Early observations of Mount St. Mary’s and the Mayhem

I’ve had the opportunity this past week to witness Jamion Christian’s newly installed Mayhem system twice. It’s a scheme that very much emulates the basketball philosophies of Christian’s former boss, VCU head coach Shaka Smart. It’s all about full court pressure, never letting you breathe in the half-court set, and accumulating as many offensive possessions as the team can possibly handle. Basically, Christian is trying to make fast feel like slow for his team. Who needs caffeine, when you have Mayhem!

Obviously, the season is still in its infant stages, therefore I’m fully aware that tweeks will be made to Mayhem throughout the year, based on its success rate. Here’s what I’ve observed so far.

1) Bombs Away – In their loss to American on Thursday night, Christian’s squad hoisted up 29 three-pointers and made a respectable ten of them (34.4%). American head coach Jeff Jones implemented a 2-3 zone for much of the game, therefore the Mount seemed content on shooting over the top of the zone rather than penetrating into the soft spots. When asked about his team’s shot selection after the game, Christian didn’t blink in saying that he wants his guys to shoot lots of threes. You can expect much of the same moving forward, especially with several capable long-range bombers on the team in Rashad Whack, Sam Prescott, Julian Norfleet, and Xavier Owens. In this offense, the frontcourt guys are simply an afterthought much of the time, so it’s safe to say Christian’s Mountaineers will live and die by the three more often that not.

2) Adjusting to the Mayhem – American head coach Jeff Jones has been around the block and is widely respected among those who cover the game and coach against him. Therefore, I was intrigued to see how his Eagles would adjust to the Mount’s Mayhem after his team coughed up the ball 16 times in the first half of Thursday night’s game. Think about these numbers: American had more turnovers (16) than they had shot attempts (14)! American’s best asset – their size, notably senior Stephen Lumpkins – was neutralized by the Mount’s in-your-face pressure defense and made life very difficult for their guards, namely Daniel Munoz and Stephen Carroll. Munoz, despite the six first turnovers, was savvy enough to adjust, but Carroll wasn’t afforded that opportunity, as he found a seat on the bench for most of the second half, in favor of backup point guard, Jesse Reed. Jones did his best to make sure there were enough quality ball-handlers on the floor to break the Mount’s press. In addition, his team excelled at reversing the ball in the second half and finding the backside shooters once they got the ball past mid-court. So far, both Hartford and American have shown that if you break the pressure and find the open spots thanks to impeccable ball movement, you’ll have open looks. Both teams shot a combined 46.0% from behind the arc, and that isn’t simply a coincidence. Most of those attempts have been very good looks.

3) Odd Man Out – Obviously, we’re only three games into the season, but the odd man out of this rotation appears to be sophomore Kelvin Parker. A beloved figure in the Mount community, Parker has averaged 4.5 minutes in the past two games in large part due to the emergence of Xavier Owens and freshman Shivaughn Wiggins. Parker simply doesn’t possess the ball handling skills of these players, especially the latter, and with a skilled trio of Julian Norfleet, Rashad Whack and Sam Prescott, there may not be enough minutes for Parker to consume. Yes, everything changes if someone suffers an injury, but right now it’s difficult to envision Parker getting more than ten minutes per game with this rotation. If Wiggins continues to impress (and I like what I’ve seen from him so far), those ten minutes could possibly dwindle off into irrelevance.

NEC teams will have the luxury of scouting the Mount’s Mayhem system by looking at the non-conference tape. Adjustments will be made from the outset, and the challenge for the Mount’s coaching staff will be to make adjustments to the adjustments. Nevertheless, teams that don’t possess enough crafty, athletic ball-handlers will suffer at the hands of Mayhem. The best case they can hope for is that the Mount shooters are well defended on the perimeter. If Whack and Norfleet are feeling it from downtown, however, it could be a long night for opponents.

There will be good and bad night for the Mount, but make no mistake, the Mayhem is for real.

Ryan Peters covers Northeast Conference men’s basketball for Big Apple Buckets and Pioneer Pride. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @pioneer_pride

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