Final Stretch

Well, here we are once again. The final stretch of the regular season. This time of year is what makes college basketball great.

Robert Morris picked up a huge win Saturday at FDU, as Rodney Pryor poured in 27 points (his first 20 + outing since January 7th) and RMU got the stops needed to pull out the win. FDU was in first place, and RMU completed the season sweep. The win tells me one thing. The team isn’t done yet, and in their eyes, has just as good a chance as any to get hot, and win the NEC tournament.

Isiah Still was suspended the past two games (athletic department policy). He’ll miss one more on Thursday before returning Saturday for the team’s final home game against St. Francis Brooklyn.

Since the dismissal of Elijah Minnie, Robert Morris has played with ton of energy, at least compared to where they have been for most of the season. This is not to say that Elijah was the problem, but more that his dismissal caught everyone’s attention.

Saturday’s win marked maybe the most impressive performance from the team as a whole in NEC play. They were good defensively (ignore the points scored, FDU is the NEC’s best offensive team and RMU got a ton of big stops) and the offense looked solid.

Giles has picked his play up of late.
(p/c Times Online)

Pryor looked like the guy that helped RMU win their first NEC tournament in the Toole era last season. He scored 27 points, was aggressive, and carried the team for long stretches. Pryor took 19 shots, and that is a very good number. RMU just doesn’t have the horses around him this year for Pryor to score an efficient 15 points like we saw much of last year. The concussion set him back, but maybe Saturday is a sign of things to come.

Billy Giles is the best post-up big RMU has had in some time. I really can’t remember the last time RMU had a big (a true center) that you could throw it to on the block, and get consistent offense (Rob Robinson?). He is really coming into his own now, as he has dropped double digit points in four straight after his 18 point game Saturday (on 9-11 shooting too).

So now what?

Well, RMU has two more home games against the Brooklyn schools before a tough two game road trip at Wagner and Sacred Heart. They will get Still back after the LIU game, and should get good preparation for their first round road game with those final two tough games.

In terms of NEC tournament position, a lot could happen. The good news? Bryant continues to stink, and CCSU is done. I would be shocked if RMU missed the tournament as they have a two game lead on Bryant with only four to play, and own the tiebreaker. The Bulldogs also have a very tough four games.

Now, just how high can the Colonials get? This home stand will go a long way in determining just that. They trail LIU and SFBK (who ironically play each other today at 1pm on ESPNU), but play both of them at home. Win those two games, and 6th place is in hand.

NOTE: If LIU loses today at St. Francis, they would be tied with RMU at 6-8 and the Colonials won the first game in Brooklyn. 

Over these next four games, the defense needs to continue to gel and mesh (there isn’t a whole lot of time left, but improvements on this end are needed if RMU is to compete for the NEC tournament crown). If RMU can continue to get excellent play from Giles, Still, and Pryor while the supporting cast plays their role, they can compete with any team in the conference.

It has no doubt been a TOUGH season. A program that is use to 20 win season’s is all but certain to lose 20 games this year. With all that said, March is almost here. And if there is one thing March brings, it’s a second chance to make every practice, game, and lesson all worth it.

–Lee Kunkel


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