Preview: West Virginia - Mt. St. Mary's

West Virginia opens the 2006-07 men's basketball season with one of the two teams that share its nickname.


Sure, that headline may look a little strange, but Mount St. Mary's lays claim to the "Mountaineers" nickname as well (Appalachian State is the third U.S. school to use the nickname). The Mount returns three starters from last years 13-17 squad, with senior guard Mychal Kearse (6-4, 200 lbs.) leading the way. Kearse averaged 10.6 points and an eye-opening 7.8 rebounds from his guard spot, where he uses his big body to create space in the paint. Kearse has led the Mountaineers in rebounding in each of his three seasons, and is looking to become the first player to turn the trick four times. He's also the Northeast Conference Defensive Player of the year, and will certainly be the leader for The Mount this season. Backcourt mate Joey Butler (So., 6-2, 170 lbs.) added 6.7 points per game last year from his point guard position, and the pair should keep things stable as Mount St. Mary's welcome two new starters to the lineup.

One of those players will be guard Chris Vann (Jr., 6-0, 195 lbs.). Vann missed two-thirds of last year with a hip injury that resulted in surgery, but appears good to go this fall. He will have to improve on his 35% field goal percentage of a year ago to be a factor for The Mount.

Sam Atupem is the sole returning starter up front, but he is a solid player to build around. The 6-7, 240-pound sophomore averaged 6.7 points and 3.1 rebounds per game as a freshman, and he should improve on those numbers this year. Markus Mitchell (So., 6-7, 245) gives The Mount another wide, if not necessarily tall, body in the frontcourt. Mitchell averaged just 3.2 points and 2.0 rebounds in a backup role last year, and must improve on those numbers if his team is to make any noise in the Northeast Conference.

Support off the bench is a huge question mark for Mount St. Mary's, which sports five seniors on the pine. Three of those players, however, are walk-ons, with two of them in their first season at The Mount. A fourth, forward Gus Durr (Sr., 6-6, 220 lbs.) is day to day with a broken foot, leaving MSM with little experience off the bench. Forward Kirk Bunn (Sr., 6-6, 225 lbs.) averaged 2.5 points and 2.2 rebounds a year ago, but past that it figures to be true freshmen such as guard Jeremy Goode (5-9, 170 lbs.) and forward Kelly Beidler (6-5, 205 lbs.) who will have to pick up the slack. Center Jason Loughery (Jr., 7-0, 245 lbs.) is the one big man on the roster, but he appeared in just 18 games last year.


This game, and perhaps the next few on the West Virginia schedule, will be more about the building process than wins and losses. While that might be frustrating for those fans wanting immediate results, it's the method that Beilein has used successfully throughout his career, and one he's not likely to change now.
Game Info
Fri Nov 10
7:00 p.m.

WVU Coliseum
WVU 0-0, 0-0
MSM 0-0, 0-0
WVU 2-0
WVU - 7
MSM - 7
Of course, that doesn't mean West Virginia won't be trying to win the game, or that it won't have scouting reports prepared and film study under its belt. To win this contest, WVU will have to keep Kearse off the boards, and contend with a strong, if not overly tall, Mount St. Mary's lineup.

One of the interesting things to watch for in this game will be how WVU makes up for its loss in scoring productivity. Although this year's team has good shooters, it doesn't possess the overall firepower of the last two squads, and thus will have to score points in more varieties of ways. Look for West Virginia to run a little more, although that will be predicated on how well it can rebound – which is still a huge question mark. WVU should also display a wider variety of defensive looks, which could help confuse foes and lead to some additional fast break points. Beilein and the coaching staff will be urging that sort of play at every turn, and it is important for West Virginia to have some success in that play phase early in the season.

Against The Mount, expect to see more player rotation than normal as well, as Beilein begins the process of identifying his top eight or nine players. However, he has to be careful not to let that process interrupt the natural flow of the game, especially if the unit he has on the floor is performing well. That's a balancing act that he will be performing throughout November and December, and the hope is that it won't cost West Virginia a critical game or two that could be the difference in a longshot, but still possible, NIT bid.

Mount St. Mary's has built a reputation as a solid defensive team, so don't expect them to sit back in a zone all evening. The Maryland version of the Mountaineers will challenge shots and ballhandlers, so WVU should get a much stiffer test in those areas than it did against Fairmont State, which reclined in a 2-3 for most of the evening.


WVU: None

MSM: Gus Durr (Foot) Questionable, Chris Vann (Hip) Will Play, Mychal Kearse (Knee) Will Play


Founded in 1808, Mount St. Mary's is the oldest independent Catholic institution in the United States. The school has been playing basketball since 1908. Mount St. Mary's also refers to itself as "The Mount", and appears to prefer that appellation over "Mountaineers".

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John Beilein's next win will give him 450 for his career, tying him for 84th on the all-time list of winningest coaches in Division 1. He has 524 wins overall, with 74 of those coming outside the DI level.

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This is the earliest start date to a basketball season for both Mount St. Mary's and WVU. West Virginia beat its previous date by two, as it played once on Nov.12. The Mount's earliest start prior to this year was on Nov. 14. Each school won their respective games on those dates.

Overall, November has been kind to the gold and blue version of the Mountaineers, but not so nice to the white and black version. West Virginia is 50-16 all time I the 11th month, while Mount St. Mary's is 7-42 since becoming a Division I school.

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Mount St. Mary's is 0-7 all-time against the Big East.

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