Preview: WVU - Mount St. Mary's

It's a battle of Mountaineers as West Virginia and Mount St. Mary's square off in the opener to the 2013-14 college basketball season.


No, it's not a look at WVU. Mount St. Mary's uses the same nickname as West Virginia, but features a totally different style than that of WVU. The "other" Mountaineers compete in the Northeast Conference, where they played in the league title game a year ago.

Mount St. Mary's (or "The Mount", as the school is also known) is something of a hybrid between Louisville and the old Loyola Marymount teams of head coach Paul Westhead. They play at a frantic pace, and press full court to try to take foes out of of their comfort zone. That's a two-edged sword, of course, because teams that can break the press and push the advantage can often get easy shots of their own.

Offensively, The Mount relies on guards and three-point shooting. A year ago, they hoisted 811 attempts from beyond the arc, and nailed 274 of them. That shot rate accounted for nearly 37% of the team's points in 2012-13.

Four guards are expected in the starting lineup including Sam Prescott (Sr., 6-3, 190 lbs.) Rahsad Whack (Sr., 6-3, 195 lbs.) and Julian Norfleet (Sr., 6-2, 165 lbs.) That trio combined to average nearly 36 points per game a year ago, and provide a great deal of experience for head coach Jamion Christian. The three seniors aren't likely to get rattled, either, as all have played well against high major opponents. All told, MSM's expected starters have 36 games of experience against upper level Division I foes.

Defensively, the Mountaineers try to offset their lack of size with a number of different pressure formations. Designed to limit the chances of opponents to use their physical advantages, The Mount can create chaos up and down the floor. It recorded 12.4 steals per game a year ago, and forced turnovers on nearly 24% of its opponents' possessions.


There are a lot more "unknowns" than "knowns" about this year's West Virginia team, so it's difficult to make many judgments on the way this contest will play out. However, one thing should give hope to WVU fans that suffered through last season's debacle -- this team looks to be trying to do what it's coached to do.
Game Info
Fri 11/8
8:00 PM E

WVU Coliseum
WVU 0-0, 0-0
MSM 0-0, 0-0
WVU 3-0
WV Media
Sirius/XM: None
Even that assessment is based on the limited returns of a public exhibition and the glorified playground showing at the Gold-Blue Debut, but from all accounts, both on and off the record, this year's team is working to do the right things. They are trying to move the ball on offense, and there doesn't seem to be anyone that is hesitant about passing the ball to anyone else. Certainly, there are going to be mistakes, and Bob Huggins' exhortations to "pass the ball" will still be heard at peak volume, but fans who give this team a try should find a much more pleasing effort than some of those turned in by last year's toxic mix of attitudes.

West Virginia will need to get out and defend on the perimeter against The Mount's guard-heavy attack, and if it can force misses it should be able to limit second chances and turn some of those long rebounds into transition opportunities. Defense will be the key, as none of The Mount's guards are hesitant about shooting the ball from distance.

If The Mount gets hot from three, it can make this a game. If WVU limits that phase of the game, though, it will be very tough for the visitors to get a win.


Juwan Staten spent part of his off-season researching what it means to be a leader.

"I knew I was supposed to be a leader last year, but I didn't know everything it involved or what I should have been doing," he told following Monday's exhibition win. "I did a lot of reading on different leaders, from generals, to business people, and from sports. I learned a lot of different things that have helped me this year."

Staten might not have been one of the main problems on last year's team, which had its share of 'me-first' guys, but it's clear that he didn't do much to address the issues either. He set out to fix that during the offseason, and had numerous conversations with head coach Bob Huggins and other family members, as well as consulting his local library.

So far, the results have looked good. Huggins has praised the guard they call "Wanny" for his improved outlook and leadership abilities. However, a definitive assessment of the changes can't be made until the games begin, and especially when adversity crops up. To his credit, though, Staten discussed last year's shortcomings openly, and was candid about his approach to the new season. That, in itself, is encouraging.

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Located near the Catoctin Mountains in Emmitsburg, Mary., Mount St. Mary's is just a few miles from the presidential retreat of Camp David.

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Tonight's match-up marks the earliest start date for any West Virginia team. WVU has enjoyed great success at home against non-conference foes, recording a 65-3 mark in the last decade. Of course, the quality of many of those foes is suspect, but that winning percentage is still impressive.

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Mount St. Mary's junior guard Chris Martin is a transfer from Marshall. He won't appear against WVU, as he has to sit out this year under NCAA rules, but he can probably give his teammates some notes to work from.

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