It's been a long time since I've gone into a Mount basketball game without a true feeling of what to expect. I mean I've been wrong plenty of times, but at least I had an idea. I really am unsure today of what we might see.
The new coaching staff is in place and things seem to be moving along. The players seem to be enjoying some new roles. But not only is the coaching staff gone. Four of the top six players from last year will not be in action as well. And one of the returning players with starting experience, Kristian Krajina, is out indefinitely with an ankle injury.
The reviews from the preseason were mixed. The Mount played two preseason scrimmages. They lost to Coppin State and beat Towson (if you trust my sources). Both of those teams probably did better than we would have expected in their openers last night. Towson lost by three at Miami Ohio and Coppin hung around with Oklahoma for awhile before falling by 20.
Even the starting lineup is uncertain. Although my guess would be it will be senior Shawn Atupem, Raven Barber, Pierre Brown, freshman Julian Norfleet and Lamar Trice. But one or two changes in there wouldn't shock me. I do expect that Coach Burke will use most of his bench and that freshman Josh Castellanos may be summoned early if the backcourt needs some extra ballhandling.
That's the thing, this Dayton team isn't an easy opener by any stretch. The Flyers are the defending NIT champs. And they want to improve on that this year. They've nearly sold out the Dayton Arena for this one, the locals are excited.
The Mount has a good history there. They beat Coppin State in the NCAA Tournament just three years ago. But most of those guys are gone. It's the start of a new era for Mt. St. Mary's basketball. It begins today. I'm excited.
I'm taking a wait and see attitude about predictions for this year's team. I think they have a chance to matchup with just about anyone in the NEC upfront. If the young guards mature and they find some outside shooting, they could find themselves in the thick of things at the end of the season. But there also are a lot of unanswered questions that could swing the pendulum in the other direction. Some of those questions will begin to be answered today.
My pick: Dayton 77. Mt. St. Mary's 59