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NEC Preview: Mount St. Mary’s loses a lot but will still be a factor

Does The Mount have enough returning to defend its NEC title?

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Mount St Mary's vs Villanova Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

If Elijah Long, Miles Wilson, and Mawdo Sallah were returning to The Mount next season, head coach Jamion Christian would have had himself the most talented Mount St. Mary’s basketball team since the historic Jim Phelan era. It may have even been talented enough to get the NEC champs off the No. 16 line in the 2018 NCAA Tournament.

Alas, “if’s” don’t matter. The Mount lost all three to transfer, and all three were key starters.

2016-17 In Review

The Mount won the 2017 NEC regular season title as well as the NEC Tournament, defeating St. Francis University in the title game. Christian’s team went on to defeat New Orleans in the First Four of the NCAA Tournament, then fell to the defending national champion Villanova after playing the Wildcats tough in the first half.

2017-18 Roster Outlook

Projected Starters:

G Junior Robinson SR
G Jonah Antonio Rs FR
G Greg Alexander SR
F Chris Wray SR
C Ryan Gomes SO

Freshman Frenzy

Christian will have the most inexperienced team in the NEC, with eight freshman on the roster (including redshirt freshmen Jonah Antonio and Jack Vukelich). The Mount will rely on the rookies to contribute significant minutes quickly. Omar Habwe, Ace Stallings, Bobby Planutis and James West IV are all members of a solid recruiting class that will play important roles off the bench, and possibly compete for starting positions as the season progresses.

2017-18 Season Prediction

Junior Robinson, Chris Wray and Greg Alexander may be the best returning trio out of any starting lineup in the NEC. However, the Mount will experience growing pains considering over half of the roster is made up of newcomers.

Robinson, a veteran point guard, is the only returner to score in double figures a year ago. Fellow seniors Wray and Alexander will need to increase their scoring volume. Look for Antonio to work his way to the top of the NEC in three-point shooting percentage as the season progresses.

The Mount lost key rebounders from a roster which was already one of the weaker overall rebounding teams in the nation (per KenPom) last season. Wray, along with Ryan Gomes and freshman Omar Hawbe, will be relied upon heavily to improve on the glass.

This Mount team will not be the same team as the one last year, which cruised through NEC play and finished first in the standings ahead of LIU. With all of the new additions, there will be growing pains and wins may not come right away.

But be patient.

St. Francis PA is still probably the preseason favorite, however with Robinson leading The Mount on the court and Christian on the sideline, the team will be ready come NEC Tournament time. If the new additions play up to expectations and gel with the returners, expect the Mount to finish top three in the NEC and be contenders to dance for the second straight year.