WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. – First-year Monmouth University head men's basketball coach King Rice and staff announced its challenging 2011-12 schedule on Tuesday afternoon. The schedule includes teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Big East (which sent a record 11 teams to the NCAA Tournament last season) and Southeastern Conference (SEC), and features eight squads that qualified for NCAA postseason games in 2011.
Monmouth, which is slated for at least four games in the Dick's Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off tournament, will face teams from at least eight different leagues, five NCAA Tournament qualifiers, a pair of NIT participants and a CollegeInsider Tournament side.
"This year's schedule will be a tremendous challenge for our team," stated Rice, who took over the program this spring. "As a staff, we believe it is important to challenge ourselves and this schedule will do just that. We will be playing top-level talent throughout the country and we are extremely excited about these opportunities."
Monmouth kicks off its regular season slate on November 11, when the Hawks travel to its first 2011 NCAA Tournament qualifier, Villanova, before competing in the Dick's Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off on November 14 where the Blue and White will face Virginia Tech in the opening contest. The Hawks will face either George Mason (an NCAA Tournament at-large selection last season) or FIU.
The 2011 NIT first- and second-round doubleheaders will be played on the campuses of the four highest-seeded teams-- Syracuse, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma State and Stanford. The winners of the preliminary rounds advance to the semifinals, which take place in New York City’s Madison Square Garden November 23.
The remaining teams will play third- and fourth-round doubleheaders November 21-22 on the campuses of the three highest remaining seeds. Participating teams will not play any team twice, and the third- and fourth-rounds will be assigned to the most geographically compatible site.
Following the NIT Season Tip-Off, Monmouth will head to Nashville, Tenn. for a non-conference clash with Coach Rice's last institution, Vanderbilt, also a 2011 NCAA Tournament at-large selection, on November 25.
Monmouth then opens its Northeast Conference ledger at Saint Francis (Pa.) (Dec. 1) and Robert Morris (Dec. 3), as 2011 marks the fourth straight year of opening the league slate on the road for the Hawks.
The Hawks return to their non-league ledger when the Blue and White travel to Navy on December 6, before opening their home portion with a game versus Fordham of the Atlantic 10, in the MAC, on December 10.
Two days later, the Hawks travel up Route 18 to face in-state rival Rutgers (Dec. 12), before taking a break for final exams, and returning to action on December 22 against another Garden State rival, Rider, at home.
Monmouth travels to Easton, Pa., to take on Lafayette on December 28 to round out the 2011 portion of the schedule and opens 2012 at the University of North Carolina on New Year's Day to kick off the year, a homecoming for Rice and assistant coaches Brian Reese and Derrick Phelps, both members of the 1994 UNC National Championship team, under Dean Smith.
The Hawks host Mount St. Mary's (Jan. 5) and Wagner (Jan. 7) in the Multipurpose Activity Center, before entertaining NIT participant Harvard in the MAC (Jan. 10) in their final non-conference contest of the season.
Monmouth makes the NEC Brooklyn trip on January 12 and 14, when the Hawks travel to St. Francis (N.Y.) and defending league champion and NCAA Tournament qualifier, Long Island, respectively, before hosting Saint Francis (Pa.) (Jan. 19) and Robert Morris (Jan. 21) in the MAC.
After traveling to CCSU (Jan. 26) and Bryant (Jan. 28), the Blue and White welcome Sacred Heart (Feb. 2) and Collegeinsider.com Tournament participant Quinnipiac (Feb. 4) to the MAC.
MU is slated to battle in-state foe Fairleigh Dickinson as part of the NEC's Rivalry Week - and part of the annual Garden State Rivalry Series - on Feb. 8 and Feb 11, when the Hawks and Knights face each other twice in three days, with the latter being in West Long Branch.
Monmouth rounds out the regular season with road contests at Mount St. Mary's (Feb. 16) and Wagner (Feb. 18), before closing the slate with games at home versus St. Francis (N.Y.) (Feb. 23) and Long Island (Feb. 25).
The 2012 Northeast Conference Tournament will once again be played at the home sites of the higher seeds. The quarterfinals are scheduled for Thursday, March 1, with the semifinals and championship following on Sunday, March 4 and Wednesday, March 7, respectively.
All dates and times are subject to change due to future television scheduling. Check back to www.GoMUHawks.com for updates.