NEC WEEK TWO PRIMER

What a start! Robert Morris used a big second half last Thursday after a sluggish start to propel themselves to a 1-0 start with a win over Bryant, and followed that up with an absolutely dominating performance over Central Connecticut State. The Blue Devil’s –fresh off an upset of preseason number one St. Francis PA– were overwhelmed start to finish.

Some thoughts on the past weekend.

Dachon Burke remains an absolute stud. He is the main cog on both ends of the court, and plays such an efficient game. It’s been a true pleasure watching him go from good role player, to all conference good in less than a year. 15 against Bryant, 16 against CCSU, 15 of 25 overall in the two games, and he seems to have that ability to take over when his team needs it. He turned that gas on 2nd half vs the Bulldogs.

How about Charles Bain! We know Burke, Koby Thomas and Matty McConnell are going to be the top three options, but each night RMU needs someone else to get them some buckets and play well. Bain did that Saturday, playing the best game of his career. He scored 18 off the bench, 7-10 overall, and 3-4 from downtown. You can see his confidence growing.

Malik Petteway returned to action on Sunday after missing the past two games. He injured his foot/ankle, but it happened at the right time. Petteway did not play for 11 days, but RMU had some time off with the holiday’s. With Malik back, and Ronnie Gombe playing well, it appears Toole has his top two bigs figured out. I’m sure David Cole will get time, but he’ll have to earn back a significant role. He only played four minutes against CCSU.

KenPom has taken notice to the Colonials recent good play. RMU is up to 203 in the rankings, and with a win over SFBK, will likely break into the top 200. RMU started the season 321 and fell as far as 324. Quite a rise over the past few weeks.

The slate: RMU starts week two of action in the game of the week. 2-0 St. Francis Brooklyn comes to town, the talk of the league, after winning their first two games that included a W over Wagner. Prior to those two wins, SFBK was 1-9 against D1 competition. The Terriers were picked by just about everyone, myself included, to finish outside of the top eight. There is a long way to go, but winning their first two games is a great start, and a major surprise. KenPom gives RMU an 80 percent chance to win, and favors them by nine. Robert Morris should be able to hold the Terriers offense in check. They are ranked 316th in offensive efficiency despite the hot start in the NEC. As long as RMU takes care of the ball, gets out and runs –the are the much more athletic team– they should have no issues tonight.

Saturday the Blackbirds come into town. They are off to a 1-1 start, 6-9 overall. Led by  Joel Hernandez –an All Conference level player– they are a threat every night. The Blackbirds play at St. Francis PA on Thursday, so they could be 1-2 and desperate for a win. As we’ve had to do all season, I had to check where these two games are being played. Thursday’s tilt will be played at the A.J. PALUMBO CENTER, while Saturday’s will be at PPG.

Elsewhere in the NEC, Mount St. Mary’s will look to get their first win after a tough 0-2 start. They play Bryant at home Thursday before welcoming CCSU on Saturday. It’s early but Mount really needs at worst a split if they want to maintain pace with the top of the conference. An 0-4 start would mean trouble for the defending champs.

Sacred Heart plays at Wagner Thursday as the Seahawks look to bounce back from that disappointing loss at SFBK. On Saturday Wagner welcomes FDU in what will surely be an exciting game in the rematch of the 2016 NEC title game. If St. Francis BK can upset RMU, they’ll be going for a 4-0 start at St. Francis PA.

–Lee Kunkel
–@Kunkel5

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