NEC WEEK FOUR PRIMER

The craziness has started.

After St. Francis PA came into PPG and beat the Colonials fairly handily, and Wagner moved past Bryant with relative ease, we had a three way tie atop the NEC standings.

Then Saturday happened.

The Colonials took down FDU on the road (more on that shortly) and were the only team tied for the lead to hold serve. St. Francis had no answer for Junior Robinson, as the 5-5 guard scored 20 points including a game winning layup in OT to pull out a shocking win for Mount St. Mary’s.

Wagner meanwhile went on the road, to NYC rival LIU Brooklyn, and also lost on a bucket just before the buzzer, as Julian Batts hit a contested layup with 1.8 seconds left to give the Blackbirds the upset win.

So where do we stand?

RMU leads the pack at 5-1 despite falling last Thursday (more on that shortly too). Wagner, St. Francis PA, and MSM are all 4-2, while LIU Brooklyn and St. Francis Brooklyn not only share a borough, but a 3-3 NEC record too. Bryant pulls up the rear at 1-5, and certainly looks like they will be on the outside looking in, though Adam Grant is fantastic, and I’ll bet the Bulldogs shock a few teams this season. CCSU, Sacred Heart and FDU (2-4) currently look like the teams that will be battling for the final few NEC tournament spots. With all that said, early days still, as we have not yet hit the halfway marker.

About those Colonials: For the first time in NEC play, RMU got exposed. The defense this past weekend? Not good. (Omari Sankofa of the PG gives you the numbers). 89 points to SFPA, 75 to FDU. It needs to tighten up.

If Robert Morris is going to win the NEC, it’ll be on the back of it’s defense. The offense is much improved, but as we saw Thursday, they simply do not have the fire power to match a team like St. Francis PA, who will no doubt have a say in the title race. The Colonials still play at SFPA, and Mount St. Mary’s –who features the leagues second best offense– two more times. There is room for improvement, and time to get there.

That leads us into this weekends matchups. You want the number one seed? You have to win some road games in the league, especially against the bottom tier. I’m not sure Sacred Heart’s talent quantifies them as a “bad team” and their 4th ranked offense in the NEC will be a challenge for the above reasons. They also have some seriously talented big guys led by Joe Lopez. Their size will give RMU issues. However, they are 2-4 in the league, and not expected to challenge for a top four seed.

Oh, and there’s that followup road game at Wagner on Saturday.

RMU has built themselves a nice cushion with their solid start, but an upset loss Thursday, and the Colonials will be staring at a 3 of 4 L streak right in the eyes. That cushion wouldn’t be too comfy if the Colonials were to slip up to the Seahawks and go 0-2 on the road trip.

RMU Notes & Thoughts: I’ve followed RMU basketball for quite awhile now, and I can’t remember one player improving over the course of one offseason as much as Dachon Burke has improved. I’ve tweeted and wrote about this a few times, but man….

The kid went from “very good defender/okay slasher with potential,” to “I’m dropping 25 on you, willing my team to a tough road win, and oh yea, dunking in your face on the way.” Burke took over that game Saturday at FDU. We’ve now watched him play great basketball over the course of a few months, and I think that has overshadowed his improvement. It’s “normal” now. Some stats…

Burke is playing much more (eight minutes per-game), but shooting much better from the field (45 percent compared to 42, 35 percent from three compared to 31 percent). The three is a legit weapon, as he shot 44 for the season last year, and has already shot 70 this season. His rebounds are up over two per-game, assists up from .7 to 2.3, steals up from 1.5 to 2.1, and of course scoring is up from 7PPG to 17PPG. All of this, and we have to remember he is shooting much more difficult shots, way more often, by far the focal point of the opposing teams scouting report (compared to third, maybe fourth last season). It’s a testament to his hard work and development, and I’m going to continue to push Dachon Burke stats until the cows come home.

Lastly, Koby Thomas is a consistent jumper away from being so so so scary. He’s still attacking the rim with ferocity, and it’s awesome. Leondre Washington is going to score 50 in a game at some point in his career and it too will be awesome. Instant buckets (“have we mentioned they are both freshm…””YES LEE WE KNOW!!””oh okay cool.”). I really hope Malik Petteway is okay, but I’f I was a betting man, I would take the under on .5 games played the rest of the season. RMU is 195 in the KenPom rankings, Pitt is 205.

Elsewhere: I can’t wait to watch SFPA at Wagner. This game has major ramifications on the CtC Home team. Wagner has yet to lose at home (8-0), and host both St. Francis and RMU this weekend. Another one to keep an eye on Thursday? MSM plays at St. Francis Brooklyn. The Mount picked up that aforementioned HUGE win at St. Francis PA, and you have to wonder if that gets the defending champs going.

–Lee Kunkel
–@Kunkel5

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