Team preview: Mount St. Mary's

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(Information in this team report is as of October 1.)

Milan Brown had to chuckle when the name "West Virginia" was brought up.

The Mount St. Mary's coach is coming off his best season in Emmitsburg since taking over the program three years ago from legendary coach Jim Phelan, so you might think a rising team might not mind opening a new season in Morgantown.

Last season, the Mount finished fourth in the NEC with an 11-7 record, made the conference tournament for the second time in five years and is returning the league's defensive player of the year in senior guard Mychal Kearse. They also have all-rookie selection Sam Atupem back and a talented freshmen class coming in.

So what could possibly be wrong?

For starters, three of top four scorers from last season are gone, including second-team all-league guard and four-year starter Landy Thompson. And the one guy who Brown was counting on to lead the way, the 6-4 Kearse (10.6 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 1.64 spg), is coming off a torn ACL and will not be back until December.

It gets worse.

Another guard, 6-0 junior Chris Vann (4.1 ppg), tore cartilage in his hip in the offseason and he will miss the season. That means four of the top five guards from last year's team won't be in the lineup to start the season.

Not a good sign when the only veteran left in the backcourt is 6-2 sophomore guard Joey Butler (5.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 2.9 apg).

"We are going in to play a team that went to the Sweet 16 and we're going to have Butler and three freshmen in the backcourt," said Brown, still finding humor in that opening match-up with the Mountaineers. "The new guys are young, but they are talented."

While some coaches might want to run and hide from the daunting task presented before Brown, he's looking at the problem another way. Because he is bringing in three talented freshmen guards, losing Kearse and Vann will give him a good chance to see what the future of the program can do before the league schedule kicks in.

"If everyone's healthy I couldn't play all those guys anyway," said Brown, who has become accustomed to injuries during his tenure. "I'm going into my fourth year and I haven't played with a full deck yet."