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December 22, 2013

Game Day: Robert Morris at Oakland

Over the next five games, Robert Morris will travel 5,572 miles, a trek that takes them to Rochester, Stillwater, Tuscaloosa, Smithfield and Fairfield. They'll hit Michigan, Oklahoma, Alabama, Rhode Island and Connecticut, a sampling of over half the country.

In two of the five games, Robert Morris will be a severe underdog, as Oklahoma State and Alabama have no intention of allowing Robert Morris to grab another statement win.

Game 13: Oakland
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WHEN: December 22, 1:00 p.m.
WHERE: Athletics Center O'Rena
TV/RADIO: Video - Horizon League Network (free online), 1320 WJAS AM (Radio)
YAHOO! SPORTS RPI RANKINGS: Oakland 145, Robert Morris 220
KENPOM RANKINGS: Oakland 147, Robert Morris 188
PROJECTED OAKLAND STARTERS: Corey Petros (6'10, 260, RJr.), Tommie McCune (6'8, 205, RSo.), Duke Mondy (6'4, 205, RSr.), Travis Bader (6'5, 190, RSr.), Khalil Felder (5'9, 180, Fr.)
PROJECTED ROBERT MORRIS STARTERS: C Mike McFadden (6'8, 220, Sr.), F Jeremiah Worthem (6'6, 215, Fr.), F Lucky Jones (6'5, 195, Jr.), G Karvel Anderson (6'2, 190, Sr.), G Anthony Myers-Pate (5'11, 170, Sr.)

The other three won't be easy, including the two road games that open Northeast Conference play. No NEC game can be taken for granted, and Bryant and Sacred Heart will pose plenty of problems.

But all four of those contests happen later. Up first is Oakland, and while the Golden Grizzlies are 3-10, their record is a misnomer. Oakland, regular contenders in the Horizon League and an occasional NCAA Tournament team, has played one of the toughest schedules in the country. Oakland opened the season against North Carolina, UCLA, Gonzaga and California, then had another 3-game stretch against Ohio (which they won), Indiana and Michigan State. In between, the Grizzlies have faced a handful of quality mid-majors.

That's the hornets nest that Robert Morris walks into Sunday afternoon, another test for Andrew Toole's recently installed zone and the fragile psyche of his Colonials.

"They have veteran guys who follow their plan and understand their roles really well," Toole said. "They run a ton of stuff offensively to get shooters open looks."

The primary one-on-one battle will be a 3-point showdown between Karvel Anderson, who is connecting on 48 percent of his threes, and Oakland's Travis Bader, who has made the most 3-pointers of anyone in the country. Where Anderson is more efficient, Bader is more aggressive.

And that's only part of the show. Robert Morris will also have to contend with pickpocket Duke Mondy, who also has a tendency to find a way to score everywhere on the floor.

"He's always kind of in a rover type situation where he's getting his hands on so many balls, it's crazy," Toole said.

Six-foot-10 center Corey Petros will be the third weapon deployed against Robert Morris' defense, a sizable force that RMU doesn't really have a true counter for. Toole recognizes the challenge, adding that Oakland has other shooters that spread out the floor to free up Petros inside.

So begins Robert Morris' month-long trek around college basketball. The friendly confines of the Sewall Center will be nothing but the occasional practice facility. And in the process, they'll get a pretty good sense of where they stand as a basketball team.

ColonialsCorner publisher Andrew Chiappazzi can be reached at achiappazzi@yahoo.com.

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