Litmus Test

Game 15:
RMU (5-9, 1-0 NEC) @ Fairleigh Dickinson (3-9, 1-0 NEC)
When: Saturday, December 31, 2016, 3:00 p.m.
Where: Stratis Arena, Hackensack, N.J.
KenPom:  RMU 252, FDU 288
KenPom Line: FDU -2
Radio: ESPN 970 AM and 106.7 FM

So, just how good is RMU? Have they figured some things out? Do they know how to consistently wear teams down and close out games?

We’ll have a better idea in a few hours.

The Colonials, fresh off back-to-back wins over Buffalo (PPG Arena) and at Sacred Heart look to move to 2-0 in NEC play before they even open up their NEC home slate.  The Colonials will close out 2016 at FDU, the defending champs who opened up their conference schedule with a fairly easy win over St. Francis PA.

On Thursday, the Colonials played a tremendous 2nd half, led by sophomore Isaiah Still who dropped 22 in route to the win. The defense was suffocating, the offense attacked the rim and drew contact –and most important– limited turnovers. The defense remains one of the best in the country, ranked 97th in the country per KenPom. The Colonials also have the 6th best TO percentage on that end. They really get after it in the man-to-man and force teams into mistakes.

The offense remains an issue, but things are picking up on that end. Kavon Stewart is starting to score and create more, and guys like Aaron TateBilly Giles, Clive Allen and Dachon Burke have stepped up. It also hasn’t hurt that Lorenzen Wright Jr. has gone 5-7 from three over the last two games. RMU could really use his shooting to continue.  It spreads the defense out, and allows RMU’s guards to attack the rim.

The Knights come into the tilt just 3-9 on the season, but a lot of that is due to a tough non-conference schedule. They showed they are still a force to reckon with Thursday, taking care of SFU with ease. Earl Potts, who missed most of the season, played 30 minutes in that game and scored seven points. He struggled to shoot it, but having him back is a huge lift, even if he needs some time to shake off the rust.

Darian Anderson leads the way at 19 per-game and his back court mate Stephan Jiggetts is no slouch, scoring 13 per-game. The Knights were one of the better offensive clubs in the NEC last season, and that will remain true this season.

While FDU won the NEC tournament, RMU continued to have success against them, winning both games and extending their win streak to 17 games(!!!!!) over the Knights. If the Colonials want to make it 18, they’ll need to keep FDU off the boards a little better than they did against SHU, who murdered them.  FDU has been one of the worst defensive teams in the country, ranked an abysmal 344th in the country by KenPom. RMU should have their opportunities to continue their offense surge.

I really like this matchup for RMU. Like last season, RMU should be able to get enough stops to produce a win. The question with this group is usually on offense. Can they score enough? Given how bad the FDU defense is, RMU should have a good chance at making it 18 in a row, and more importantly heading home 2-0 in conference play.

–Lee Kunkel


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