Preview: looking for a win

Robert Morris (0-3) at Air Force (2-1)
When: Sunday, Nov. 22 at 4:00 p.m.
Where: Klune Arena, Colorado Springs, Colorado
KenPom: RMU 208, Air Force 256
KenPom Line: Air Force -2
Link: ESPN Radio 970 AM (iHeart radio App), (unsure if there will be a paywall)
Storyline: Robert Morris looks to get their first win of the season when they tip off the Air Force classic. Air Force, a member of the Mountain West Conference, is looking to improve on a 2014-15 campaign where they went 14-17 and lost in the quarterfinals of their conference tournament.
Getting to know the Falcons: So here we are, game four of the season and Robert Morris is still without a win. This is the first time the Colonials are 0-3 since 2010, the same year they lost an overtime game to Villanova in the NCAA tournament. So, not all is lost.

Air Force is winners of their last two after dropping their opening contest to Southern Illinois. The Falcons last win, versus Mississippi Valley State, was a pretty underwhelming one. They’ll look to bounce back offensively and defensively.

Air Force is led by shooting guard Trevor Lyons, who is looking to make the proverbial “jump” his sophomore season. Lyons is a good shooter — he shot 44 percent from the floor and 41 percent from three last season — but now looks to carry the load on a team that lost a few of their top threats.

He’s answered the bell early, averaging 18.3 points in about 37 minutes of action. He’s also been very good defensively, averaging three steals through three games. RMU will have to be aware of Lyons all game.

You could argue the Falcons offense goes through power forward Hayden Graham. Graham is second on the team in scoring (16 ppg) first in rebounds (8.3) and first in assists (3.7). Graham is a pretty awful three point shooter, but he did shoot an outstanding 61 percent from the floor last season.

In iso situations, Graham is going to make the lives of all RMU forwards a living hell. RMU will have to try and do what a 2-3 zone is supposed to do best: clog the middle of the floor. If the colonials brings it defensively, it should be difficult for Graham, or anyone else, to work inside out offensively, which is what they want to do.

When Graham does get the ball, I’m interested to see what RMU does. Junior guard Zach Kocur shot 47.0 percent from three last season, 12th best in the country last season. Sophomore guard Matt Mooney shot 37.8 percent. As stated before, Lyons was at 41.8 percent from downtown. None of those guys are shooting well now, but it’s only a matter of time.

The larger point in all this is Robert Morris is going to get a nice test of discipline on defense, which has obviously been a big problem this year. RMU has given up 102.8 points-per-100-possessions in three games, which ranks them in the bottom third of the country. Opponents have a 60.1 percent effective field goal percentage this year, which is almost dead-last in college basketball.

The mission: make it difficult to get it to Graham, and when he does get it, NEVER LEAVE THE CORNER SHOOTER. Ever. Don’t do it. RMU will have to roll the dice with Andre Frederick, Billy Giles and a little of Aaron Tate one-on-one defensively. Tate played just five minutes against Bucknell Wednesday, and I wouldn’t expect to see a whole lot of him Sunday.

On the contrary, RMU should be able to get buckets against the Falcons. They’re not a bad defensive team (opponents have an effective shooting percentage of just 43.3 percent) but they don’t force turnovers and they don’t rebound well. RMU will have to take care of the ball, but if they do, I don’t see how Air Force will have an answer for guys like Kavon Stewart, Rodney Pryor and Elijah Minnie.

One final thing: No one wants to talk about it, but the March version of RMU will thank the much younger, much stupider November version if they can win these next two games against Air Force and New Mexico State. It would go a long way to potentially getting off the 16 seed line.

Prediction: RMU wins their next five.

Outlook: I feel good. Really good. RMU 77, Air Force 71

–Chris Cappella


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