#138 Mount St. Mary's Men's Basketball 2017-2018 Preview

Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers
2017-2018 Overall Rank: #138
Conference Rank: #1 NEC
Mount St. Mary's Logo
Mount St. Mary’s won the NEC regular season title for the first time in 2016-2017 under Coach Jamion Christian. Coach Christian had finished fourth or fifth in the regular season standings for his previous four seasons leading the Mountaineers. A conference title was nice, but MSM had bigger things to accomplish as well and they did just that. The Mountaineers won the conference tournament in three very hard fought contests and went to Dayton to play in the First Four, where they beat New Orleans. That win meant the team moved on to play #1 seed Villanova in the Round of 64. Mount St. Mary’s was not going to win, but they played well in the 76-56 loss.
2016-17 Record: 20-16, 14-4
2016-17 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Jamion Christian
Coach Record: 83-81 at Mount St. Mary’s, 83-81 overall
Who’s Out:
Like most teams in the Northeast Conference this year, Mount St. Mary’s was hit hard by transfers. Elijah Long is off to the Texas Longhorns after averaging 15.0 points, 4.4 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 1.6 steals as a sophomore with the Mountaineers. That is a big hit. So is losing 6-5 combo guard Miles Wilson, who averaged 11.8 points per game, to Miami. Mawdo Sallah is off to Kansas State and fellow graduate transfer Charles Glover is going to spend a year at Longwood. Khalid Nwandu and Will Miller are the only departing seniors on the roster. Miller was part of the regular rotation and averaged 3.0 points and 1.2 rebounds in about a dozen minutes of action per game.
Who’s In:
At the moment Coach Christian has five true freshmen and two redshirt freshmen on the roster. And he will need some of them to contribute right away. On the perimeter, Don Carey is a big 6-5 guard who can score and pass the ball. Mount St. Mary’s is always looking for big guards who can pass and Carey fits the bill. James West IV is not as big at 6-2 and 165 pounds, but he is a big time scorer who will be an outside shooting threat from day one. Jonah Antonio is one of the two redshirts. The Australian is a little bit of both Carey and West. He has good size at 6-5 like Carey, but can shoot consistently from long range like West. The newcomers in the paint have the ability to provide the Mountaineers with options and mismatches. Omar Habwe, Bobby Panutis and redshirt freshman Jack Vukelich are all forwards who can shoot the ball and play a variety of positions. Ace Stallings, at 6-10 and 215 pounds, is the more traditional big man who can roam the paint and block some shots.
Who to Watch:
There may be a lot to talk about when it comes to the departing players and the newcomers, but there are also some very good players coming back. Junior Robinson is the unquestioned leader of this team and he is also an NEC Player of the Year candidate. As a junior last season the 5-5 guard averaged 14.1 points and 2.9 assists. He connected on 39.8 percent of his 176 attempts from beyond the arc and will always take the big shots for this team. Greg Alexander hit a couple more three-pointers than Robinson last year and nearly all of his shots will come from long range. Ideally, Alexander would be a shooter off the bench, but he is a big guard who can play some defense so his senior leadership should get him a full-time starting spot. Perhaps the most underrated player in the NEC is Chris Wray. The 6-8 senior averaged just 7.0 points per game last year and shot a dismal 31.2 percent from the free-throw line. Obviously he is not much of a shooter, but he does everything else amazingly well. He led the team with 5.7 rebounds per game and added 1.5 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.5 blocks. Wray is efficient on offense as long as he is not too far away from the basket and shot 58.0 percent from the floor. He makes the rest of the team so much better and his presence will make Mount St. Mary’s a contender for another NEC title.
Final Projection:
Of course the Mountaineers will need more than three players to win the title. Robinson, Alexander and Wray are a great trio to build around, but the freshmen have to step up. So do Bryce Thurston and Ryan Gomes. Gomes, a 6-10, 235 pound center made 32 appearances as a freshman and averaged 2.2 points and 1.0 rebounds in 6.5 minutes of action per game. He obviously did not get much playing time, but he showed flashes of scoring potential. He is also a big, tough interior player who can hit the glass effectively. Players like Gomes need to step up and at least be solid roleplayers this year. Robinson, Alexander and Wray will do great things this year, but Mount St. Mary’s will need some of the younger players to step into big roles and be productive if the program wants to get back to the NCAA Tournament. In a wide open NEC, the play of the newcomers could make all of the difference.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Junior Robinson, Senior, Guard, 14.1 points per game
Greg Alexander, Senior, Guard, 7.7 points per game
Jonah Antonio, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Chris Wray, Senior, Forward, 7.0 points per game
Ryan Gomes, Sophomore, Center, 2.2 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 67.9 (290th in nation, 7th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 68.7 (82, 3)
Field-Goal Percentage: 44.4 (173, 2)
Field-Goal Defense: 45.3 (251, 7)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.3 (184, 3)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 35.8 (135, 2)
Free-Throw Percentage: 67.3 (272, 7)
Rebound Margin: -7.5 (342, 10)
Assists Per Game: 11.2 (311, 6)
Turnovers Per Game: 13.1 (185, 2)