So Robert Morris is 0-3, lost a heart breaker to Penn, got their brains beat in by Cincinnati, and lost another tough game –bur deserved– against Bucknell.
It’s not the start Colonial fans and players –and I’m sure Andy Toole— was looking for. They will now head out on the road for a tough six game road trip against some very good midmajors including New Mexico State who is an NCAA tournament regular, including last season.
So, where is the team at? Should we be worried? Here are some thoughts.
First off, we have to all step back and remember where this team is at RIGHT now. This is a very young group who lost a few key contributes who were leaders and were relied upon heavily last season. The loss of Marcquise Reed and Lucky Jones will be felt for awhile. That isn’t an excuse because there are no excuses at this level, but it is still a fact just three games into the season. You add on the fact that RMU has gotten little from Aaron Tate because of injury (he barley played last night vs Bucknell) and is clearly not back yet, and you have a recipe for trouble. Also of note. Matty McConnell, a freshman that was inserted into the starting lineup is also out with an injury and has essentially missed two of the three games as he was hurt early in the second game against UC.
So, Robert Morris is looking at replacing two key members from last years team in Reed and Jones, two role players in Appolon and Bennett and they are trying to do so with a very young team that is missing two starters in McConnell and Tate.
Right now, defense is the big issue, but it is correctable. Getting Tate back to anchor the zone would go a long way. The team will get better with their rotations as the season moves along. Let’s not forget even seasoned “vets” Rodney Pryor and Elijah Minnie are only in year two of the system. Really on Kavon Stewart and Tate have a solid amount of time under their belt at this level. Hustle is also a big factor. Robert Morris was TERRIBLE in transition defense Wednesday night, and hasn’t been good all season. Even after made baskets, oppositions are getting out in transition for easy baskets. They have to get back. That’s not coaching, experience, or anything else other than hustle.
The next issue…penetration. Part of playing a zone is that it takes away penetration and an offense has to pass their way through it for open shots. Right now though, the RMU guards are allowing so many drives to the basket and it completely collapses the defense. Just can’t happen in a zone.
I’d also like to note that RMU has played three tough zone matchups. Penn and Bucknell are great shooting teams that have exploited space and made shots. UC was simply an overwhelming matchup. I expect this area to get a lot better as RMU gets more games under their belt.
Let’s talk some good stuff. Rodney Pryor is still a beast. He had a bad game Wednesday night and still finished with 15 points and made some big shots. He looks healthy and locked in for the most part. His opening game performance at Penn was something to see.
Elijah Minnie is so close to being an All-NEC level player. He’s so athletic (and has already had a few high level dunks), can face up, knock down jumpers, and is getting better at driving the lane and polishing up his post game. By season’s end he could be a huge weapon. Keep working Elijah.
The freshmen look legit. Listen, we were SOOOO spoiled last year. Reed and Minnie were super freshmen. Most guys take time at this level to become impact players. Those guys were dynamic weapons from the start. With that said, Isiah Still looks like a player. He missed a lot of time the last few weeks with injuries but it’s starting to come together for him. Jordan Lester looks like a very capable backup point guard and has a solid jumper. That’s a weapon RMU did not have last year. He can really handle too. He has a long way to come defensively and will have his brain farts, but all freshmen will. The rest of the class is a wait and see, but there is a lot of promise in this group.
After two clunkers, K looked like what we thought he could be Wednesday. He was maybe the best player on the court for RMU. He’s gotta play like that consistently.
Billy Giles put in a nice shift after two games where he was pretty much just a body out there. You can tell he has a lot of learning to do, especially defensively but he’s a good player who could really contribute once it clicks.
Now for the bad. As noted above the defense stinks and the inexperience is really showing on both sides of the ball. Injuries have also been killer. Tate isn’t right, McConnell is out, we still haven’t seen Joe Hugley, and a bunch of guys ahve missed valuable practice time.
Steven Whitley and Andre Frederick have looked lost pretty much all year. Whitley is still learning and has time, but right now because of the injuries he’s being forced to play a little more than he should. Frederick will show you so much promise one possession, then look terrible three in a row. These guys are both so young, but RMU will need more impact.
Overall….losing stinks. I hope the wins start coming soon, but patience will be needed with a young, banged up group. If the team can simply clean up the hustle plays and stupid mental errors they will be more competitive as they learn the system.