#131 Robert Morris Men's Basketball 2015-2016 Preview

Robert Morris Colonials

2015-2016 Overall Rank: #131
Conference Rank: #1 NEC

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After so many close calls and good teams, Robert Morris finally made it back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010. They started in Dayton as part of the First Four and fell behind against North Florida. Down by more 13 early in the second half, the Colonials rallied to pick up a tournament win. The victory put RMU in the bracket opposite of Duke. For a while the Colonials were able to hang around with the Blue Devils and a few viewers clicked over early in the second half to hope for an epic upset over a #1 seed, but RMU ended up losing 85-56. It was now-senior guard Rodney Pryor who sparked the comeback against UNF and kept his team in the game for a while against Duke. The 6-5 Evanston, Illinois native led the team with 15.6 points per game and knocked down 42.9 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc. With a few key departures, this will be Pryor’s team to lead back to the NCAA Tournament.

2014-15 Record: 20-15, 12-6
2014-15 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Andrew Toole
Coach Record: 110-66 at Robert Morris, 110-66 overall

Who’s Out:
As is often the case, the departure that is going to hurt Robert Morris the most is the one that is a surprise. Marquise Reed opted to transfer to Clemson after earning NEC Freshman of the Year accolades. He was second on the team with 15.6 points per game and added 2.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.9 steals. Reed could knock down outside shots, but he was most effective attacking the basket. Replacing his production would not have been easy even if Coach Andrew Toole knew it was coming, but his absence leaves a big hole on the wing now too. Speaking of wings, Lucky Jones was a good one also. During his senior season he averaged 14.3 points per game and led the team with 5.9 rebounds. At 6-6 and 210 pounds, his ability to play either forward spot was a big plus for the Colonials. David Appolon, a 6-4 guard, spent most of his senior season coming in off of the bench. He averaged 6.0 points per game and was another decent rebounder in the backcourt.

Who’s In:
The idea originally behind this recruiting class was to add size now and bring in some guards for the future. With Reed gone, the future is now for the four backcourt freshmen. Jordan Lester is a little guard who can find a way to get to the basket and Steven Whitley, at 6-4 and 210 pounds, has the typical size that Robert Morris likes to have on the perimeter. However, it is Matty McConnell and Isaiah Still who are most likely to make an impact this year. McConnell, brother of former Arizona Wildcat T.J., is a scoring point guard who can play at either guard spot. Not only is he good enough to be the backup point guard as a freshman, he could also be the starting shooting guard. Still is more in the mold of Jones, a big 6-6 guard who can help on the glass and potentially slide over to the four spot when Coach Toole wants to play small. Still has a long way to go before being as productive as Jones, but he has plenty of potential. At 6-7 and 200 pounds, fellow freshman Joe Hugley can add some size and a shot blocking threat to the roster. For now, the expectations will be higher for junior college transfer Billy Giles. Giles is a shot blocker too and led the NJCAA Division I in rebounding with 14.9 per game. At 6-7 and 185 pounds, he is not a traditional big man, but in the NEC he will be an effective scorer and rebounder.

Who to Watch:
Since Robert Morris basically had four guards on the floor much of last season, it is easy to say the frontcourt was not big enough. However, this team does have some size. The most promising big man is Elijah Minnie. The 6-8, 210 pound forward averaged 6.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game as a freshman. Not much was expected from Minnie, but he turned into a consistent starter by the end of his first season in Moon Township, Pennsylvania. He was playing very well at the end of the year too, scoring 14 points and grabbing nine rebounds against St. Francis Brooklyn in the NEC Tournament Final and adding 12 points and ten rebounds against UNF in the NCAA Tournament. Aaron Tate was his usual starting mate in the frontcourt. Tate is undersized at just 6-5, but he is a big 230 pounds and can at least hit the glass effectively. With Lionel Gomis, Andre Frederick and Stephan Bennett all at least 6-8, there are plenty of options. Bennett started 21 games back in 2013-2014 before spending most of last season coming in off of the bench. Starting or not, Bennett is an experienced option off of the bench even if his scoring and rebounding numbers are not all that impressive.

Final Projection:
Kavon Stewart stepped into the starting point guard role as a sophomore last year and did not disappoint. He dished out 4.6 assists per game and only committed 2.5 turnovers. He is not a big time scoring threat, but Stewart will keep this team under control and play solid defense too. The big hole is beside him in the backcourt. Pryor can knock down shots, but this team needs another shooter. If the freshmen can step up and handle that role, this will be the team to beat in the Northeast Conference.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Kavon Stewart, Junior, Guard, 6.1 points per game
Matt McConnell, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Rodney Pryor, Senior, Guard, 15.6 points per game
Aaron Tate, Senior, Forward, 3.8 points per game
Elijah Minnie, Sophomore, Forward, 6.8 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 69.0 (133rd in nation, 3rd in conference)
Scoring Defense: 68.5 (235, 5)
Field-Goal Percentage: 44.3 (113, 2)
Field-Goal Defense: 43.1 (183, 4)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.3 (183, 6)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 37.5 (57, 1)
Free-Throw Percentage: 70.9 (106, 3)
Rebound Margin: -2.9 (287, 8)
Assists Per Game: 12.2 (200, 4)
Turnovers Per Game: 13.3 (248, 6)


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