Mount St. Mary's will get the jump on the rest of the local college teams in postseason play, but after 18 consecutive road losses, a return to Loretto, Pa., tomorrow night isn't an inviting prospect.
Especially if guard Kevin Booth cannot play against St. Francis.
Booth, the Northeast Conference's leading scorer most of the season, is doubtful for the play-in game between the eighth and ninth seeds because of painful ribs. Without him, the Mountaineers face a bleak road.
"He's very doubtful," coach Jim Phelan said yesterday, a week after his team completed its regular season by losing to the Red Flash, 88-77, in Loretto. "He hurt his ribs in the Robert Morris game [two days before the finale] and one minute into the last game he was hurt again. Two of them are cracked."
Since an inability to control the ball has been a major problem for the Mounts, the loss of Booth would put intense pressure on Phil Galvin, Doug John and Chad Stull, who will be shifted from the forecourt to help out.
"We're not playing that bad," said Phelan. "We play well for long periods of time and then all of a sudden we don't score and just manage to lose. We really had to work at it to lose at Robert Morris."
That's where the Mounts will go [a short hop to Robert Morris] if they survive the opener. Phelan will not bring his team back to Emmitsburg in between.
"I'm going to watch how they pack for this trip, whether they take a lot of clothes with them. It's up to them," he said.
St. Francis has its leading player, forward Harkeem Dixon, back from a disciplinary suspension and is coming off a big victory Saturday over St. Francis, N.Y.
* Two-time defending champion Coppin State stumbled down the stretch of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference race and wound up with the fourth seed. But don't count out the Eagles yet.
"I can't see any reason there can't be another surprise in the tournament," said coach Fang Mitchell, whose team lost to North Carolina A&T at home, 70-67, in its finale. "There's no pressure on us this time and I see the team going in with the best tournament attitude winning."
Coppin is now totally healthy with the return of Keith Carmichael, Darren Woods and James Mazyck from injuries. Although they "weren't in sync" Saturday, according to Mitchell, "it was important to get them out there."
The Eagles drew South Carolina State in the tournament opener. They split in the season series, each winning at home.
"We're playing a team we're capable of beating," said Mitchell. "The thing in, no one in the league showed us they were capable of overpowering everybody."
* Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament pairings are still incomplete, but red-hot Loyola is heading for a rematch--on television.
The school announced last night that Channel 45 will carry Saturday's game (noon start) between the fourth-seeded Greyhounds and fifth-seeded Iona from the Knickerbocker Arena in Albany, N.Y. They played at Reitz Arena Saturday with Loyola nipping Iona, 62-61, for its sixth straight victory.
* Salisbury State and Johns Hopkins are so far apart in the NCAA Division III bracket they can only meet in the championship game.
The second-ranked Sea Gulls (26-1), victors of 25 straight, will play at home through the early rounds of the 40-team tournament as long as they win. They received a first-round bye and do not open until Saturday night.
Johns Hopkins (20-7), unranked in the poll, was seeded third in the Middle Atlantic Region, and goes to 11th-ranked Scranton (24-2) Saturday night.
The Final Four is at Wittenberg (Ohio) University.