Mount St. Mary's last crossed my mind as one of the first four teams in the 2014 NCAA Tournament. They lost in the first round to Dayton only to follow that successful campaign with an underwhelming 15-15 record in 2014-15.
Fortunately for Washington, there's no reason to think the current roster is likely to recapture the magic from two year ago. Instead, the Mountaineers are merely looking to survive another leg in a brutal string of road games.
Following two easy exhibition wins against Hood and Randolph-Malcon (no, I have not heard of either school), Mount St. Mary took the short trip to #3 Maryland and lost 80-56 on Friday the 13th only to fly out to Ohio State and give Thad Matta his 300th win on Sunday the 15th.
With only a few days to rest, the team will be headed all the way to the West Coast to play Washington before taking a trip to play ranked Gonzaga only two days after the contest at HecEd.
Considering that the Huskies should be favored, it's pretty astounding that they are only the 3rd or 4th best team on this road trip for the Mountaineers.
Projected Starting Five: G Junior Robinson (So., 5-5, 165), G BK Ashe (Jr., 6-1, 170), F Will Miller (Jr., 6-6, 200), F Gregory Graves (SR., 6-7, 235), C Taylor Danaher (Sr., 7-0, 225).
Key Bench Players: G Charles Glover (So., 6-1, 190), G Khalid Nwandu (Jr., 6-3, 180), G Elijah Long (Fr., 6-0 175), F Chris Wray (So., 6-8, 190), F Troy Henderson (Fr., 6-9, 190).
Starting point guard Junior Robinson stands only 5-5. He managed a mere 5 points on 2-10 shooting against Maryland, but he dished out five assists to only one turnover. At Ohio State he scored 16 on 6-11 shooting but recorded only one assist to one turnover.
Byron Ashe led the team in scoring in 2014-15 and looks to secure that title again this season. He racked up 18 points in the season-opener despite 5-16 shooting, but really struggled against Ohio State, making 3 of 14 field goal attempts for 7 points.
Gregory Graves is a consistent post presence, averaging around 10 points and 7 rebounds last season, but along with most of his teammates, he has struggled to shoot efficiently against two tough opponents.
Expect Miller to attempt around a half-dozen three pointers. Along with Ashe, he provides most of the long-range scoring.
Danaher is taller than any player on Washington's roster, which is always an asset. Still, his production has been pretty limited. As long as Dime and Dickerson stay physical, he probably won't be as big of a problem as Graves.
Notice that almost all of the major bench contributors are guards. Wray is the only post to see significant time, as Henderson has played two minutes over two games. That means as soon as Danaher and/or Graves have to sub out, this team will be fairly undersized.
As I've mentioned, this team has struggled from the field over two games, shooting 32% from the field and 38% from three-point range as a team. Yes, they have been better from beyond the arc than from inside it.
One encouraging note for the Mountaineers: they have taken care of the ball better than their opponent in both games. Only seven turnovers at Maryland and 8 at Ohio State, while Maryland coughed the ball up 14 times, and the Buckeyes were even sloppier with 18. This disparate sloppiness has kept the scores respectable.
All things considered I expect a solid, competitive win by a margin of 10-20 points.
Even in victory, the Huskies coughed up the ball 15 times in Shanghai, while the Mountaineers have had no such issues. Washington also committed a pile of fouls, and if both trends carry over to Thursday, it will likely keep things from getting out of hand.
It's hard to focus in on individual Washington players to watch because everyone but Andrews and Dorsey are new. I'll be watching Murray, Chriss, Dickerson, Thybulle, Dime, Crisp, Duruisseau, and Green for the first time in person and the second time overall, and I look forward to learning more about all of them.
This early in the year, Romar is always down to play his whole bench, and that will be especially true with all the youth. I'm curious to see if the starting lineup will be as fluid as the rotation. In particular, Malik Dime may be tough to keep on the bench for long after he stole the show in China.
The future is bright. Here's to this young team taking care of business at home and growing in the process.