Head Coach: Andy Toole, 3rd year (44-25)
Last Season: 26-11 (13-5 NEC), lost in the NEC finals to LIU, 90-73
NEC Preseason Coach’s Poll: 2nd out of 12 teams
State of Program: Win-now mode
Key Players Lost: Lawrence Bridges (3.8 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 57.6% FG%)
Incoming Players: Karvel Anderson (G), Vaughn Morgan (PF), Stephan Hawkins (PF)
Previous Posts: Robert Morris Recruiting Recap, RMU Prepares for Life After Velton Jones
Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Velton Jones (16.0 PPG, 2.8 APG, 4.8 APG, 1.8 SPG, 1.7 A/TO)
G: Coron Williams (10.8 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 41.0% 3PT%, 82.0% FT%)
F: Lucky Jones (8.5 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 1.2 SPG)
F: Vaughn Morgan (played junior college)
F: Mike McFadden (8.4 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 53.9% FG%)
Key Reserves: Russell Johnson (F), Karvel Anderson (G), Anthony Myers (PG), Stephan Hawkins (PF), Keith Armstrong (F)
- Getting Back to the Dance – Since Andy Toole has inherited this team, the Colonials have won 44 games and made two appearances in the NEC title game, in as many years. Not too shabby. It’s been one game, however, that has Robert Morris fans bitterly looking back at both seasons. Can the Colonials, who return their top 7 most efficient players and bring in 3 capable newcomers, finally get over the LIU hump? Winning the regular season title is the first step, since it would ensure home court advantage. This year it’s NCAA tournament or bust for Robert Morris.
- Strong Frontcourt Play – Overall, it’s one of the deepest rosters in the league, although that depth in the frontcourt will be tested early with the season-ending ACL tear of senior Lijah Thompson. Now, junior college transfer Vaughn Morgan slots into the starter role, and 6’9″ freshman Stephan Hawkins and sophomore Keith Armstrong will be leaned upon a little more. Along with Mike McFadden, can this group play well enough so Toole has the option to play big (with Morgan/Hawkins at power forward) or small (with Lucky Jones at power forward)? The emergence of the frontcourt newcomers could be critical in giving Toole some important lineup flexibility late in the season.
- Consistency Defending the Ball – One look at the defensive numbers indicate a stout Colonial defense. At 0.95 points allowed per possession last season, only Wagner was better in that regard. The problem is Robert Morris needs to defend more consistently. There were several periods last season where Toole’s squad would simply suffer from defensive lapses. The team can get away with the inconsistency against the bottom half of the league, but if they want to climb past LIU for the first time in three seasons, they’ll have to string it together for 40 minutes.
Lineup Analysis: As mentioned earlier, it’s been a fantastic run for a Colonials team ready to win now. Senior leader Velton Jones has one more season of eligibility and will look to return to the Big Dance for the second time in his career. The underrated Anthony Myers backs him up at the point, although both Jones and Myers can play on the floor together at certain points. Coron Williams and transfer Karvel Anderson will likely split duties at the “2”. Both are money behind the arch and will look to improve Robert Morris’ three-point shooting from a year ago. Sophomore Lucky Jones, coming off a freshman season where he finished in the top 15 in rebounding and steal rate, is primed for a breakout year, given his outside shot improves. Senior Russell Johnson will also play meaningful minutes at forward. The frontcourt is rather unproven, with Vaughn Morgan and Stephan Hawkins expected to replace Lawrence Bridge’s minutes. The 6’8″ Mike McFadden will anchor the “5”, and needs to improve his production. Overall, it’s a roster that’s still 9-10 deep, even without the services of Lijah Thompson. Most of the players should average 18-30 per game in an attempt to keep everyone fresh late in the season.
“He’s getting better each day and I think for him that’s the most important thing. I think he has to change his mindset a little bit in how hard he needs to play and how detailed he has to be. Because of his athletic ability, he’s been able to get by on his athletic ability, yet you’re not going to get much more athletic than Jamal Olasewere. So you better figure out if you’re going to match up with him, you better figure out how to play the game as well. He’s getting better, with Lijah [Thompson] out the spotlight shines on him a little bit brighter.”
– Toole on the development of Vaughn Morgan
“It’s definitely a huge advantage to host the [NEC title game]. It’s a huge advantage to have experience in that tournament. I think sometimes that’s why we’ve been able to get to four straight championship games, but you still have to perform in that game. And LIU has performed well the last two years.”
– Toole, on how important home court advantage and experience is when competing in the NEC tournament
Ryan – It’s no secret I’m on the Robert Morris bandwagon heading into Toole’s third season. Ken Pomeroy and Dan Hanner project the Colonials as the NEC champions too. Ultimately, I feel the LIU two game suspension will be just enough to give Robert Morris the regular season title. If that happens, everything goes through Moon Township, and I love their chances if that’s the case.
John – Robert Morris has a great young coach, a veteran leader in Velton Jones and all the pieces you want in a mid-major program on the rise. So why are they picked second? The Colonials can’t finish. It’ll be close. RMU might even win the regular season, but it’s wait till next year one more time in terms of an NCAA berth.
Previous NEC Team Capsules:
October 24: St. Francis (PA) Red Flash
October 25: Fairleigh Dickinson Knights
October 26: Bryant Bulldogs
October 29: Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers
October 30: Central Connecticut Blue Devils
October 31: Monmouth Hawks
November 1: Sacred Heart Pioneers
November 2: St. Francis (NY) Terriers
November 5: Quinnipiac Bobcats
November 6: Wagner Seahawks