With just over a week until tip-off, college basketball is practically here. Chris has hit you guys with a few nice preview pieces covering the Colonials and other topics around the NEC. We’ll have our preview and predictions out soon as well.
The guys over at NYC Buckets have also had a ton of great coverage leading up to November 11th. Be sure to check it out.
How will Robert Morris rebound for their first down season in ages? RMU had not finished under .500 since 2005! It’s been awhile since we’ve entered a season coming off that much disappointment. The Colonials stunk last year. There’s no way around that.
Injuries/youth and what seemed to be more off the court issues held RMU down. They started the season 0-6, and never really recovered. They grabbed the last seed in the NEC tournament, and were bounced from the first round by the regular season champs, the Wagner Seahawks.
It was the first time in the Andy Toole era that RMU didn’t win a game in the postseason tournament, and there were many other Toole era first’s, none of which were all too positive.
But….. it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Freshman Isiah Still drilled a game tying three at New Mexico State (RMU lost a tough one in OT) and came on strong as the season moved along. The Colonials swept the league champ and 2016/17 preseason favorite FDU. After a 1-4 start in the NEC, they closed the season with a winning record, going 7-6.
So now what? Well nobody is all too sure, but I’m excited to see where this team goes. Let’s start with he big guys.
The frontcourt gives me a lot of optimism (not every area of the roster instills such confidence). Billy Giles was one of a few bright spots last season. Aaron Tate is back. That’s a fantastic duo, especially on the boards. Those two will likely start, but it’s the newcomers that really have me intrigued.
Roberto Mantovani is a big boy. There will be plenty of nights that he is the largest man on the court. That never happens for a guy in a Colonial uniform. Can he adjust to the mental speed and physical speed of D1 ball? We’ll see, but I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do with his size and strength.
The other two newcomers –freshmen Braden Burke and David Cole— ooze potential.
Burke is listed at 6-11 and his high school tape shows a ton of touch and skill around the basket. He could be the next “how the hell did Andy Toole get this guy to RMU,” type player. Cole looks like another bruiser, though I have yet to personally see a ton of him.
One area of concern….how will all these pieces fit into Andy Toole’s defense? Last season, RMU once again played a lot of zone defense, primarily the 2-3 zone. The D was not the team’s issue either, giving up 104 points-per-100 possessions. That was 183rd nationally. For perspective the Colonials finished 172nd, 198th, 173rd the previous three seasons. (Offensively, RMU had a major drop off, but will get to that later).
In 16, we saw Giles anchor the zone. The year prior Tate anchored in the middle. Burke and Cole really aren’t wings. Mantovani certainly isn’t. It will be very interesting who plays, how the minutes break down, and what combinations Toole will use on the court at the same time. The zone should have more overall protection in the paint, but will Toole concede athleticism on the wins to get multiple bigs on the court at once? That will be something to track early on.
Overall, the front court should be an area of strength for RMU. Size is not an issue, either is depth. There are some very good vets in Giles and Tate. Freshmen who look ready to make an impact in Cole and Burke, and a wildcard in Mantovani who could be a dominate force in the NEC.
How Toole uses these pieces will go a long way in deciding if RMU can get back to their winning ways.