What you need to know about the Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Mount St. Mary’s is Tournament bound for the sixth time in program history after capturing the Northeast Conference title.
By defeating Bryant 73-68, the Mount earned an automatic bid to the dance with a No. 16 seed. The team finished slightly above .500 both overall and in conference play, but they come into their First Four matchup with Texas Southern on a four-game winning streak. What can we expect from the Mount in the NCAA Tournament?
Before the action tips off in Indiana on Thursday, here’s what you need to know about the Mountaineers.
The Mount has momentum heading into the tournament, in part because of a strong performance in the NEC Tournament, but also because their schedule was relatively uninterrupted by the pandemic.
They didn’t have the most successful regular season, finishing third in the conference standings with a 9-7 record. But they managed to play 22 games, well-above several higher-seeded teams.
Having had some semblance of a normal season could prove to be an advantage for the Mount.
Defense can win championships
At least that was true throughout the Mount’s NEC Tournament run. Defensive grit has been a staple of Mount St. Mary’s season and it was on full display in the championship game against Bryant.
Led by the Tournament MVP and the conference Defensive Player of the Year, Nana Opoku, Mount St. Mary’s held Bryant to 38.5% shooting, while blocking a season-high 10 shots—half of which belonged to the 6-foot-9 redshirt junior.
They have an explosive scorer in junior point guard Damian Chong Qui. But if they are to get past Texas Southern on Thursday, they will quickly find themselves outgunned on the offensive end. The quality of their defense night in and night out will determine how deep this team can go.
Difficult Road Ahead
A win over Texas Southern on Thursday would see the Mount slide into the First Round of the Tournament to face the No. 1 seed Michigan Wolverines. By all accounts, they would be considered heavy underdogs to the Tournament’s favorites, but don’t put it past them to make it there.
Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves, though. The Mount has to knock off the Southwest Athletic Conference champions before they can take the big stage against Juwan Howard’s Wolverines.
Head coach Dan Englestad is 0-2 in the NCAA Tournament and no one on this roster has tasted Tournament victory. The Mount will be humble, but will also hope to remind anyone filling out a bracket this year that anything is possible in March.