Robert Morris is quite literally taking on one of the worst teams in Division I basketball this evening, Central Connecticut State University. The Blue Devils are 1-16 on the year, with their lone win coming against UMASS-Lowell, a program just entering its third year of existence at the D-I level.
That’s not to say this a guaranteed victory, because there’s no such thing, especially in conference play, especially with this team in conference play.
Potential problems for the Colonials
-CCSU has nothing and everything to play for: No one is expecting CCSU to win this game. Why would they? They’re 1-16, squaring off against the defending conference champs. Because of this, you would really think this is a team that would play loose. What’s the worst that could happen?
To play off that point a little, although it’s still early, CCSU needs to win some games tomake any sort of push to make the NEC conference tournament. That combination of loose basketball and urgency is a dangerous mix.
–Talent shining through: You know who’s a good basketball player? Brandon Peel. I fckin love Brandon Peel. No matter his team’s record or score, he’s going to play his heart out. Having a forward that isn’t afraid to throw his body around or hustle presents a problem. Plus, he can play a little. Peel is ranked 92nd in the country in defensive rebounding percentage, shoots over 40 percent from the floor (which isn’t great, but is easy to understand when you look at the rest of the offense) and hits 70 percent of his free throws.
This will also be the first chance we get to see freshman shooting guard Austin Nehls. CCSU fans must look at Nehls like he’s an alien. “You mean he can actually shoot and score from long distances?” Yes, Nehls is shooting 38.5 percent from three on the year, averaging around six three-point attempts per game.
There’s also Jalil Nails, a freshman wing who is shooting 41.8 percent from three. Those two guys are literally the only players to worry about from three. RMU cannot afford to let them get going.
–CCSU is not afraid of Robert Morris: For a program that’s 5-42 in its last 47 games, they sure don’t play like it. Last year, RMU needed an Aaron Tate tip-in at the buzzer to win by one at home. The game at CCSU was a five point game with 10 minutes to go. The year before that, the Blue Devils staged a furious comeback in Moon Township, famously scoring 32 points in the games final 10 minutes, taunting the RMU crowd, starting the #FreeMark contest, all of this after I missed a half-court shot at halftime.
–Health: According to Chris Mueller, Rodney Pryor (concussion) is a game-time decision. If he can’t play, RMU could lose to anyone, he’s that important to the offense and rebounding.
Why RMU will win
–#MOmentum?: Did RMU find their mojo Saturday against FDU? Because it certainly seemed so. The team played loose and had fun on the floor. They had a ton of energy because of the way walk-on Conrad Stephens played. That needs to continue forward. I tend to think that momentum is a little overrated, especially trying to carry it over from a game almost a week ago, but this is a weird team.
–Talent levels: Yes, I love Peel, Nehls and Nails for CCSU, but none of those guys are better than Elijah Minnie, and I feel confident that talent wise, Matty McConnell and Isaiah Still are just as good as CCSU’s freshman guards.
–The matchup itself: CCSU is the only team that rebounds just as bad as Robert Morris! That’s a good thing. If I’m an RMU fan, I love the fact that CCSU struggles to force turnovers. Robert Morris, for as bad as they are offensively, should at least be able to get to wherever they want on the floor for good shots, because that’s what everyone else has been able to do. The Colonials should also benefit from CCSU’s high turnover percentage (20.6 percent). I feel a big game coming from Matty McConnell, who is very active defensively and could look to get to the rim a little more against some questionable defenders.
Prediction: Robert Morris 76, CCSU 60