Syracuse plays its second game of the season tonight against defending NEC champ Robert Morris at the Carrier Dome. My worlds sort of overlap here. I'm a Syracuse grad and a Mt. St. Mary's enthuiast. The Mount and the Colonials have become bitter rivals in the NEC the last few years. So I know a thing or two about the Colonials. But if you want a real expert view on the Colonials head over to Colonials Corner as Andrew does a real good job covering the team.
Many Syracuse fans may remember that Robert Morris came to the Dome two years ago in the first round of the NIT. And gave the Orange all it wanted and maybe a little bit more. But that was a very different Robert Morris team.
The heart of the Colonials offense the last few years has been Jeremy Chappell. The marksman is gone and playing in Europe.
So the Colonials will be looking for someone to replace him this season. RMU has done a nice job recruiting the past several years and has some young players who are ready to step in and take the minutes. How well they do at the Carrier Dome in the opener for Robert Morris remains to be seen?
The one thing you can be certain of is that the Colonials will play with tremendous intensity and defensive pressure. Mike Rice, who took over two years ago, demands it from his players. And they rarely disappoint. However, Beteko Francisco a great on the ball defender, the NEC defender of the year last year, is gone and how they will cope with the Syracuse guards remains to be seen.
Rob Robinson is a force inside. And he must be treated with respect by Syracuse. I expect he will get his points. Dallas Green, who beat the Mount on a 12-foot jumper to take the tourney bid, is also back and expected to be in the starting lineup. Green defends and rebounds well in the NEC but there aren't a lot of Rick Jackson and Arinze Onuaku types in the NEC.
The Colonials are likely counting on Jimmy Langhurst to provide some of the departed offense this year. Langhurst has great range on the jump shot and the ability to get hot in a hurry. However, he missed an exhibition game against Shippensburg with an injured hand and likely won't play tonight. Assuming Langhurst doesn't start, expect Velton Jones to be in the lineup. Jones did not play at all during his freshman season.
Another player who missed all of last year is 6-6 forward Russell Johnson. He is very athletic and will be a good player in the NEC. But he'll be making his collegiate debut while shaking off rust in the Carrier Dome. Not exactly the optimum situation.
Mezie Nwigwe should round out the starting five. Nwigwe does a lot of different things for this team but doesn't necessarily stand out in any area.
Expect to see Gary Wallace log lots of minutes in the backcourt with Langhurst out (but I think the Syracuse guards can really cause problems for him), Josiah Whitehead should be a contributor up front for the Colonials, and reports have been high on freshman Karon Abraham.
Ultimately, I see Robert Morris struggling offensively at the outset. However, I wasn't sold on the Orange offense on Monday night. So I think it could be close for awhile. Although Syracuse after a somewhat poor shooting night, could come out very hot against RMU and open a large lead early.
Still, I think this Colonial team is better than the Albany team of Monday. I think they will get much better as the season wears on. But I don't think this is the right situation for them to pull the upset. I like Syracuse 75-58.