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Maryland vs. Monmouth preview: Terps face aggressive Hawks Friday

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The Terps return to College Park to face the Hawks, who have already tested one top-50 power conference team. All team rankings via KenPom.

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Fresh off an unexpected CBE Hall of Fame Classic victory, notching top-100 victories over Arizona State and No. 13 Iowa State, Maryland returns home for a pair of cupcake games before Wednesday's highly anticipated matchup with Virginia. First up, Monmouth, who the Terps host Friday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET and the game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.

Monmouth plays in the MAAC, where they were picked to finish sixth in the preseason coaches poll. They're 2-2 this season, with wins against No. 344 Bethune Cookman (73-50) and No. 292 Central Connecticut State (65-50) and losses against No. 33 West Virginia (64-54) and No. 166 Towson (79-75 in OT). Their two wins are by solid margins (including one against a Central squad Maryland blew out), and their losses have been close -- undefeated West Virginia needed a late run to beat the Hawks.

Monmouth still ranks at just No. 231 in the KenPom rankings -- better than Central and Wagner, worse than Fordham. Maryland is expected to win this game fairly easily, but the Hawks play aggressively on defense and could pose a challenge for the Terps' young scoring guards.

Head coach King Rice (KING RICE) played point guard at North Carolina from 1987-91 before joining Jerry Green's staff at Oregon. After bouncing around with Illinois State, Providence, the Bahamian national team (where he was the head coach from 2001-04) and Vanderbilt, Rice earned his first head coaching stab at Monmouth before the 2011-12 season. That's been their best year so far, with a 12-20 record and the only winning conference record in Rice's tenure.

Players to know

Deon Jones, junior, 6'6. Jones is a pure slasher, leading the Hawks in points per game (14.0) in large part due to his ability to get to the free throw line. He's made 19 of 24 attempts from the charity stripe this season (compared to 16 of 33 field goal attempts), and mostly plays shooting guard or small forward for Monmouth.

Andrew Nicholas, senior, 6'6. Nicholas is the team's second-leading scorer at 13.5 points per game, and is more of a volume shooter than Jones. He's made nine of 21 two-point shots and 10 of 20 three-point attempts this season, taking 36.6% (23rd in the country) of the team's shots while he's on the floor while rarely turning the ball over.

Brice Kofane, senior, 6'7. Originally from Cameroon, the Providence transfer has been a shot-blocking force for the Hawks this season. He's averaging 2.5 in 27.5 minutes per game, blocking a remarkable 11.4% (31st in the country) of opponent shots while he's on the floor.

Justin Robinson, sophomore, 5'8. Yes, five-foot-eight. Robinson has also been Monmouth's best player this season: he leads the team in ORtg, assists (2.8) and steals (1.5) per game, as well as team-low numbers in turnovers (0.8) and fouls (1.3) per game).

Josh James, sophomore, 6'2. James is struggling this season, making just eight of 23 two-point attempts and none of his three from deep. He's also turning the ball over a lot (team-high 2.5 per game) without really providing all that much on the offensive end (he's taken just two free throws all year and is averaging 0.5 assists per game). That makes him a prime candidate for this game's "guy who does inexplicably well against Maryland."

Collin Stewart, sophomore, 6'7. Stewart's a high-volume shooter (26.1% of possessions) who hasn't been hitting (20% on threes, 40% on twos). That makes him another prime candidate for that mark.

Zac Tillman, sophomore, 6'10. One of two 6'10 players in Monmouth's front court, Tillman has been the better offensive option this year. He's made seven of nine field goals, but is getting called for a ton of fouls (8.2 per 40).

Strengths:

Aggressive defense. Monmouth has forced turnovers on a staggering 27.2% of opponent possessions, ranking 12th in the country. The Hawks steal the ball often, have one of the nation's best shot blockers in Kofane and hold opponents to a 40.5% mark from two, 52nd in the nation.

Three-point shooting. Between Nicholas, Jones and Robinson, Monmouth has three very good three-point shooters. They're making 37.9% as a team, and could pull a first-half Arizona State and score a bunch of points in a short amount of time.

Weaknesses:

Rebounding. Even though they have considerable height for a mid-major team (Tillman is joined by 6'10 Chris Brady) the Hawks have been unable to consistently win the battle on the boards. They've been outrebounded by an average margin of 38.3-29.8 so far this season.

Not Maryland. Let's face it, Monmouth is not Maryland.

Predictions:

KenPom’s prediction: Maryland, 72-56. 95% chance Maryland wins.

Our prediction: Maryland, 82-68.