‘Cats host Monmouth

Daniel Madden

Opponent Overall

In the preseason coaches’ poll, Monmouth University’s men’s basketball team was picked to finish ninth out of the 11 teams in the Northeast Conference. The Hawks finished last year 7-24 (4-14 NEC) and do not look as though they will improve. It will not help that last year’s leading scorer Jhamar Youngblood quit the team.

The Hawks do return four starters, including the returning leading scorer, senior guard Whitney Coleman (11.9 ppg). Coach Dave Calloway, who took the team on an exhibition tour in Italy during the summer, is counting on Coleman and also junior Yaniv Simpson to be the team’s most consistent performers. Both played adequately in the team’s opener, a loss to Florida Atlantic 72-69, but the team hopes to fuse younger talent with the experienced players as the team has a rough couple weeks ahead of them. Though he did not put up astounding numbers, sophomore point guard James Hett did play all 31 games last season and should contribute at the helm of the offense.

The team’s toughest test before conference play will come on the road against Villanova on Nov. 25. The last time the two played was in the ’06 NCAA tournament when No. 1 Villanova beat No. 16 Monmouth 58-45 in the opening round.

Opponent Strengths

The Hawks’ biggest strength is their backcourt. Not only does Coleman return as their new leading scorer, but he also leads the team in rebounds and is second in assists.

Along with him, Hett can make plays for the bigger scorers. His poise as a freshman will help against a strong opponent like Villanova, and his team-leading 3.4 assists per game as a freshman proved his control.

Two of Hett’s main targets are Simpson and senior Alex Nunner, who are both prolific 3-point scorers. Nunner hit 48 to lead the team last season. Simpson sank 46 shots from behind the arc, and R.J. Rutledge made another 38 in his freshman year. All three can set up quickly, and if they can hit shots early, it will take pressure off the defense.

Opponent Weaknesses

Poor rebounding haunted Monmouth last year, as it only averaged 28.5 rebounds per game while giving up 37.1. It does not bode well for the forwards when a guard (Coleman) led the team in that regard. Sophomore center Nick DelTufo and forward George Barbour should struggle matching up with Antonio Peña and Dante Cunningham.

The Hawks will also struggle against Villanova’s defensive pressure. The team had 446 turnovers and merely 372 assists last season. If Hett cannot get the ball to his guards, the team will be in trouble.

Villanova will prove a tough road test for the undermatched Monmouth as they prepare for Philadelphia Big 5 competition and conference play.


Villanova 95, Monmouth 55