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

Header p/c John Minchillo/Associated Press

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