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It’s time to buckle up, folks. The NCAA Tournament is officially underway. And the first game of a double-header on Tuesday evening to get the fun started was an absolute dandy. Mount St. Mary’s and New Orleans went blow-for-blow in the first of the First Four battles over the next two days, and it delivered as March is known to do.
The Mountaineers prevailed over the Privateers 67-66 but it was back-and-forth down the home stretch before New Orleans’ attempt at a potential buzzer-beater resulted in a final second turnover.
1. Mount St. Mary’s reward for winning is not ideal
Hey, congratulations to the Mount for one hard-fought win. But now they have to turn around and play No. 1 overall seed Villanova -- the reigning national champion -- on Thursday. And not only do they have to play arguably the most complete team in the tourney, they’ve got to do it on short rest. And that doesn’t even account for the night trip the Mount has to make tonight to head to Buffalo for their next game.
2. This tournament win was a long time coming
You have to roll the clock back to 2008 to find the last time Mount St. Mary’s won an NCAA Tournament game. And even then, it was against Coppin State in an opening-round game. This is just the second time in program history it has won a tournament game. So opening-round game be damned, this is a big one for a program that hasn’t even sniffed the Big Dance since 2014. It’s the second tourney appearance under coach Jamion Christian.
3. Mount St. Mary’s has a chance to make history
Mount St. Mary’s has never won a tournament game, save for a play-in game. And when it did against Coppin State, it turned around to take a 113-74 beating by No. 1 seed North Carolina nine years ago. That Tar Heels team went on to advance to the national semifinal before falling to Kansas.
They could be in for a similar fate on Thursday.
Not only have the Mountaineers never won a non 16-vs.-16 game, no team from their conference (the NEC) has done it, either. And while Villanova will almost certainly be favored by double digits in Thursday’s game, the Mount has an opportunity to make not only program history, but league history as well.