After opening the season 2-1 in the NABC Classic, the Virginia Tech men’s basketball team will entertain Mount St. Mary’s in Cassell Coliseum on Friday night at 6 pm. The game will be televised by Comcast SportsNet. On paper this game looks to be a blowout in favor of the Hokies, but judging by the results of past out-of-conference games, nothing is certain.
This game is the season opener for Mount St. Mary’s. The Mountaineers are coming off a tough season that saw them finish 7-20 overall, including just one win after the month of January. To make matters worse, Mount St. Mary’s lost a lot of experienced seniors off of that team and will be forced to start three freshmen in tonight’s contest.
6-1 senior guard Landy Thompson led the Mountaineers in scoring last season, and he returns as the lone senior starter in 2005-06. Thompson averaged 14.2 points and 3.3 rebounds per game last season. He also had 97 assists. Despite his scoring proficiency, Thompson isn’t a very good shooter. He hit just 36.8% of his shots from the field last year. He was 33.5% from three-point range and 67% from the free throw line.
The other returning starter is 6-4 junior guard Mychal Kearse. Kearse was the third leading scorer for Mount St. Mary’s last season, averaging nine points per game. He is a good rebounder for his size, leading the team last year with 6.5 boards per game. He also had 29 steals, 57 assists and shot 47.4% from the field.
Thompson and Kearse started all 27 games for Mount St. Mary’s last season. They are two of just a handful of Mountaineer players returning. Six seniors are gone from last year’s team, and some freshmen are going to have to fill the void, including two in the frontcourt.
True freshman Sam Atupem and r-freshman Markus Mitchell will start at forward for Mount St. Mary’s, which runs a three guard lineup. Both players are 6-7 and have good size. Atupen weighs in at 230, while Mitchell takes up a lot of space on the inside at 255. Both players are Virginia natives. Atupem played his high school basketball at Woodside in Newport News. Mitchell played for Salem High School in Virginia Beach.
Mount St. Mary’s will also start r-freshman Joey Butler in the backcourt alongside Landy Thompson. Butler is from Fort Washington, MD and played basketball at Massanutten Academy in Virginia, where he averaged six points, six rebounds and six assists per game.
This game has the makings of a Tech victory by a large margin. The Mountaineers shot just 41.4% from the field last season and had a rebounding margin of -3.3 per game. This is one game that the Hokies should be able to win the battle on the boards. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Mount St. Mary’s had a terrible assist-to-turnover ratio a year ago. They turned the ball over 399 times while recording just 334 assists. That margin is not likely to improve tonight, as Virginia Tech had one of the best turnover margins in the nation last season.
The matchups favor the Hokies in this game, and they should come out of it with a victory at home.
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