Robert Morris finalized their schedule for the 2015-16 season! I love schedule release days, because it’s both the most and least exciting day of the year. Yes, we finally get set times and dates and that makes the season feel close… until you realize the games won’t be played for another three months.
I had a few people mention to me that this is the easiest non-conference schedule RMU has had in a long time. In theory, this could be correct. There’s not that HUGE Duke, Carolina, Kentucky game like in past years and eight of RMU’s 13 non-conference opponents finished below .500 last season.
Then you think back to last year’s non-conference season and remember Youngstown State, who finished 11-21 last season, dropping 89 in a victory at the Sewall Center. It really just depends how the team gels early in the season, if there’s a commitment to defense (and competition) and health.
Could RMU put together a really nice non-conference season, especially when you compare it to past years? Sure. Theoretically, I’d like to think Penn, Tennessee Tech, Mississippi Valley State, Youngstown State and Duquesne, at the minimum, are wins. If things are going well, you should be able to add Oakland and Lehigh to that list.
But again, past teams haven’t exactly shown a knack for playing well in non-conference play.
-RMU will open the season on Nov. 13 in the Palestra at Penn. This is a fun game for a few reasons:
- It’s the alma mater of head coach Andy Toole. Toole was one of the best players to come through that program in recent memory. With that being said, don’t think the competitor in him doesn’t want to stick it to his former school. I’m sure there’s a lot of behind the scenes trash talk that’s already started.
- Former Boston College head coach Steve Donahue will make his debut as coach for Penn. A year after going 9-19 and finishing last in the Ivy League, Jerome Allen resigned as coach after five seasons. It wasn’t a particularly fun time with Allen at the helm; Penn 26 wins the past three seasons. Robert Morris has 26 wins in their last 44 games played.
- Even though Donahue was hired, don’t think for a second there wasn’t a contingent of reporters/fans/alumni who were pushing for the school to make a run at Toole. Proof: google search “Penn should hire Andy Toole”.
-Games at Cincinnati (11/15) and at Georgia (12/29) are probably the most notable of non-conference play. Both teams made the tournament last year, with Cinncy winning a game as an 8 seed and Georgia losing in the first round to Michigan State.
Cincinnati is going to be tough. They’re a really strong defensive team that lost just a reserve guard and a redshirt forward to transfers. Center Octavius Ellis might be the best player in the AAC and Cinncy will be near the top of a lot of preseason AAC rankings.
I love that game at Georgia. Seemingly every year, Robert Morris plays a fringe tournament team in the last non-conference game of the year (Clemson, Alabama, Arkansas the last three years now). It’s a tough matchup, but if RMU brings their "A" game, it’s one they can steal. RMU really should have won at Clemson and Alabama the last two years. We’ll see.
-Other cool things: RMU will play Air Force, New Mexico State, Tennessee Tech and Mississippi Valley State in the Air Force Classic tournament. New Mexico State was a 15 seed in last year’s tournament. That's a very balanced matchup there.
-RMU’s home opener is 11/18 vs. Bucknell.
-Of RMU’s 13 non-conference games, just three will be played at the Sewall Center (Bucknell, Oakland, Lehigh). Also, of the 13 non-conference opponents, three (Cinncy, New Mexico State, Georgia) went to the NCAA tournament while another (Bucknell) won their regular season conference championship.
-Eight of RMU’s 13 non-conference opponents finished last season below .500.
-Five of RMU’s final eight regular season games are at home. Robert Morris is 57-17 at home in the Toole era.
-A big stretch of conference play could shape up at the end of January into the beginning of February. RMU will play at Mount St. Mary’s and at St. Francis (PA) before returning home for three against Central Connecticut State, Bryant and St. Francis (PA) again. In my humble opinion, Robert Morris, SFU, Bryant and Mount St. Mary’s could be the top four teams in the NEC.