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The Morning Dish – Thursday, March 19, 2015

by - Published March 19, 2015 in The Morning Dish

Calm in the face of daunting situations. Both Robert Morris and Dayton had it Wednesday night, and as a result, both are moving on in the NCAA Tournament.

Meanwhile, Boise State was unable to come up with another spirited road win. One more gutsy road win than the Broncos ever should’ve had to earn.

Much like Hampton and Mississippi on the first day of the NCAA Tournament, the two teams advancing from Wednesday night’s First Four games did not panic in tough spots. Both Robert Morris and Dayton rallied from deficits late, with the Colonials getting by North Florida 81-77 and the Flyers nipping Boise State 56-55.
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The Morning Dish – Wednesday, March 11, 2015

by - Published March 11, 2015 in The Morning Dish

Robert Morris is the type of small eastern private school that fits in so perfectly in the college basketball landscape, one that every so often comes out of nowhere and makes some noise, adding a little bit of spice and a lot of charm to the sport.

Two years ago, the school made considerable noise in the NIT when it defeated Kentucky in a first round game. Tuesday night, though, the Colonials may as well have been Kentucky, for the role of villain they took on in the Northeast Conference championship game.

Robert Morris defeated sentimental favorite St. Francis (N.Y.) 66-63 in the NEC final, yet again depriving the Terriers of their first-ever NCAA Tournament bid. By now the story has been well worn: St. Francis is one of five original Division I members to never make the tourney since that level was born in 1939. And it might feel like there is a glass ceiling on those teams after the last two days, as William & Mary also lost in the CAA final Monday night for the second straight year.

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2013-14 Northeast Conference Post-Mortem

by - Published June 30, 2014 in Columns, Conference Notes

The Northeast Conference has had a good run in recent years, from one of its best seasons in 2011-12 to seeing a new member become a contender as they become eligible for the conference tournament. The conference always has some good basketball with its top teams, and this year was no exception. Part of that was once again evident in the conference tournament, as the regular season champion once again didn’t take home the title.

Robert Morris has been a mainstay for several years now. You could argue that the Colonials are the signature program in the conference, as they have won at least 12 conference games each of the past seven seasons. The past two seasons, they have won the regular season title by two games. Yet a conference championship remains elusive, as they captured two straight in 2009 and 2010 but have yet to do it again.

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Xavier triumphs and Robert Morris survives: Notes, numbers and quotes

by - Published February 28, 2014 in Columns

TEANECK, N.J. – Early in the week Xavier ventured into Madison Square Garden and posted a 65-53 victory over St. John’s. It was a huge win for the Musketeers coming off a thorough defeat at Georgetown a few days earlier. For the home standing Red Storm, meanwhile, it was a second straight loss with the clock ticking on NCAA possibilities.

The possession numbers:

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Anderson and Robert Morris are trying to benefit from a tough schedule

by - Published January 12, 2014 in Columns

SMITHFIELD, R.I. – Andy Toole said he felt better right before the post-game press conference than he did earlier. That’s the kind of thing that happens after winning a ballgame, and perhaps even more so when wins have been a little harder to come by than usual. They have been for Robert Morris, but the Colonials are 2-0 in Northeast Conference play and thinking about winning and something else.

“Just wanting to redeem ourselves in this league is a big thing,” said junior Karvel Anderson, who had a big trip to lead this team.

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Robert Morris wins a hard-earned Northeast Conference regular season title

by - Published March 1, 2013 in Columns

SMITHFIELD, R.I. – Robert Morris has become arguably the flagship program in the Northeast Conference since about 2007.  They have been to four straight NEC championship games, having won it a couple of times, and a big constant during this run of success has been head coach Andrew Toole, who helped them win two outright regular season NEC titles and share another one as an assistant, and now has won an outright title in his third season running the program after Thursday night’s thrilling 77-75 win at Bryant.

This title didn’t come easily.  They never do, but some come a little harder than others, and Robert Morris’ 21-9 record, including a 13-4 mark in NEC play, hides some of that.

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Robert Morris’ win at Bryant couldn’t have gone better

by - Published January 6, 2012 in Columns

SMITHFIELD, R.I. – Although it might seem obvious from the final score, simply watching Robert Morris’ 84-53 thumping of Bryant on Thursday went about as well as the coaching staff could have drawn it up. The Colonials won with defense and getting points from it, played a disciplined game and also look like a team continuing to develop the kind of depth that will give them a chance when the Northeast Conference Tournament rolls around.


“I was happy with a lot of it, for sure,” said head coach Andy Toole. “I was happy that we were able to keep some guys’ minutes in check, because when you go Thursday and Saturday, having a little bit of depth definitely helps.”

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Quick Hitters – November 25, 2010

by - Published November 25, 2010 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops

Some quick hitters as we reach the holiday and head into the long weekend:

  • Steve Donahue is throwing his freshmen right into the mix at Boston College, and it’s helping in the immediate. In particular, Danny Rubin started against Holy Cross and had 14 points and six rebounds, going 4-9 from long range and making a couple of key shots during a run where the Eagles first broke the game open. … Continue Reading

Rice’s Formula For Success Continues to Work

by - Published February 14, 2010 in Columns

SMITHFIELD, R.I. – Since Mike Rice took over at Robert Morris, the program has had nothing but success.  The Colonials have won back-to-back regular season titles and could be on their way to a third in a row.  There’s been a formula that he has stuck to all along, and it’s seen good success again this season as he works with a mix of freshmen and upperclassmen, although there have been bumps in the road.  They came close to having another one on Saturday before some late defense bailed them out in a 52-42 win at Bryant.

Rice’s formula involves defense and having a bench.  From the moment he had the job, developing a bench was paramount, so he worked guys into the rotation early in the season with the idea of being ready for later in the season.  He doesn’t want his players wearing down from having to play too many minutes, especially at the defensive end, and the results thus far speak for themselves.  The Colonials are 44-6 in Northeast Conference play in the two-plus seasons with Rice at the helm.

“It’s the way we play,” said Rice.  “You play four minutes as hard as you can, and then get out, and then somebody plays as hard as they can.  It helps us out at the end of the year maybe to grind somebody out.”

This year’s reserves average over 23 points per game and give the team a bench scoring edge of almost eight points per game.  They go about eight deep solidly as a result and work a few other players in as well, and the win over Bryant was their tenth straight NEC win.  It also shows in the team’s defensive statistics, as opponents shoot just 41.3 percent from the field against the Colonials and turn the ball over nearly 16 times per game.  In NEC games, opponents shoot below 38 percent and turn it over more than 16 times per game.  And all the while, their leader in minutes averages 26.3 per game.

The bench certainly helped last year, when the Colonials won the conference tournament to reach the NCAA Tournament.  A year earlier, a loss before the championship game made them the team with the most regular season wins in NIT history.

The Colonials are doing it this time around in part with freshmen guards, something that doesn’t happen often.  They start redshirt freshman Velton Jones at the point and true freshman Karon Abraham at the shooting guard spot, although size-wise one would figure the other way around.  Since moving into the starting lineup on December 30, Abraham is averaging over 15 points per game and shooting over 44 percent from long range.  The team’s leading scorer, he has won the conference’s Rookie of the Week honors four times this season.  Jones, for his part, has won the award once while starting most of the season, and although he struggled on Saturday he hit the Colonials’ only three-pointer of the game, a dagger with 1:20 left that basically sealed the game.   Neither had their finest hour on Saturday, but players have off games and there are several explanations.

The Colonials left town a day early for a 12-hour bus ride to beat a snowstorm that hit the Pittsburgh area.  The game was also the back end of a Thursday-Saturday trip, and was their fifth game in over a week.  While they played five games in a shorter stretch from time to time in high school, those games were all in one spot or all within a short drive of one another.  The five games in this stretch were played in five different gyms in five different cities.

“They’ve been so consistent in NEC play, so for them to not come through for us may be a thing of us playing Thusrday-Saturday-Monday-Thursday-Saturday,” Rice said of his young guards.  “Maybe on that back end, maybe some of them have their legs taken from them a little bit.”

The Colonials have gone with the lineup of freshman guards in part out of necessity, as senior Jimmy Langhurst – who Rice described as “my perimeter rock” – suffered a season-ending knee injury in December.  Langhurst was a steady player and a career 40.6 percent shooter from long range.  While Abraham has certainly played well, he is still a freshman, as is Jones, and there’s always some acclimation to the college game that happens in that first year.

On the other end of the spectrum is the senior leadership the Colonials get from Rob Robinson, Dallas Green and Mezie Nwigwe in the starting lineup and Josiah Whitehead off the bench.  Green is long and primarily gives them defense, while Nwigwe complements the young guards and Whitehead has been better of late.  Rice especially singled out Robinson for Saturday’s game, as he was the only double-digit scorer for them with 12 points.

“You need those seniors who have been through it and don’t get nervous, who make those plays,” he said, adding about Robinson, “He’s had an up-and-down senior year, probably not had the numbers as good as he should have, but the last 8-10 games in all the leadership things, he’s really stepped forward.”

Rice’s formula certainly appears to be working, and he’s been able to juggle his mix of personnel with success thus far.  Saturday’s game will look like an aberration, a game they had a chance to lose before the defense picked it up in the latter part of the second half.  The important thing is that they won the game.


Your Phil of Hoops

Fran Dunphy deals with bubble uncertainty for the first time

March 15, 2015 by


Temple is firmly on the bubble after losing in the American Athletic Conference Tournament to SMU. It’s the first time in head coach Fran Dunphy’s storied career that his team has been in this situation.

It didn’t take Larry Brown long to change SMU

March 15, 2015 by


Larry Brown won’t be the head coach at SMU forever. As such, it’s a good thing he has already turned the program into one that can get better players and possibly win championships.

History shows the challenge ahead of East Carolina

March 14, 2015 by


East Carolina’s first season in the American Athletic Conference is complete. With that, the challenge they face as shown by their history looks clear, and they may have just the right coach to navigate it.

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College Basketball Tonight

Be sure to listen to COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT, a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, joined by former St. John's and George Washington head coach Mike Jarvis, former Fairfield head coach Terry O'Connor and many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

The show will air on WNYM AM 970 The Answer in New York City from 7-9 p.m. on Selection Sunday, then from 5-7 p.m. each Sunday up to the Final Four. Check here every Sunday evening starting with Selection Sunday, March 15, for a link to the live stream.

Coming up soon: archives of this year's shows.

Coaching Changes and NBA Draft Early Entrants

The coaching carousel is moving. Keep track of the latest coaching changes right here on Hoopville.

Also, keep track of players who have declared early for the NBA Draft.

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Recruiting Coverage

2015 Boston Winter Invitational: What to expect

January 23, 2015 by


The Boston Winter Invitational is coming up on Sunday at UMass-Boston. Here is a look at some of what to expect in the four prep school games that are on the schedule.

2015 Spalding Hoophall Classic – Monday notes

January 21, 2015 by


Monday was the big day despite having just five games, as all were big matchups and most were nationally televised. There was plenty of talent in these games, and some big names played well.

2015 Spalding Hoophall Classic – Sunday notes

January 19, 2015 by


It was a bad weather day outside, but fortunately we play the games indoors. Prep schools took center stage on a busy Sunday with some good talent and good games all the way to the end.

2015 Spalding Hoophall Classic – Saturday notes

January 18, 2015 by


The Spalding Hoophall Classic picked up on Saturday, with a few good games, a couple of blowouts, then the best game of the day at the end. There was also plenty of good talent in each game.

2015 Hoop Dreams Mag Prep Classic – Sunday notes

January 14, 2015 by


Sunday was the day for a trip a little down the road from Saturday’s destination to check out some prep school action. We take a look at some notes from the day’s games in the Hoop Dreams Mag Prep Classic.