#140 Mount St. Mary's Men's Basketball 2015-2016 Preview

Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers

2015-2016 Overall Rank: #140
Conference Rank: #2 Northeast Conference

Mount St. Mary's Team Page#140 Mount St. Mary's Men's Basketball 2015-2016 PreviewBuy Mount St. Mary's Basketball Tickets

Although the Mountaineers of Mount St. Mary’s (MSM for short) really only rose to prominence in the public’s eyes two years ago when they ripped through the NEC Tournament to reach the First Four, this has been a rock solid program for the past couple years under head coach Jamion Christian. They’ve finished above .500 in the conference in each of the past three years, and have finished with a .500 or better overall record two of those years (16-17 in 2013-14). A defensive coach at heart, Christian has used his unique 2-3 zone to strike fear into NEC competitors for three years now, and doesn’t seem to be slowing down entering his fourth season. This team lost some talent from last year’s team, but should figure to once again be one of the most competitive teams in the weak NEC.

2014-15 Record: 15-15, 11-7
2014-15 Postseason: none
Coach: Jamion Christian
Coach Record: 49-46 at MSM, 49-46 overall

Who’s Out:
Compared to some other teams, MSM really didn’t lose a whole lot of talent from last year’s 4th place team. Looking across the board, they really only lost three guys (Andrew Smeathers, Chris Martin, Kristijan Krajina) that played meaningful minutes last season. Let’s start with Smeathers. A former two star Butler recruit back in 2011, Smeathers was supposed to become a rock solid roleplayer with the Bulldogs because of his solid height (6-6) and shooting ability. However, early in his first season, he went down with a hamstring injury that forced him to miss the rest of the season. After that, he decided a change of scenery would be the best for him so he transferred to MSM. Early in the season, it looked like he was going to be a really solid guy off the bench for the Mountaineers as they fought in the NEC. He averaged 11.4 points per game in an eight game stretch in late December-early January before going down with yet another injury; leg related this time. However, he fought back and ended up playing in the team’s final seven contests. But he wasn’t the same player he was pre-injury and ended up averaging just six points in that span. For the year, he averaged 8.7 points and 4 rebounds per game while also supplying some shots from downtown as well (32.1%). Unfortunately for MSM, however, Smeathers decided to leave the team due to reasons unknown (probably injury-related) and therefore will miss his final year. The second player leaving pre-maturely is Chris Martin. Martin, a Marshall University transfer, played some meaningful minutes for the Mountaineers last season (22.5 mpg) and even started a few games. However, down the final stretch, Jamion Christian didn’t play Martin as much as Martin felt like he should have. As a result, Martin decided to transfer to Savannah State for his final year of eligibility. This loss isn’t as tough as the loss of Smeathers, but will still hurt their depth quite a bit. The final player leaving is Kristijan Krajina. Unlike the other two players above, Krajina is actually graduating after four really solid years with the Mountaineers. A bench player all four seasons (16-23 minutes per game each season) Krajina will be missed as a big defender down low (6-11, 245 pounds) and as one of the top rebounders in the program.

Who’s In:
One of the better known and more well-respected teams in the NEC, it’s not surprising that MSM has become one of the most popular destinations for recruits and transfers within the conference, which is a good thing. At the same time, however, we can’t forget that this is still an NEC team, so therefore they won’t be receiving any four or five star recruits. Overall, this team has two new incoming faces and two players that were redshirted last season. The two incoming recruits are unranked freshman point guard Marcell Hasket and walk-on unranked shooting guard Bryce Thurston. And although Thurston is very, very unlikely to even play more than 10 minutes per game next year, the other guy, Marcell Haskett, could be a different story. Watching film of this guy play, I’m surprised he didn’t do enough to garner a couple stars from the guys over at ESPN. He’s talented, crafty, slick and extremely pesky on the defensive end. Also, he has a very nice midrange jumper that he can deploy both in the open floor and in one-on-one opportunities. As for his attitude, this guy thinks he’s one of the best recruits in the 2015 class. He plays with intensity, passion and a desire to be the best. Do all these qualities make him a guaranteed starter at some point in his career? Absolutely not. Will they help him gain the respect and trust of his coaches and teammates? I believe so. Unfortunately, this team is already pretty deep at the point guard position, so Haskett is most likely going to be unable to help his team much next season. The years after could be a different story, though. The other two recruits, redshirt power forwards, are also on two different boats. One of them, unranked forward Chris Manning from Randallstown, Maryland, is not likely to do much to help MSM; at least next season. He has good size (6-7, 190 pounds) and good instincts, but his game overall is still very raw. The other, however, Troy Henderson, should see over 20 minutes per game next season. A pure athlete with excellent handles and speed, Henderson is a matchup nightmare for any D-1 power forward. The only knock on the 2 star forward is his strength. He’s only 185 pounds, not huge for someone that’s borderline 6-9. If he can add a few pounds in the offseason, 2015-16 could be a 7-10 ppg scoring year for this athletic power forward.

Who to Watch:
Jamion Christian has a really interesting predicament for next season. He is blessed with two D-1 worthy starting point guards: Byron Ashe and Junior Robinson. Both are great players, but play in very different styles. Ashe, the leading scorer from last season, is a score first, pass second attack guard that loves to get into the lane and get buckets. He averaged 11.9 points per game last season but only 1.3 assists per game. On the other hand, Robinson doesn’t score as much as Ashe (8.2 points per game) but is a much more selfless guard (3.3 assists per game). The easy fix would be to move Ashe to the shooting guard position (which he did a bit last season). However, this creates a matchup problem for Ashe as he isn’t particularly tall (6 foot) or strong (170 pounds). Christian tried a time-share last season and although this didn’t completely fail (15-15 overall record) many critics believed Ashe, the leading scorer should be coming off the bench because the offense functioned better under Robinson’s leadership. This should be an interesting storyline to follow into the summer. Two other big returners are rising senior power forward Greg Graves and rising senior center Taylor Danaher. Graves didn’t score as much as Ashe last season (10.1 ppg) but he played more minutes (29.5 mpg) and was easily the most valuable player to the team. A versatile power forward that could bully his way inside (42.3% FGP, 4 free throw attempts per game) or step out and knock down the three (38%), Graves caused quite a bit of matchup issues all year long for defenders. He was also one of the best defenders on a rock solid defensive team and should once again lead this team in minutes and rebounds (7.4 per game) next season. The other big man, Taylor Danaher, should also have a big senior year. This might seem unlikely considering Danaher averaged just over four points and 3 rebounds per game last season. The reason I like Danaher so much is because of his tremendous size (7 feet, 235 pounds) for one, but also his smart play. He doesn’t take a lot of shots (2.9 per game last season) but rarely misses those (56.8% FGP). Also, he averaged just over 1 block per 19 minutes per game last season, which comes out to around 2.7 per 40 minutes. He’s yet to average more than 25 minutes per game, but that could, and should, change for next season with such thinness at the center position.

Final Projection:
They caught the NEC off-guard two years ago, taking the auto-bid from some tough competition. Last season, however, they weren’t able to rekindle the fire, losing to St. Francis (PA) in the Quarterfinals. This season, it figures to be a two way battle for the top spot. That battle will likely be between MSM and Robert Morris, the team that took the bid last year. Both have a lot of returning talent, a good coach, and some incoming recruits to help their cause. If Christian can figure out a way to keep Byron Ashe and Junior Robinson happy and productive, this team should have no trouble grabbing the two seed going into the NEC Tournament.

Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI/CIT

Projected Starting Five:
Lamont ‘Junior’ Robinson, Sophomore, Guard, 8.2 points per game
Byron Ashe, Junior, Guard, 11.9 points per game
Will Miller, Junior, Forward, 5.6 points per game
Greg Graves, Senior, Forward, 10.1 points per game
Taylor Danaher, Senior, Center, 4.5 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 63.1 (282nd in nation, 9th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 64.8 (132, 3)
Field-Goal Percentage: 40.2 (303, 7)
Field-Goal Defense: 44.5 (254, 7)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.6 (55, 1)  
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 33.0 (226, 5)
Free-Throw Percentage: 68.2 (217, 7)
Rebound Margin: -2.4 (274, 7)
Assists Per Game: 11.4 (258, 7)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.2 (145, 2)


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