The Mountaineers of Mount St. Mary’s (or “the Mount”) come to town on Monday night to try their hand against the 3-0 Golden Gophers. Out of the Northeast Conference, the Mount comes to Williams Arena with a 1-2 record. Ryan Raffensperger of The Mount Fan Blog was nice enough to answer some questions before the game and provide some input as to what to expect from the Mountaineer squad. Let’s just say he’s not expecting fireworks.
Be sure to check out our answers over at TMFB as well.
FTB: After making the NCAA Tournament in 2008, the Mount has had a few so-so seasons. What are the expectations for the squad this year after a relative down season in ’10-11?
RR: In fairness 2009 & 2010 weren’t all that more so so then 2008. The 2008 season ended with the Mount playing some great basketball and they won the NEC tournament as a 4 seed. The next two years they finished above fourth but couldn’t get the job done in the NEC Tournament. Unfortunately, playing at this level and having the athletic budget it has that Mount generally has to play 4 money games a year. So when you factor that in, it makes it tough for the final record to really be that good. The core group that carried them those three years graduated before last year and the Mount ended up having a down year last year.
FTB: What can we expect to see from MSM when they come to town? Who are the players we’ll need to watch out for?
RR: I don’t expect last year’s leading scorer Lamar Trice to be in the lineup on Monday. He has missed the first two games due to suspension and I expect that to carry into December. So I’d expect that the Mount’s most-likely offensive threat is Julian Norfleet. A sophomore guard who averaged nearly 10 a game last year, he is at about the same level this season. Danny Thompson led the Mount with 17 in its win over Hartford while Josh Castellanos had 16 and 9 assists.
FTB: What do the Mountaineers need to do to take down the Gophers on the road?
RR: The Gophers are pretty much the most difficult team remaining on the Mount schedule. So the Mount has to hope that Minnesota already has the bags packed for Orlando and is thinking too much about Mickey and Minnie and plays like Goofy. On top of that the Mount needs to shoot the ball like it did in the first half against Hartford 6-of-7 three pointers, just off 60% in total and continue to do a good job on the boards. Also hoping that the Gophers haven’t looked at any film and found the weaknesses would help.
FTB: The Gophers don’t often face teams from the NEC. What’s the style of play the Mount will bring to Minneapolis and how can the Gophers properly prepare?
RR: The Mount is going to play hard. That has been a constant thus far this year and I expect it to continue. Despite being undersized they have worked hard to rebound the basketball. Head Coach Robert Burke was an assistant at Georgetown and Princeton, so there is some Princeton offense built into everything. But by no means is that the entirety of the offense. Other than Norfleet there isn’t a real knock down long range shooter but there are some guys who can make the 3 point shot. Still, they will be patient offensively and look to go inside to Thompson and Raven Barber or Jacolby Wells if he returns from injury.
FTB: When all is said and done, how do you think the game will end up playing out?
RR: I think the Mount will pick up its paycheck. The Mount’s other money game thus far this year they lost by 54 on the road to Marquette. I don’t think this will get that to that. But Minnesota will have the advantage just about everywhere. Still, small programs dream for these opportunities and hope for that one special night. With the Mount being shorthanded (only six scholarship players played in games 1 & 2), I don’t know if a road upset against an NCAA type tournament team is possible. But this group will play hard and give it what they have. And if Minnesota boards the plane for Orlando too soon, who knows?