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2014-15 Seton Hall Basketball Preview Series: Mount St. Mary's Mountaineers

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Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

One of four 2013-14 NCAA tournament teams on Seton Hall's immediate non-conference schedule, the Mount St. Mary's Mountaineers will be one of the weaker opponents to travel to Prudential Center this season.

After hosting George Washington on Saturday, Seton Hall stays in New Jersey for a potential trap game at home the Tuesday before a clash with Rutgers on December 6th. The game is not part of an arranged series between the two schools but a 'guarantee' home game for the Hall in which they will monetarily compensate Mount St. Mary's.

Though they qualified for the Dance by way of winning three-straight in the Northeast Conference's tournament (including this whacky six-on-five sequence), The Mount posted a 13-16 (9-7) regular season record in 2013-14 that included just one three-game winning streak. En route to their NCAA birth, MSM was carried by seniors and top-three leading scorers Julian Norfleet, Rashad Whack, and Sam Prescott, all of whom exhausted their eligibility at the Maryland school this spring.

Roster subtractions: Rashad Whack (17.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg), Julian Norfleet (17.2 ppg, 5.5 apg), Sam Prescott (11.1 ppg, 5 rpg), Kristijan Krajina (5.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg; 6-10 senior missed most of last season through injury)

Returnees to watch: center Taylor Danaher (7.1 ppg, 5 rpg; 7-foot junior is leading returning scorer), forward Gregory Graves (6.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg), guard Byron Ashe (7 ppg)

Key additions: guard Chris Martin (junior, Marshall transfer), wing/guard Andrew Smeathers (junior, Butler transfer), five signed incoming freshmen

Replacing a senior trio like Whack-Norfleet-Prescott is tough for any low-major, and Mount St. Mary's is no different. Third-year head coach and former VCU assistant Jamion Christian will look to do just that in the form of Marshall transfer Chris Martin, a former St. Patrick (N.J.) standout and Seton Hall recruiting target, and one-time Butler reserve player Andrew Smeathers. Both redshirt juniors will need to provide leadership to a Mount St. Mary's squad that returns just two upperclassmen in 6-foot-7 junior forward Gregory Graves (6.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and 7-foot center Taylor Danaher (7.1 ppg, 5 rpg). Martin averaged 3.1 ppg in 15.1 mpg for Marshall in 2012-13 while Smeathers saw very little time over his first two years as a Butler Bulldog.

It can be argued that The Mount's NCAA appearance last spring was fortunate after a regular season slate that saw them finish tied for fourth in the NEC and post a 3-4 record against the other top-five teams in the conference, not to mention the aforementioned six-on-five incident.

As such, the Mountaineers' 189th ranked RPI rating (188th in KenPom) last season should be seen as the absolute best MSM can produce in 2014-15. After the departure of plenty of leadership and talent this past spring, Jamion Christian has his work cut out to keep The Mount in the top half of the NEC this coming campaign. If they are to approach the achievements of last year's Mount St. Mary's team, transfers Chris Martin and Andrew Smeathers will likely have to play significant roles in 2014-15.

Now halfway through the 2014-15 Men's Basketball Preview Series, we take a look at Seton Hall's in-state archrival Rutgers next Monday at 10 am. Here is a recap of the first half of Seton Hall's non-conference schedule: