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NCAA tournament team previews: Mount St. Mary's Mountaineers

Julian Norfleet Mount St. Mary's' Julian Norfleet celebrates as fans storm the court following the Northeastern Conference championship. (Don Wright/AP)

As part of its preview of the 2014 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. For more teams, click here.

Record: 16-16, 9-7 in NEC

RPI/SOS: 216/250

Adjusted offense: 107.2 points/100 possessions (123rd)

Adjusted defense: 111.0 points/100 possessions (293rd)

Impact player: Julian Norfleet, senior PG. 17.5 ppg, 5.5 apg, 38.3% assist rate

Case For:

If you’re looking for someone to orchestrate a little March magic, why not a disciple of the wunderkind behind VCU’s Final Four run three years ago? Second-year Mount St. Mary’s coach Jamion Christian spent the 2011-12 season as an assistant to Shaka Smart, whose influence is easy to see in the Mountaineers’ frenetic pace and branding-ready “Mayhem” defense. The Mount, as the Maryland-based school is also known, is on a bit of a surprise run of its own, eking out wins over St. Francis (N.Y.) and second-seeded Wagner before easily handling top-seeded Robert Morris on the road in the NEC championship. The four-game winning streak is the Mountaineers’ longest of the season. Norfleet and Rashad Whack, a senior George Mason transfer, make for a high-scoring backcourt, averaging 17.5 and 17.6 points apiece while also ranking in the NEC’s top four in steal percentage. Norfleet also deftly runs the point, his assist rate ranking eighth nationally while helping ensure the Mountaineers had their league’s second-lowest turnover rate. While the Mount is merely an above average three-point shooting team at 35.4 percent, they do boast four players who can knock ‘em down from deep at any given time in Whack, Norfleet, and freshmen Will Miller (36.9%) and Byron Ashe (36.4%). Thanks in part to their defensive pressure, the Mountaineers played at the 33rd-fastest tempo in the nation, which could unsettle opponents.

Case Against:

The Mountaineers were pretty much smoked by every team they played in KenPom’s top 100, most notably losing to Villanova and Michigan State -- the best proxies for a high-seeded Round of 64 opponent -- by 31 and 33 points, respectively. They also dropped plenty of games to lowlier foes, including Binghamton and Sacred Heart at home. Well below average in size (the Mount ranks 216th nationally in KenPom’s effective height metric), the team struggles on the boards on both ends and in nearly every facet defensively outside of creating steals. Opponents shot 54.4 percent inside the arc against the Mountaineers this season and 49.3 percent from the floor overall; four teams (Villanova, BYU, Michigan State, and Texas Tech) topped 60 percent against them. If they aren’t able to force turnovers, this team is not likely to get enough stops to shock a top seed. And at the accelerated pace they play, the Mountaineers are unlikely to invite the kind of low-possession game that can help an overmatched team pull off an upset.

Prediction: Lose to Albany in the First Four.

View complete bracket predictions from SI.com’s panel of experts

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