Tuesday, March 15, 2016

We've moved

Come on over to the new and improved CtC: http://chroniclingthecolonials.com

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Roster breakdown

Well folks....that didn't go as planned.

The Colonials had their worst season since 2003 when they went just 9-13. It's the first time they've finished below .500 since 2005. If you've followed along, then you already know all this.

As the final buzzer sounded on the season last week in Staten Island, it was almost a sigh of relief. "Thank God this is over," was a thought that crossed my mind. I hate that way of thinking, but I couldn't help it. Injuries, suspensions, transfers and a whole bunch of fat L's.

Now that's all in the rearview mirror.

As you can see above, coming into this season this was one of the best mid-major programs in college basketball. Dominance. So now we face the most important question that this program has faced in a longgggggg time. Was this season simply a bump in the road, or are we headed back to the pack? Can RMU regain their dominance? Was this simply a rebuilding year?

K will be back to lead the Colonials.
(p/c Pitt Sports Report)
The good news for Colonial fans --if there is any from a disappointing campaign-- is that Andy Toole should remain in charge, and I would bet he has a hunger like no time before in his young coaching career.

You see, I have never talked with ANYONE as competitive as Toole in my life. And after getting kicked down this year, he'll do everything he can this offseason to get things straightened out. The guy simply hates losing more than anything.

As the offseason begins, let's take a look at what should return, what is loss, and what potential pieces will be added before RMU starts their summer preparation.

Let's begin with what is lost.

We know Elijah Minnie has left the team and will not be back. You can read up on his future over at Colonials Corner if interested. While this is a loss, RMU played the last third of the season without Minnie and seemed to adjust well to it. Toole also had plenty of time to adjust the recruiting board.

The other loss --senior Rodney Pryor-- will be a tough hole to fill. Pryor didn't have near as good a season as his junior campaign, but was easily the teams best offensive weapon, played great D on the wing, and was the team's best rebounder. Rodney scored over 1000 points in just two years at RMU. He led the Colonials to an NEC title last year, and was their best player in the NCAA tournament. I want to thank Rodney for an excellent two years and wish him luck at the next level.

That's it. RMU returns everyone else.

Kavon Stewart and Billy Giles will be back as seniors. Andre Frederick will be a junior. Jordan Lester, Steven Whitley, Isaiah Still and Matty McConnell will all be back as sophomores and all four gained a ton of valuable experience this season. They were all tossed into the fire and that should benefit them moving forward.

The roster will go from inexperienced to very experienced, something that should really help RMU in tight games and on the road. This season --especially early on-- the inexperience cost the team wins. Hopefully that will not be the case moving forward.

Now let's get to the good stuff. The additions.

It all starts with one man. The Ox.

Aaron Tate will receive a medical redshirt after missing practically the whole season with a leg injury. He is doing well and practiced for much of the time at the end of the season. He should be 100 percent with some fresh legs by the time the 16/17 campaign tips off.
The Ox is back.
(p/c Zimbo)

Remember, Tate was the team MVP in 14/15 and was easily the best rebounder, interior defender, and was the glue that kept that championship together. His return can't be valued by a box score. Toole will relish having the senior back on the court.

Next up, the Colonials bring in a talented JuCo recruit in Lorenzen Wright Jr. He will have two years of eligibility left. We will have an in depth look at the recruiting class here soon as it is finalized, but Wright has good range, great size at 6-3 and will look to be the next JuCo impact player to come to RMU.

Toole has struck gold this route and will look to continue that success. Remember RMU grabbed Karvel Anderson, Rodney Pryor, Aaron Tate, and Billy Giles from a JuCo school just to name a few. He should be an impact player from the time he steps onto campus.

The incoming freshmen class looks awesome. Toole is a great recruiter and this season's class is on par with that.

David Cole and Braden Burke will bring a ton of size and skill to the frontline and Clive Allen is a super athletic guard from Brooklyn who can really attack the rim and make open shots (again, a ton more on this group in the coming days).

RMU has one more spot open should Andy Toole choose to use it.

The foundation is there for a quick turnaround.

CtC will have much more on where things stand and the class coming in as the offseason moves along, as well as recruiting updates, schedule updates and any (hopefully none!!) news on transfers.

--Lee Kunkel

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Colonials need top-shelf Kavon Stewart

As some of you may know, running this blog is something I do as a hobby, not as a full-time gig. Earlier today, as I was driving to the scene of a house fire, I thought of a crafty, creative led for this article on Robert Morris point guard Kavon Stewart.

Of course, I can't remember the lede anymore, so you're stuck reading mumbo-jumbo about my boring life.

Somehow, I think that analogy still works for Stewart: hoping for more but getting a little bit less.

Last year at this time, perhaps the two guys playing the best basketball on a team that won an NEC championship were Rodney Pryor and Stewart. The Colonials still have those two guys, but in an altered, different way. Pryor was first team all-NEC, but completely lost his three-point shooting touch. He shot just 25 percent from downtown in conference play on a team that desperately needs to make some shots.

At least with Pryor, he still found a way to positively impact games in different ways. He has a nice mid-range jumper, gets to the rim, is great in transition, is a good defender and a beast on the boards.

The same can't be said for Stewart, who has had a rough go his junior year. It's not that the numbers are bad (we'll discuss that later), but the timing and expectations just feel... off. My man-crush with #3 has been well documented. I made the case why Stewart was the best PG in the NEC prior to the season. That didn't turn out right, but one premise has remained the same.

This team still goes as Stewart does.

Last year, Robert Morris was a shiny corvette with lots of toys. This year, they've been more like a Volkswagon. The thing is, everyone else on the road is also driving a Volkswagon. Follow?

Stewart can turn around a lost season by putting together three excellent games of basketball. RMU's formula for playing (and winning) close games is pretty simple: Pryor scores in the 20's, a few role players step up and Stewart finishes around 10 to 15 points with double his assists to turnovers.

RMU has won 10 games this season. Stewart has played in significant minutes in nine of them, suffering a sprained ankle in the first win of the year. In those nine games, Stewart averaged six assists to 3.2 turnovers. He failed to score at least ten points in just two of those wins.

That's not to say he's played bad in all of RMU's losses, because that's not the case. He looked great in losses to Bucknell, Wagner and Sacred Heart, just to name a few. But by and large, the difference is obvious. In RMU's last two losses, Stewart has two assists to 11 turnovers.

As I mentioned earlier, it's not like his numbers took a huge dip this season. His free throw percentage, at the sacrifice of a few more grey hairs, has dipped, but his two-point field goal percentage is up, he's drawing more fouls, turning the ball over less and assisting more. His assist rate, a metric designed to measure assists per made basket taking into account playing time, was tops in the country.

The problem becomes, with changed roles and expectations, simply "being just as good as last year" hasn't cut it. He needs to be the most in-control player on the floor these next three games, or RMU has no chance. That was the case last year, and in just about every win, has been the case again.

It'll be interesting to see how Stewart responds coming off a bad game Saturday. If he is shaky to start things, will Toole be more likely to give a McConnell-Whitley backcourt more run?

To me, it really comes down to this: RMU can survive a bad game from Billy Giles or Isaiah Still if Pryor and Stewart get going.

There won't be another game if you flip that around.

--Chris Cappella

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Road to repeating starts in Staten Island

The seeds are set. Robert Morris will begin their NEC title defense Wednesday in Staten Island.

By a lot of measures, this was a disappointing season for Robert Morris. They not only failed to win 20 games for the first time in the Andy Toole era, but it was a struggle to just get 10 wins. The Colonials had a losing record in conference play for the first time since 2003.

All those ill-feelings can be put aside with a simple three game winning streak. It's win or go home time, and it starts tomorrow.

Robert Morris and Wagner met twice this season, and Wagner won both games. In the first weekend of conference play, RMU dropped a home game to the Seahawks by three points. On Saturday, the Colonials lost by eight.

Wagner has certainly put together an impressive year, and this isn't to take away anything they've done in the two games against Robert Morris, but this is one of the least-scary top seeds the NEC has had in awhile. Robert Morris faces a few different challenges: like RMU, Wagner is playing their best basketball of the season. They can beat up every team with their big, physcial style. Not to mention, they have two of the best on-ball perimeter defenders in the conference in Dwaun Anderson and Jojo Cooper.

So what have we learned about this Robert Morris-Wagner matchup? I'd like to highlight a few things:

1. Wagner has dominated the glass: In game one, Wagner won the rebounding margin 44 to 24. That included grabbing 23 offensive rebounds. Things evened up a little more Saturday, where the Seahawks won the rebounding margin 43 to 31.

Like I've said in the past, Robert Morris is not a program that hangs its hat on rebounding. They just aren't. This year, the Colonials finished ninth in NEC offensive and defensive rebounding percentages. Wagner finished first. In my opinion, that's what makes these games so intriguing. These two programs act as polar opposites to each other.

2. Balanced offense: Wagner isn't a team that will rely on the three-point shot, but they can hit it. As a team, they shot 35.1 percent from deep in NEC play. That's pretty much right at the NCAA average. In the first game against RMU, Wagner shooting 7-15 from three carried them to victory.

Saturday was a different answer. Forward Michael Carey, who may be announced as an all-NEC first teamer, dropped 23 & 17. No other player scored more than eight points besides Carey, but total, Wagner had 10 guys end up on the stat sheet. They can do it with so many ways and so many players. it pays to have depth.

3. Robert Morris can force turnovers: RMU has forced 12 and 11 steals in two games against Wagner. The ability to force turnovers is maybe RMU's greatest strength in the zone. Converting those into buckets? That's something the Colonials will have to do.

RMU has won the turnover battle in both games against Wagner. It hasn't resulted in a win, but it's a good starting point.

This isn't a terrible matchup for Robert Morris. Carey is a beast, but Rodney Pryor is just as dangerous of a player. We'll get more into that tonight and tomorrow.

--Chris Cappella

Monday, February 29, 2016

Kunkel's NEC Awards

NEC Awards:

Lee’s first team:

Cane Broome, Sacred Heart
Rodney Pryor, Robert Morris
Martin Hermannsson, LIU Brooklyn
Jerome Frink, LIU Brooklyn
Ronnie Drinnon, St Francis PA

Lee’s second team:

Michael Carey, Wagner
Junior Robinson, Mount St. Mary’s
Earl Potts, Fairleigh Dickinson
BK Ashe, Mount St. Mary’s
Tyreek Jewell, St. Francis Brooklyn

Lee’s third team:

Corey Henson, Wagner
Chris Hooper, St. Francis Brooklyn
Brandon Peel, Central Connecticut
Darian Anderson, Fairleigh Dickinson
Ben Millaud Meunier, St Francis PA

Coach of the Year: Greg Herenda, Fairleigh Dickinson

Player of the Year: Cane Broome, Sacred Heart

Defensive player of the Year: Amdy Fall, St. Francis Brooklyn

Rookie of the Year: Marcel Pettway, Bryant

Most Improved: Ben Millaud-Meunier, St Francis PA

Thoughts: It was a crazy season in the NEC. Naming the top 15 wasn’t nearly as crazy, but taking those players and breaking them down into first, second, and third team was quite a headache.
Broome should run away with POY
(p/c BBHJ)

Let’s start with the awards. Cane Broome was a pretty easy choice for PoY. He was dominate in his second season in the league and led SHU to their first top four finish in years. They will be a tough out in the tournament with the best player in the league on their side. Ryan Peters of Big Apple Buckets tells you why he’s so good.

CoY was the first tough tough call. Bashir Mason did some amazing things this season, but I can’t get over the job Herenda has done at FDU. That program was left with nothing when he took over, he’s lost some key players to transfer and graduation, yet here the Knights are, second in the NEC. Mason was just as good, but he’s got more talent and has had plenty of time to fill the cabinet, and took over a very good situation when he got the job.

DPoY was another very tough choice. I thought of Tyreek Jewell because I believe he’s the best on ball defender in the NEC. Dwayne Anderson might be the more versatile defender in the league with his freak athleticism. But at the end of the day, there isn’t a player in the league that can affect a game more than Amdy Fall on that end. He is such a great shot blocker and can rebound with the best of them. I think he deserves to go back-to-back in this category.

As for my team’s...I could type all day. On the first team, the only tough call was Drinnon/Carey. I went Drinnon because I believe he is the key to the SFPA attack and has a bit more value than Carey. Both has fantastic season’s.
Second/third team’s were tight too. Millaud-Meunier was my last selection. His shooting numbers were too good to ignore. he also got MiP going from a rarely used piece off the bench, to the leagues best long range marksman. Thoughts? Who did I miss?

Cappella will have his picks up some time soon.

--Lee Kunkel

Saturday, February 27, 2016

RMU at Wagner

Robert Morris (10-20, 8-9) at Wagner (19-9, 12-5)
When: Saturday February 27th, 4pm
Where: Spiro Sports Center, Staten Island, NY
KenPom: RMU 307, WAG 158
KenPom Line: Wag -11
Storyline: There is a very good chance we are getting a preview on the NEC quarter final match in just a few days. Wagner has wrapped up the number one seed and regular season title. All roads go through Staten Island in the NEC playoffs until the Seahawks are knocked off. 

The Colonials will likely get first crack at the Seahawks. Even if RMU wins today to get back to 9-9 in NEC play, they will likely still be the eight seed, They would need Bryant, losers of 12 in a row, to upset an LIU team playing good ball in Brooklyn. It would be only the second time that the NEC's eighth seed would enter the conference tournament at .500 or better. 

Our guy J-Frank hits you with a good preview of the Seahawks over at Colonials Corner here.

Some thoughts...

I'm fascinated to see how Andy handles this game. Does he rest players (I doubt it), change up the defense (again, I doubt it). This team gets one more opportunity to fine tune things before NEC tournament action, and it comes against the team they'll likely face just a few days later. 

Rodney Pryor continues to be a beast. RMU will need that to continue. 

Billy Giles and Kavon Stewart are also playing solid ball. It was this time last year Kavon started playing like the best point guard in the NEC. Can he match that this season? Wagner is a very athletic team with good defenders and size at the tin. He'll have to be on his game.

I'm not too concerned with the result here today. I don't think it will have a lot to do with the first round matchup we will likely see a few days later. I am intrigued to see how the RMU guards handle Wagner's athleticism, how Wagner handles RMU's 2-3 zone, and if Pryor looks comfortable against the Seahawks. With all that said, an RMU win could really mentally mess with Wagner heading into that first round game. 

--Lee Kunkel


Thursday, February 25, 2016

Possibilities near endless entering last weekend

Welcome to the final weekend of regular season college basketball! Your updated NEC standings:

1. Wagner (18-9, 11-5)
2. Sacred Heart (11-16, 10-6)
    Mount St. Mary's (13-16, 10-6)
4. Fairleigh Dickinson (13-14, 9-7)
    St. Francis PA (13-14, 9-7)
    St. Francis Brooklyn (13-16, 9-7)
7. LIU Brooklyn (14-13, 8-8)
8. Robert Morris (9-20, 7-9)

Bryant and Central Connecticut State have been eliminated from the NEC tournament. Shoutout to my Robert Morris vs. Bryant NEC championship preseason pick!

As you can see, there's still a ton to be determined when it comes to final seeding. The first-place team is up by one game, there's a two-way tie for second place and a three-way tie for the remaining spots. St. Francis PA, currently a six seed, could still win the conference!

I'd like to break down a little more on what could happen for Robert Morris this weekend. Here is the official NEC tiebreaker procedure for those that want to know what I'm referencing. Robert Morris plays two road games to end the year, at Sacred Heart (Thursday) and Wagner (Saturday).

Before we get started, here are a few important things to know:

-Robert Morris is guaranteed a spot in the NEC tournament.
-Robert Morris cannot get a home game.
-Robert Morris owns head-to-head tiebreakers over LIU and Fairleigh Dickinson but not against St. Francis Brooklyn or St. Francis PA

-How to stay the eight seed: If Robert Morris loses both games or LIU wins both games, they'll remain an eight seed. RMU needs to finish with the same conference record as LIU. That means the Blackbirds will have to lose at least once in their next two games.

LIU faces Bryant and Central Connecticut State this weekend, the two worst teams in the conference.

So, even if Robert Morris goes 1-1 this weekend, it might not be enough.

-How to be the seven seed: Two wins and a LIU loss is the easiest way.

-RMU, LIU and St. Francis PA all finish 9-9: Robert Morris would get the seven seed, LIU eight and SFU six, by head-to-head records. Robert Morris swept LIU but lost both games to St. Francis PA, who split with LIU. Follow?

-RMU, LIU and St. Francis Brooklyn all finish 9-9: Same situation as before, except St. Francis Brooklyn would be the six seed.

Figuring out what could happen next might as well be an advanced level math course. Do you know there's a possibility of FDU, SFU, SFC, LIU and Robert Morris all finishing with the same conference record and a five-way tiebreaker determining the seeding. That would include three teams losing their remaining games, Robert Morris winning both and LIU splitting, but it's possible. It's possible!

-How to be the six seed: RMU, LIU and FDU all finish 9-9: Again, somehow this is possible? What a weird weekend of games. Robert Morris would be the six seed, FDU seven, LIU eight. Robert Morris swept the season series from both schools.

There's one way RMU could finish as the six seed. Also, it's so stupid I almost didn't add it. But here's how it would happen:

Robert Morris wins both of their games, LIU losses one and FDU, SFU and SFC all go 0-2 against some of the worst teams in the league. If that happens, all five teams with finish at 9-9. The order would then be:

4. St. Francis Brooklyn
5. FDU
6. RMU
7. SFU
8. LIU

That's about it. Robert Morris can't get more than a six seed, and even that would just be crazy unlikely. What will probably happen is Robert Morris will be an eight seed, traveling to Wagner, Mount St. Mary's or Sacred Heart.

Let the games begin!

--Chris Cappella