 2: at UConn
Wednesday, December 6: vs. Hofstra
Saturday, December 9: vs. Kentucky (Madison Square Garden)
Tuesday, December 12: at Princeton
Friday, December 22: at Yale