Robert Morris Colonials (5-8) Season Thus Far

Paul Vladuchick

Everyone who follows college basketball knows the Robert Morris Colonials upset the Kentucky Wildcats in the first round of the NIT last March. But, have they lived up to the increased expectations that have been placed upon the program this season? The newest writer for Mid-Major Madness, Stephen Gertz, breaks it down for you.

On March 19, 2013 the Robert Morris Colonials stunned the nation with their 59-57 victory over the Kentucky Wildcats.  Sure, that UK team wasn't nearly as good as the current Wildcats, or the UK team that won the NCAA Tournament just one year prior.  But for Robert Morris, a team that was already one of the most successful mid-majors over the last six seasons, it became the signature win of the program.

Since the 2007-2008 season, RMU has won 20+ games five times.  They made the NCAA Tournament in the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 seasons, along with appearances in the NIT Tournament in the 2007-2008 season and last season. Their 141 wins over that time period is tied with Davidson for 8th among mid-major programs.

The Colonials are led by head coach Andy Toole, who entered his fourth year at the helm for Robert Morris this season.  Toole is currently the 6th youngest coach in Division I men's basketball at age 33.   A former guard for the University of Pennsylvania, Toole is no stranger to mid-major success; he helped lead Penn to the NCAA Tournament in both his junior and senior seasons.

RMU runs a motion offense, like Penn, and executes dribble handoffs and plays some two-man game on nearly every offensive possession.   Defensively, the Colonials have traditionally played man-to-man defense under Toole, but they have begun playing an aggressive 2-3 zone the last four games in an effort to keep players out of foul trouble and control tempo.

On the court, Robert Morris is led by senior guard Karvel Anderson and junior guard/forward Lucky Jones.   Anderson leads the team in scoring at 17.5 points per game, powered by 44 triples on just 97 attempts, good for 45.4%.  At his current pace, Anderson will shatter the all-time RMU record for the most three-pointers in a season.

Jones is the team's best defender, and arguably their best overall player.   He is leading the Colonials in rebounding at 5.5 rebounds per game.   Earlier this afternoon against Oakland, Jones set his career-high for points in a game with 27.

Robert Morris entered their game today against Oakland ranked 137th in adjusted offense.  The team has struggled defensively this year; they've given up 80 or more points in nine of their first 13 games.  Going into the game today, they were ranked 246th in adjusted defense.

In their five wins[1] this season, they've scored an average of 79.4 points per game on 46.6% shooting; they've made an average of 10.8 three-pointers in those games.  In their eight losses[2], RMU scored an average of 70.9 points per game on just 42.8% shooting, and only average 6.9 triples per game.

As with most mid-major programs, their best, and really only chance of making the NCAA Tournament, is to win the NEC Tournament at the end of the season.   They were picked to finish second in the conference, tied with Bryant, and behind Wagner in the preseason coaches' poll.

So long as the Colonials can find some consistency before NEC play starts early next month, their early season struggles, particularly on the defensive end, won't matter as far as their chances of making the 'big dance' are concerned.  Robert Morris closes out their non-conference schedule against the Oklahoma St. Cowboys (12/30) and the Alabama Crimson Tide (1/4).  I'll be providing more in-depth analysis about their conference games here on Mid-Major Madness.

- Stats courtesy of KenPom and Teamrankings.com

[1] Savannah State (86-66), Lafayette (90-81), Texas-Arlington (88-81), Duquesne (67-63), and Campbell (72-61).

[2] Eastern Michigan (69-64), Kentucky (87-49), Cleveland State (87-74), Buffalo (81-66), Delaware (86-67), Youngstown State (84-76), Toledo (80-77), and Oakland (100-94).

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