Tiebreakers, momentum and the finale of The Chuck

By @C_Cappella & @Kunkel5

Chris: One last run at The Chuck! This much we do know: Robert Morris is going to be in the NEC tournament for the 14th consecutive year. Say what you want about having “down years” — 14 straight times in the NEC tournament is great stuff.  The second-longest streak after that is Wagner, with seven straight appearances.

We don’t know a whole lot about seeding. The Colonials are 7-9 in conference play with two games remaining, both at home. I’ll have my annual NEC tiebreakers piece out Wednesday night. We’ll get into that later.

Robert Morris is 7-9 and currently stands as the No. 8 seed. Sacred Heart (8-8), Bryant (8-8), FDU (9-7), and St. Francis PA (9-7) are all, theoretically, in striking distance.

It’s not possible for Robert Morris to get a home game in the NEC tournament, which means this weekend will be the final two games at the Charles L. Sewall Center. Lee… The Chuck might be a dump, but it’s our dump. That’s something us Mets fans always used to say about Shea Stadium. It’s our dump. I’m going to miss this place.

Lee: Yea man. Sewall will always be my first love. It’s like that old shitty car you learned to drive in. Sure you upgrade as life moves on, but you always remember that clunker. When I was a senior in high school, I was the biggest college hoops fan out there. I only applied to schools with D1 basketball. It was a must. When I visited RMU, the campus blew me away. The Chuck certainly did not, but I learned to love it. Let’s hope the boys close it out in style, and catch some nice MO heading into NEC tournament play.

Chris: MO-mentum, baby.

It’s been awhile. Let’s chat about some things. RMU closes the season with FDU on Thursday and Sacred Heart on Saturday. Not easy! FDU is the defending NEC champ and Sacred Heart is hot. They lost a one-point gamer to LIU last week to snap a five-game winning streak.

FDU… not so hot. They’ve been a weird team this season. Losing Earl Potts for all of non-conference play was a killer. It was a “wait and see” thing with them. Then he came back and the team played well until recently.

We’ve talked about this in the past, but I don’t think RMU, as a program, really fears FDU. Even last year, the Colonials beat them twice. RMU let one slip away (putting it lightly) to open conference season. I still like their team. Darnell Edge killed Robert Morris in game one, providing a small glimpse of what he would do to just about everyone in the NEC.

FDU isn’t a great defensive team, which really means nothing for how dreadful this offense is. How do you see things shaping out?

Lee: Chris, I think these are two great opportunities for RMU to play good, NEC tournament-level teams and get wins heading into the tournament. It’s one thing to in with a win streak over, say CCSU and St. Francis Brooklyn. I don’t think that does a lot for the confidence. Beating the defending champs, then a hot SHU team would do wonders. RMU is 4-2 in the month of February. It’s their best month of the year by a wide margin. The offense seems to have found some type of juice, though it is still below average. We talked all season about how good the defense is, and that remains. If RMU can grab two wins, head into March 6-2, and get up to, say the six seed (likely 7th), the league would certainly take notice. With that said, the team still lacks offensive fire power, and still really struggles at times (see second half at Bryant this past Thursday). These two games offer two final opportunities to work out the kinks and find some consistency

Chris: There’s a lot of recent history – and by a lot, I mean all of the history of NEC basketball – that being an eight seed means one-and-done. Even if playing Mount St. Mary’s as the No. 8 seed might not seem like the worst thing, it would be bad news. Who would you prefer to play?

Lee: Personally, I would like to avoid MSM at all costs. Yes, I think RMU can beat them (they should have the first time around!). But it’s the NEC version of wanting to play the Warriors round one. Why play the clear best team if you can avoid them? Give me LIU Brooklyn in the 2-7. You?

Chris: In a world of alternative facts, I’d like to think RMU is at LEAST 1-1 in games played against the Mount this year, if not 2-0.

I said this before the Wagner win and still believe it: I think on the floor, Wagner might be their worst matchup. Mount would probably be the toughest to play, and Wagner is probably the worst matchup. RMU did a really good job of getting big man Mike Aaman into foul trouble last time out, but the team still scored just 50 points. Fifty points probably isn’t winning you an NEC playoff game. That’s why I’d like to avoid St. Francis PA — I really don’t think RMU can score enough to keep up with them. Just by process of elimination, LIU-Brooklyn is probably what I would lean more towards too. I don’t really fear their guard play. Jerome Frink and Nura Zanna are a lot to handle, but you know Aaron Tate is going to fight like hell to slow them down. Don’t get it twisted though, if it’s RMU-Mount St. Mary’s in the 8 vs. 1, I like RMU’s chances. Maybe not to win, but that would be a dog fight.

Lee: Chris, before we go any further, I would like to explain to the 1.8 million readers here that we understand that this team has holes. They certainly are not the team to beat. But, as unbiased as we can, I think we both agree on a few core reasons why RMU can make a run. One, they have the league’s best defense. Teams simply don’t make threes against RMU. They are second-best in ALL OF COLLEGE BASKETBALL at defending the 3-point line. So they are in pretty much every game. Two, they have a senior point guard, and a wing who can score in bunches. Yes they rely on both WAYYYYY too much, but would it be that far-fetched to see them carry RMU in a few games, and score just enough points to win ugly? I don’t think so. I know we come off very bias when we talk about RMU beating these good teams, but I think if you polled most “NEC experts” RMU would be a trendy sleeper in conference tournament play. I think a lot of money would be on their odds if you were looking to win big on a small bet. Agree? Or are we just ROMO loving losers?

Chris: We’re just a more loud, braggadocious voice of what people really think — but I don’t think we’re necessarily a squeaky wheel. Is this what being a Patriots fan is like? I need to take a shower.

We can keep it real too. RMU’s been pretty damn successful for a decade now. I don’t think this team is good enough to win three in a row and earn a spot in the NCAA tournament. But I do think they’re capable of beating any of these tournament teams on a given night. That includes Mount St. Mary’s in a 1-8 matchup. Heck, look at how close they’ve been to doing it already. Weirder things have happened. When you play defense like this team does, you’re capable of being in any game.

Anyway, I wanted to finish where we started: with the Charles L. Sewall Center. I started at RMU in 2011. You two years before that. There were a lot of great moments in that place long before you and I got there. But I’m just going to focus on the moments that I was in-crowd for.

Obviously, Kentucky was the granddaddy of them all. I mean, nothing will ever, ever, ever top that. RMU could win a damn elite eight game and I’d still want to replay the Kentucky game. The place was bumpin’ hours before tip.

But my fondest memories were in some of those lesser games. We were cheering on the Colonials when the “student section” consisted of about 12 of us. I’ll always love the way the bleachers could literally bend if you jumped on them enough. I remember that 2012 game against LIU. That felt like a real revenge game. I wanted Jim Ferry’s head, and I wasn’t kidding. That RMU-LIU rivalry had real juice.

Those two years with Karvel Anderson were magical. There was a really special energy in the air when he got hot.

Lee: Agree. UK is the obvious number one. A few other games stick out. The Ohio matchup vs. DJ Cooper was great, and RMU took on a Cleveland State team that was stacked (I also made a halfcourt shot for free books that game. Yay me). Both wins, both packed houses. When that place was even 75 percent full, it was hot, loud, and one of the best home court advantages in the NEC. I personally never saw RMU lose to Duquesne there, and that included an ass kicking to Pittsburgh’s own TJ McConnell, who I now love. There was a reason high majors and good programs didn’t want to come there. RMU was so tough at home. I believe that LIU game was an ESPNU game, and the Chuck was Packed.

Also of note. As a sports fan, we all have those L’s that hurt so much. The toughest one I’ve ever taken, RMU vs. MSM, NEC semifinal my senior year. Of course at the time I had no idea we would get UK, but man that one stung so deep. I’ve shared a lot of emotion in the Chuck, that’s for sure.

Chris: Yeah man. RMU lost NEC tournament home games against the Mount in back-to-back years. In 2013, I don’t think I moved for about an hour after the game. I walked back to my apartment after the game. That was a terrible feeling. But like all things in life, the longer the wait, the sweeter the glory.

Probably the best thing about the Chuck was how easy it was to sneak in Gatorade bottles of Orange Burnett’s. Shout out to that. Shout out to the Chuck. We’ll miss you.

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