The Colonials take on Wagner in Staten Island, New York in the first round of the NEC quarterfinals. Robert Morris, the eighth seed, will look to pull off the upset and become the first team to ever reach the NCAA tournament as a #8 seed. Anybody can beat anybody in this conference, and that's the beauty of it. You just never know. Let's take a look at what Robert Morris needs to do in order to come out victorious. Here are five keys for the Colonials:
1. Matty McConnell needs to put the ball in the basket. Everyone knows McConnell plays with such heart and passion, and it certainly shows on the court. He hustles, plays great defense and is a vocal leader. With that being said, offensively, he's really been struggling as of late. His shots just aren't falling. Shooters go through slumps all the time. Here's the problem: Outside of Rodney Pryor, the scoring with this team has been inconsistent and you just never know where the offense will come from. McConnell gives the Colonials the ability to spread the floor, which is always a good thing when you have a quick, versatile PG, such as Kavon Stewart. Even last week against Wagner, towards the end of game, although Matty struggled shooting the ball most of the game, he hit a couple of late shots. Wagner will be focused on Rodney Pryor, Kavon Stewart and Isaiah Still. If McConnell can get going, it only increases the chances for the Colonials.
2. Rebounding. I know this is broad, but it's true. Close games are usually always decided with defense and rebounding. I'm not saying Robert Morris has to win the rebounding battle, but if they keep it close enough to where it can't hurt them, then they should be in good shape. That starts with Billy Giles. Giles has been playing the five all year long. He is very undersized, but that hasn't stopped him from playing good basketball. He's looked dominate at times, and he will have to do whatever he can on the glass in order to limit Wagner's second chance opportunities. Andre Frederick will also have to give some spark minutes off the bench. He's been inconsistent, but we've seen flashes of Dre that make you say, "this kid can really be a force defensively." He needs to step up and play some tough basketball.
3. Tempo. I'm looking at you, #3! Junior point guard Kavon Stewart has now played in two NEC championship games. He's experienced. He knows what has to be done in order to advance in the tournament. When Stewart is in control, he's arguably the best passing PG in the conference. His vision was impressive his freshman season and to this day, that remains the same. When Kavon tries to do too much is when things start to go south. At this point, he knows what he can and can't do and down the stretch, he's played some exceptional basketball. I've said this before and I'll say it again: Robert Morris doesn't win against Bryant in last years semis without Kavon playing the way he did. Andy Toole needs his point guard to play with confidence. Will he? I hope so. I like the matchup when JoJo Cooper is one on one with Stewart. From what I've seen, Kavon can pretty much take him off the dribble in multiple ways. Kavon Stewart is ket and is the x factor to this team. The Colonials will go as he does.
4. TRUST. Coach Andy Toole has talked all year about how his players tend to only care about themselves sometimes. They want to be the one to score. The Colonials have played some of their best basketball when they move the ball and trust one another to make the shot. Sometimes guys will sulk if they don't get a pass they think they should get, and it shows on the court. It effects the chemistry and in college basketball, you can't be worried about previous possessions. You have to be worried about the present. Nobody is going to feel sorry for you, and you certainly can't feel sorry for yourself. The one thing I loved about last years team was the trust between Kavon, Marcqusie, Pryor and Lucky Jones. Camaraderie is more important than you may think. Just watch the Spurs.
5. Rodney Pryor. This one should come as no surprise. If Rodney Pryor truly and wholeheartedly believes he can play in the NBA, than he needs to shine tonight. Pryor is a beast, we know this. A few years ago, we saw Karvel Anderson singlehandedly carry the Colonials all the way to championship game. Pryor needs to have that effect on this team. He is capable of scoring 30 points on any given night against ANY team in the country. I have a good feeling about him in tonights game, I just hope he proves me right. If the Colonials lose tonight, than this season will be viewed as a "rebuilding" year. Pryor is a senior and I'm sure he wants to go down as one of the greats this program has ever seen. This year is not lost. Every team as a clean slate. The first one to win three in a row wins. If the Colonials somehow reach the championship game, than this season will be remembered differently than if they lost tonight. And the reason for that would be the man I am talking about: Rodney Pryor. He wants to create his own legacy. Now is the time!