Mount St. Mary's Mountaineers (18-14) vs. Coppin State Eagles (16-20).
When: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.
MOUNT ST. MARY'S MOUNTAINEERS
1. Fun facts about your Mount St. Mary's University Mountaineers. Mount St. Mary's University was founded in 1808, making it the oldest independent Catholic college in the United States. It's located in Emmitsburg, a tiny mountain town in Central Maryland just south of the Mason-Dixon Line. The Mount (and yes, that's really what they call it) has been co-educational since 1972 and has seen a sharp spike in impure thoughts in the ensuing decades. According to my friend John, a 2002 grad, a popular saying around campus is, "Mount. It's not just a school. It's a verb." Basketball-wise, the most famous alumnus is former Bullets, 76ers, and Bucks guard Fred "Mad Dog" Carter. The Mount (18-14) gained the third tournament berth in school history by winning the Northeast Conference tournament. Strong efforts from the Mountaineer bench powered the team down the stretch, as the reserves notched at least 39 points in each of their last three games.
2. Hooked on a Phelan. If you have any familiarity with the Mountaineers, it's probably because of their former coach, the legendary Jim Phelan. He coached at the Mount for his entire 49-year career before retiring in 2003 with 830 wins (fourth all-time) in an NCAA-record 1,321 games. He guided his teams to 16 Division II tournament appearances, reaching the Final Four five times and winning it all in 1962. Phelan has received the honor of having the Mount's home court named for him; the NEC Coach of the Year award and the collegeinsider.com National Coach of the Year award also now bear his name. His trademark was an ever-present bow tie, and he kept a set of ninja throwing stars in his breast pocket, which he used to intimidate referees and gain favorable calls for his team. I may have just lied to you.
3. They Don't Burn Couches in Emmitsburg. The Baltimore Sun's recap of the NEC tournament final in Fairfield, CT notes that an unspecified number of Mountaineers fans celebrated the victory by storming the court post-game and ... throwing confetti. The reporter fails to describe the manner in which the fans threw the confetti. Were they tossing it in the air and letting it rain gently down? Or were they firing it at the Sacred Heart players and fans in an aggressive and taunting fashion? Personally, I approve of the injection of small-time whimsy into what is becoming an overdone and unimaginative expression of euphoria by college hoops fans. But I suppose Storming The Floor will have the final ruling on the matter. — Kevin Brotzman
COPPIN STATE EAGLES
1. Is That Record Inverted? Located in Baltimore's inner city, Coppin State is the first 20-loss team ever to make the NCAA tournament. The Eagles lost their 20th game at Morgan State to end the regular season. After an improbable three-game run through the MEAC tournament, they faced the same team and won this time, on a clutch layup by Senior Guard Tywain McKee.
2. That Said, We Expect Great Things. Coppin State hasn't made the NCAA Tournament since 1997. They entered that year's Dance as a 15 seed and a 30-point underdog. Their opponents were the South Carolina Gamecocks, who had earned their #2 seed by beating Kentucky twice, and grabbing the regular-season crown in the SEC. The game ended in a 78-65 win for the tiny school from the MEAC. Then-SC coach Eddie Fogler was never the same again.
3. "Ron" Just Doesn't Have the Same Ring To It. Coppin State head coach Ron Mitchell goes by the nickname "Fang," which is surely one of the coolest monikers in college hoops. He claims he got the nickname from a referee who thought his voice resembled that of a television character on the ancient "Soupy Sales Show". If you're a playa on HBO's "The Wire," you want Fang to take an interest in you. The Eagles coach scours Baltimore and surrounding areas for lost causes. "Bad grades," he told a reporter "bad attitude, needs discipline. That's my kind of player." — Storming The Floor