I'm probably the only guy in America who doubles as a Syracuse and Mt. St. Mary's fan. Certainly, I'm the only guy who blogs about both of them on the internet.
So for all my fellow Orange fans out there, I'm here for your questions. The Colonials are the regular season champions of the Northeast Conference. They are under the tutelage of first-year head coach Mike Rice. Rice was an assistant with Jamie Dixon last year at Pittsburgh and he has tried to instill the same type of defensive principles that the Panthers employ.
It took this older group of Colonials a little bit of time to buy into the theories that he was teaching. Still, when they did Robert Morris made some great progress down the stretch. Their big moment on the season was a win at Boston College. You know winning at Conte is a tough thing to do and all. It is a huge win for RMU and was a good win. But this wasn't the same BC team that we've seen in recent seasons.
The Colonials are led by NEC MVP Tony Lee. Lee is a guard, and the type of guard that if he's playing for you, you love his intensity and what he brings to your team. If you're playing against him, he's sort of chippy and talks a little too much and you just want to beat him. But he does get the job done. He is capable of beating you from the outside, but he does more of his damage on dribble penetration. He also is a good rebounder, especially for his size. He had back-to-back triple doubles this season and could be a thorn in the Orange's side if they let him.
The guy I'd fear if I was the Orange would be Jeremy Chappell. He could really beat the Orange zone with his pure shooting ability. He's a good player and must be closely watched.
The other guy who might be a problem for the Syracuse zone is Jimmy Langhurst. The guard never really met a jump shot he didn't like and he can make them from most spots on the floor. He does handle the ball a lot, as does Bateko Francisco. They actually do a fairly good job of it, although they look like you ought to be able to pressure them.
AJ Jackson is one of the few interior players for Robert Morris. The Colonials like to run guys on cuts through the lanes and don't really use too many regualar post sets. If they do it is usually through Jackson. The big fella can also knock a jumper down from the outside and Syracuse can not lose track of him on the offensive end.
The Colonials pride themselves on being a top notch defensive team. They do play with some good effort and they are trying to get better. Still there are some holes defensively and they can be exploited, particularly inside. With the size and strength the Orange has inside it should fare very well pounding it inside.
You have to wonder how both teams handle this game. Robert Morris was pointing to the NCAA tournament since the beginning of February. They were hammered by Mount St. Mary's in the conference semifinal. They've had better than a week to recuperate from that. How they bounce back is anyone's guess? I wouldn't be shocked if they show up with no intensity. But I also think Rice will get them ready.
Syracuse might also not really care of the NIT. None of these guys came to the Hill to play in the NIT. There will be no NIT attendance record this year. Syracuse went out on such a sour note in the Big East tournament and how they respond in the NIT is a question.
I think that if these two teams played in the regular season, Syracuse is a double-digit winner. Possibly getting to 20 or more. But under these circumstances, I'm not so sure. However, in the end, I think the Orange has enough talent and strength to pull out the win.
As a Mt. St. Mary's fan and a Syracuse alum, I'm greatly looking forward to ending the Colonials season, a second time.
Enjoy the game. I'll be watching the play-in. Go Mount.