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December 30, 2013
Game Day: Robert Morris at Oklahoma State
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Perhaps it's a good thing that Robert Morris head coach Andrew Toole seems to have a solid relationship with assistant Mike Byrnes.
After all, it's Byrnes' job to set up Robert Morris' schedule every year. And it's that schedule that has been a thorn in Toole's side as RMU has tried to find some stability as 2013 comes to a close.
Robert Morris wraps up its non-conference schedule with a trek to Oklahoma State Monday night and a trip to Alabama on Saturday. It's very possible that the Colonials will go 0-2 in their final non-conference games, giving them a 5-10 record prior to NEC play.
Robert Morris loves tough schedules, but this particular one has Toole wondering if it was a little too difficult.
"I like the challenge but I'd like there to be a little more forgiveness. A lot of the teams we've played, regardless of buy games, you have to play really well to win those games," Toole said. "I'm not necessarily asking for it to be easy, but I don't know what game we were favored in. Maybe Savannah State and Campbell, but that's about it."
Perhaps not coincidentally, Robert Morris won both of those games. They also beat Lafayette and Duquesne on the road and Texas-Arlington at home. Robert Morris has losses to Eastern Michigan, Kentucky, Cleveland State, Buffalo, Delaware, Youngstown State, Toledo and Oakland. Those teams have a combined record of 61-39, and every game except Toledo was on the road.
Toole's thought is that a slightly more balanced schedule might have been a bit more palatable considering Robert Morris had so many moving parts entering the season. But it's easier said than done. Robert Morris' reputation and past RPI makes mid-major opponents uneasy about scheduling the Colonials, although it makes RMU attractive for buy games.
But even with scheduling buy games, such as Monday's tussle against Oklahoma State, Toole and Robert Morris are trying to find to balance.
"A lot of it is based on the availability of dates, the availability of the guarantee, which unfortunately is part of what goes into it," Toole said.
"You try to find a little bit of balance. You don't want to play three teams who are in the top five in the country," he added. Then he chuckled and said, "We'll just play two of those in Oklahoma State and Kentucky."
So as Robert Morris winds down its non-conference schedule against two heavily favored major conference opponents, Toole has two goals on his mind. A win is always preferred, even if it's unlikely, but Toole is most interested in seeing how his team handles certain situations.
"I'm looking for some continued toughness. There are going to be times in these games, because of the opponent, where there will be uncomfortable situations," Toole said. "We've shown flashes of it. We've shown possessions of it and halves of it, but not enough to be where we want to be."
And that, more than the schedule, is why Robert Morris is looking for a few answers heading into 2014.
ColonialsCorner publisher Andrew Chiappazzi can be reached at email@example.com.
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