March Madness doesn’t officially start for a couple weeks, but for Robert Morris it starts now.
Andy Toole’s squad starts a season-defining, three-game stretch starting tonight when they host Mount St. Mary’s at the UPMC Events Center.
Robert Morris enters tonight’s game with a 11-4 NEC conference record which is tied for second place with St. Francis University. However, with Merrimack being ineligible to participate in the NEC postseason tournament, Robert Morris and St. Francis are tied for the top spot.
Despite losing to St. Francis on Tuesday, Robert Morris still controls their own destiny in terms of being the top seed in the conference tournament and guaranteeing themselves at least a spot in the NIT. If RMU wins their final three regular season games, they will earn the top spot and a berth in some national postseason tournament.
The fact that the Colonials are even in this position is a surprise to some considering they were picked to finish fifth in the preseason NEC Coaches Poll but it hasn’t surprised Ryan Peters, NEC Insider and contributor to NEC Sports.
“I’m not surprised because I picked them third back in September,” Peters said Pittsburgh Sports Now. “I felt like continuity is a big thing especially on the offensive end and with this team bringing back the Williams brothers, Charles Bain, Dante Treacy and Sayveon McEwen, I felt they had the continuity to take a step up offensively. And you then throw in the hype of AJ Bramah and at the time, DJ Russell, I think were guys that a lot of coaches saw as impact junior college players.
“I looked at all of that and thought that Robert Morris was going to be much better especially with the fact that a Andy Toole team always does well defensively. Given everything else around the league, I thought Robert Morris was primed for a top three finish and that’s what is certainly shaping up right now.”
With one week left in the season, it’s turning into a perfect scenario for Robert Morris, St. Francis and the NEC as the regular season championship likely won’t be decided until the final day of the regular season in the conference’s newest building.
“I think it’s going to come down to the final game and hopefully both teams are tied so their won’t be any tie-breakers involved,” said Peters. “Hopefully it’s a winner take all game and a winner take all atmosphere because that would be great theater for the league. These are two terrific programs these coaches have been able to main excellence with their respective programs. Hopefully, Robert Morris fans can fill up that arena for that game that should decide the regular season championship.”
Both teams need to win their next two games before this rematch for this game to keep its importance. If they do, Peters doesn’t believe St. Francis beating Robert Morris by 15 earlier this week will have any impact or give them any advantage going into the finale.
“I don’t think it’s going to be much of a factor but the success that Rob Krimmel has had over Andy Toole in the last four plus seasons. I think that game will come down to can Robert Morris make shots. In their four conference losses this season, Robert Morris has shot 24% from 3-point range. They really need to hit their outside shots, especially the Williams brothers. They obviously have the inside presence with Yannis Mendy, one of the best back to the basket players in the conference and AJ Bramah, who’s having a 1st team all-conference type seasons. If they can make some outside shots early and play with a lead early, something they weren’t able to do last game, I think it’ll be a battle.”