It might not make sense that the Mount is in the play-in. But that is where they are. And as Milan Brown has said, the Mount just wants to keep playing. So now the Mount must buckle down and take on Coppin State from Dayton Ohio.
Who plays?: MEAC champion Coppin State (#16) takes on Northeast Champion Mt. St. Mary's (#16)
What's at Stake: The winner knows that #1 North Carolina and a trip to Raleigh awaits. So the reality is that the Cinderella story continues for a few more days after this game. But getting into the full bracket will serve as motivation. Plus both teams want to validate their conference tournament championships. The Mount also has the chance to show that the RPI strength of the NEC, at 23 - its highest rating in quite some time, was warranted.
When is tipoff: Tuesday night at 7:37 precisely.
Where are the proceedings: Truly they ought to be playing this downtown at the Baltimore Arena. With two schools only 40 miles or so apart it would make sense to play it somewhere closer to home. But the game was scheduled long ago for the Dayton Arena on the campus of the University of Dayton. If you can't catch a flight out of BWI, try ESPN, they'll have the broadcast. And if there is one reason you want to be in the play-in, well it's Erin Andrews and she is in the house for the game. Some guys named Musberger and Lavin will provide the play-by-play and color commentary.
How did we get here: Both teams had great finishes to the season. The Mount turned a mediocre season into a fantastic February and March. After a home loss to Sacred Heart, the Mount changed its offensive philosophy and started scoring some points. It worked the Mount got hot and has won 8 of its last 9, including three straight in the NEC tournament. The Mount beat Quinnipiac, regular season Robert Morris and Sacred Heart for the title. Coppin State had won just two games against Division I opponents before the shortest month of the year. But the Eagles also got hot at the right time. It has won 13 of 14 games, including four straight in the MEAC tourney to land here. Coppin beat Morgan State at the buzzer to win the crown.
The Analysis: The Mount has beaten better teams than Coppin State this year, but the Eagles have played more real good teams. The Mount has been listed as a touchdown favorite.
Advantages for Coppin State: The Eagles haven't had to sit very long since winning the MEAC title on Saturday night in Raleigh. So the momentum is there for the Eagles. Plus they are hotter than the aforementioned Erin Andrews right now. Although these schools haven't played since both went to Division I in the 80's the fact that they are close together gives them familiarty. Plus we know Fang Mitchell knows how to get his team ready for tournament games. He won an NCAA game as a #15 seed a few years ago over South Carolina.
Advantages for Mt. St. Mary's: The uptempo style offense has made the Mount more efficient. Since turning Jeremy Goode loose the Mount has scored more than a point a possession. Even in the NEC final when the offense looked spotty, they produced. The key has been the balance and the fact that there is not a reliance on a small group of players. All eight players who saw time in the NEC tournament have contributed. The shooting streak of Jean Cajou has been simply amazing, and Kelly Beidler scored 15 in each of the NEC games. But the team has gotten solid contributions from the Atupem brothers, Chris Vann, Markus Mitchell and Will Holland as well. The Mount has shown a resiliency to win when they are not at their best and fight off opponents in clutch time.
What to Expect: Both teams are happy to be here. Two months ago, you could have never predicted this. There won't be too many games on Thursday or Friday where you'll see two teams with a combined 20 wins in their last 12 games. Both of these teams are playing at their best right now. I expect that the Mount will be able to force the tempo and get Coppin State to play its game. If that happens, I think the Mount will eventually wear the Eagles down. It might take awhile, but I think that eventually the Mount pulls away for a win down the stretch. I think the senior Chris Vann is going to make a key three-pointer at some point that is going to ignite a rally, and I think a double figure night for Sam Atupem could be in the forecast. Ultimately, I see the Mount winning 73-61.