Northeast Conference Champ: Mount Saint Mary's Mountaineers
Mount Saint Mary's University is a private, Catholic, and liberal arts college near Emmitsburg, Maryland. Founded in 1808, the school is the oldest independent Catholic college in the nation and second oldest Catholic college period, behind Georgetown. The Princeton Review recognizes MSM as one of the best private schools in the state. The school's National Shrine Grotto of Lourdes draws hundreds of tourists yearly and has been used as a site for prayer and deotion. Former basketball pro Fred Carter is probably their most famous alumnus along with the first American Cardinal, archbishop of New York back in 1864-to-1885.
MSM believes we will recognize their university by a church steeple
Unlike the other victors I've mentioned, Mount Saint Mary's was never expected to win out. The 4th-seeded Mountaineers first beat Quinnipiac 80-70 to start their bid for the title game. They won despite 5'9 sophomore guard and 14 point per game scorer Jeremy Goode go 3-for-11. They also missed 15 free throws. Having a top bench effort didn't hurt though. Freshman Jean Cajou scored 20 points while soph Kelly Beidler grabbed 15 points, 8 boards, 3 rejections. They combined to go 4-for-10 behind the arc, the rest of the team going 2-for-11. In the semis, the Mountaineers met first-seeded Robert Morris. Entering with a 14-game winning streak, Robert Morris were heavy favorites after beating MSM twice though by only eleven combined points. But this one wasn't even close. After a 38-31 outscoring of RMC in the first, Goode and his sixth and seventh men scored a combined 51 points in an 83-65 whooping. A 9-1 run after the score became 44-40 put it away as Robert Morris never got within ten after that spurt. The Mountaineers allowed just 4-for-22 shooting behind the arc against a 3-point specialist squad. Robert Morris did have four double-digit scorers, but they allowed MSM to shoot 54% and 6-for-12 from deep including 5-for-6 from Cajou, Biedler and Goode.
A cat or something on some M signifying some sort of Mountaineer
The championship sealed the Mountaineers first NCAA bid since 1999. Leading Sacred Heart by five at the half, the Pioneers took the lead early in the second but fell apart to lose 68-55. An 8-0 run in the middle of the second followed by hitting 11 of 12 free throws to end the game won it. Sacred Heart shot just 29%, 16-for-55, and an even more unsightly 2-for-19 from deep. Only one starter scored in double figures for the Mountaineers, Goode of course, despite going just 2-for-8, but he got help from Cajou (15 points, 6 boards, 3-4 treys), Beidler (15 points, 4 boards) and Sam Atupen (12 points, 4 boards). The most surprising part of this run is leading scorer in senior guard Chris Vann went 6-for-14 in just 72 minutes played for 21 total points. That's half his expected total, but the bench found enough total points for the surprising upset and NCAA bid. Those guys finished off an 18-14, 11-7 in conference campaign. With an RPI of just 159, 197th ranked SOS and an 0-3 record vs. the RPI top 100, the Mountaineers clearly had zero, make that a negative hope of an at-large bid.
Jim Phelan with his ultra-awesome bow-tie and upset at the people laughing at it
Coach Milan Brown will be heading to his first Big Dance. Their 1999 appearance was thanks to Jim Phelan, the most recognizable, ok, least non-recognizable, name from Mount Saint Mary's lure. Their former head coach won 830 games in 49 seasons with the Mountaineers. That's right, he's ranked with Dean Smith and Bob Knight among coaches with 800 victories. It took five years for assistant Brown to follow his path. Another member of the one-game-and-out-club-without-a-fucking-doubt club, Mount Saint Mary's brings a bench and physical attack along with the ancient memories of Phelan to the table ... a table they will lose. Sorry!
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