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Christian dubs his style “Mayhem” – though while Mount St. Mary’s will press and trap all over the floor, its real strength is offensive spacing that allows its shooters to hit from 3-point range. Only four teams in the country have taken more 3-point shots than the Mountaineers’ 797. And while they shoot at a .356 clip – 121st overall – they always have a punchers’ chance.

“It’s hard for teams to prepare for us because of the way we play,” Norfleet said. “A lot of times we’re getting up and down the court, we’re shooting a lot of threes and that’s tough to scout when you have as many plays as we do.”

It sounds like the chesty confidence every low-major team takes into the tournament this time of year knowing full well they’re likely to get bulldozed by whatever major power they see.

Mount St. Mary’s, though, isn’t all talk. On the road against then-top-ranked Michigan State on Nov. 29, the Mountaineers hung around late into the first half and were down just five points after 15 minutes of play before the Spartans blew the game open.

Whack and Norfleet were the starting guards in a game at Verizon Center last season when Mount St. Mary’s pulled to within six points of Georgetown with 8 minutes left to go. They lost that game by 22, but the belief remains.

After the miracle St. Francis win, Christian was in the shower and overheard a conversation between his players in the locker room next door.

‘They picked us sixth this year, man. They picked us sixth,” Norfleet fumed. “They didn’t think we had a chance.”

“Yeah, we’re winning this thing,” Whack said. Added Prescott: “I’ve never been a champion before. We’re gonna win this.”

Later that day, Christian answered a “good luck” text from a coaching friend. He just smiled and texted back “We’ve got this.” The Mountaineers hit five 3-pointers in the first 13 minutes of the Robert Morris game and were up 17 points before the stunned crowd knew what happened.

It was a gratifying moment for Christian, who came to the Mount as a 17-year-old to play for legendary coach Jim Phelan, who led the program to 830 wins over a 49-year career at the Division II and Division I levels. That included Mount St. Mary’s first two NCAA tournament appearances in 1995 and 1999.

Christian never got to play in one, though. Virginia’s Single-A player of the year and a state champion at New Kent High in 2000, he was the Mountaineers’ leading scorer as a sophomore and a three-year captain. But Phelan retired after the 2002-03 season and new coach Milan Brown didn’t have a place for Christian. His minutes dropped from 26.1 per game to just three.

But Brown kept Christian involved, spending extra time with him going over scouting reports, allowing him to address his teammates and helping them find ways to make them better players. That’s when the coaching bug first took hold.

When the Mountaineers last reached the NCAA tournament under Brown in 2008, he sent Christian a text thanking him for his attitude and leadership during that first, difficult season in 2003-04. Brown left to become the head coach at Holy Cross in 2010. Even now, Phelan, who still lives in the area, will stop by the basketball offices and talk to Christian, an alum happy to guide his school back into the spotlight, if only for a few hours.

“I didn’t really pay off for [Phelan] as a basketball player,” Christian said. “I was looking at my numbers the other day. They’re not the greatest. But I like to think my reward has been in coming back here and trying to continue his legacy on through our work that we do every day.”