Cinderella Watch: Can the Robert Morris Colonials Advance if They Dance?

Paul Vladuchick

Everyone remembers when the Robert Morris Colonials (18-11, 13-1) upset the Kentucky Wildcats last March. However, that was the NIT. How will this RMU team fare if they make the NCAA Tournament this year?

As we enter the home stretch in conference play everybody is going to be looking for this year's Florida Gulf Coast. That's why we've put together "Cinderella Watch" to profile all the mid-major teams you should know before heading into March.

Robert Morris Colonials

Northeastern Conference
Overall Record: 18-11
Conference Record: 13-1
RPI: 126
Key Wins: Bryant (2x) (170), St. Francis Brooklyn (2x) (196)
Worst Losses: Central Connecticut State (308), at Youngstown State (197)
Average RPI Win: 254
Average RPI Loss: 113
NCAA Tournament History: 7 Appearances ('82, '83, '89, '90, '92, '09', '10), 1-7

This Season

The Colonials started the season 5-10, the worst start under fourth-year head coach Andy Toole. Toole abandoned his beloved man-to-man defense in favor of an aggressive 2-3 zone after watching his team relinquish 80 or more points in seven of their first nine games; only two teams managed to accomplish that feat against Robert Morris during the entire 12-13 season (35 games).

Promising transfer Desjuan Newton left the team after just 12 games, and senior forward Mike McFadden quit after playing in two NEC games; he was the team's fourth leading scorer (7.8ppg). In late January, RMU suspended four players due to a violation of university policy. That included emerging freshman Jeremiah Worthem, the team's third-leading scorer (8.9ppg) and tied for second in rebounds (4.1rpg).

To say that the Colonials have overcome adversity would be an understatement. The team is 13-1 in NEC play, 9-1 since the four player suspension, and they just find ways to win. Per KenPom, Robert Morris is ranked 1st in offensive efficiency (113.0) and second in defensive efficiency (100.5) in NEC play - the largest margin in the conference.

Key Player: Karvel Anderson

Anderson has the ability to get hot in a second; he's scorched the rest of the NEC on his way to what should be the NEC Player of the Year Award.

He ranks in the top-seven in nearly every NEC-only offensive/scoring category: 21.7ppg (2nd), 136.13 offensive rating (1st), 65% eFG% (1st), 67.6 TS% (1st), 53.7 FG% (6th), 87% FT% (4th), 48.4% 3-pt FG% (1st). Anderson is the only guard to be ranked in the top-seven for field goal percentage, and while he isn't going to win Defensive Player of the Year in the NEC, he ranks 5th in the conference in steals at 1.6 per game.

Karvel set the single-season record for three-pointers (95) for RMU against St. Francis (NY) last Saturday - previous record was 93. He has a chance to become just the third player in Colonials' history to score 1,000 points in just two seasons - 977 currently. Lastly, at his current pace of 21.7ppg (NEC play), Anderson has a chance to set the single-season record for points (604, Myron Walker) - 564 currently.

But, it's more than just numbers and records with Anderson; he makes tough shots down the stretch despite being the focal point of every team's defensive scheme. He can curl off a dribble-handoff going either direction into a two-dribble-stop-on-a-dime jumper that hits nothing but net. He uses a variety of hesitation dribbles and a tight handle to get to the rim where he can finish (67.2% at the rim) with a variety of layups - with either hand.

For as good of a player as Anderson is, he's a better person. NBC News did a fantastic article about him last fall. He's an extremely hard worker, who while humble, also plays with a chip on his shoulder.

Why They Will Succeed in March

If Robert Morris has to participate in the play-in game as a 16 seed, history says they won't advance come that Thursday or Friday. With that said, it won't be because of a lack of toughness or mental fortitude. This team has a laser-like focus right now, and whip-smart head coach Andy Toole will craft a game plan that will give his team a great chance of winning.

For most mid-majors, the three-ball is the great equalizer against teams from a power conference. RMU is tied for 13th in the NCAA for three-point percentage at 39.7%. They make slightly more than 7.5 per game, including eight games in which they've made 10 or more (6-2 in those games).

Senior point guard Anthony Myers-Pate and junior guard/forward Lucky Jones played prominent roles in their win over Kentucky last season. Anderson, junior guard David Appolon, and sophomore forward Stephan Hawkins were a part of the upset victory as well. This team isn't afraid to play anybody, and are looking to slay another Goliath come March.

- Stats courtesy of Hoops-Math, KenPom, Sports-Reference, and Stat-Sheet.

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