Game 1: Robert Morris (0-0) vs. Penn (0-0)
When: Friday, Dec. 12 at 7 p.m.
Where: Charles L. Sewall Center
KenPom: RMU 299, Penn 231
KenPom line: Penn -1
Link: NECFrontRow.com and ESPN 970 AM
Storyline: ASJKFHB ERGTKSDF BASKETBALL!
We’ve got a rematch from last year’s season opener at Penn. If you don’t remember, the Colonials lost that game after a Rodney Pryor jumper at the buzzer hit back iron. Robert Morris lost 76-75. They would lose 21 more games over the next five months.
So, about Penn. The Quakers went 11-17 in Steve Donahue’s first season. Those 11 wins were the most they’ve had since 2012. Not a lot of people expect Penn to compete for the Ivy League title but the expectations are rising. They return most of last year’s team.
It starts with Matt Howard, the 6-foot-4 senior small forward who averaged around 13 points and 6 rebounds per game last season. Does that name sound familiar? It would be because he scored 16 points on 7 of 11 shooting in last year’s opener.
Junior power forward Sam Jones added 21 points in last year’s victory. Jones led the team in three-point attempts last season (163).
Let’s talk about three point shooting for a minute. Penn wasn’t very good at it last season. As a team, they shot 30.4 percent from downtown, good for 322nd in the country. Their best shooter from deep is shooting guard Jackson Donahue (no relation to the coach).
The three ball is apparently a point of emphasis for Penn this season. They added community college transfer Caleb Wood, who is supposed to make a big impact. Also, we get to see our old friend Matt McDonald! Hi Matt! McDonald transferred out of Fairleigh Dickinson before last season.
I feel like we’ve written ad nauseum about RMU’s three-point shooting. They stunk at it last year. They have to be better this year.
Wanna know something? I really don’t think this is a bad matchup for the Colonials. We’re gonna get our first looks at guys like Lorenzen Wright Jr., Dachon Burke, Braden Burke and Clive Allen. Over the course of the season, I think all of these guys will play an important role on the team. Immediately, I think Wright and Dachon Burke could see some serious minutes because of their versatility and length as small forwards.
The Colonials did a good job on the boards against Penn last season. There’s potential to do it again. Last year’s starting center for Penn, Darian Nelson-Henry, graduated. That guy was a complete animal. With him gone and RMU adding Aaron Tate and Roberto Mantovani and returning Billy Giles, I feel good about that.
I don’t think I’m re-writing the perils of analytics when I say this game will come down to three point shooting. It’s certainly a big focus for Penn. They have some guys who are capable to do so. On the Robert Morris side, Andy Toole knows where he made his bread and butter. RMU’s teams of the past were great because of their ability to shoot from three. If they want to reach that level again, they have to make a big jump from downtown.
I feel good! Maybe it’s my amnesia of last season. I don’t know. I just like the matchup. We’ll see how the new guys respond.
Prediction one: There will be at least three times where I go “who the hell is that?”
Prediction two: The over/under on “Andy Toole played at Penn” references is set at 6.5.
Prediction three: Robert Morris 75, Penn 72