Photo+credit%3A+Samuel+Anthony

Photo credit: Samuel Anthony

Men’s basketball mid-conference season grades: Are the Colonials the real deal?

Opinion

The Robert Morris men’s basketball team this year has been good. Unfortunately, they have not been great.

The overall grade I give our team this year: B

Here’s why:

Following a loss to Wagner on Sunday afternoon, the Colonials (13-10, 7-3) find themselves in second place in the Northeast Conference (NEC) standings behind the Wagner Seahawks. In a game that looked to be strongly in the Colonials’ favor at halftime, the team watched themselves get outscored by 23 in the second half.

Unfortunately, Robert Morris is going to need some help from other teams to beat Wagner if they want to win the conference.

Dachon Burke has been a big reason for the Colonials success this season. Photo Credit: David Auth

The Colonials have been a different team this year. During the last two years, the Colonials had been plagued with inexperience, mostly due to the number of players that transferred from the program. This year, inexperience still hurts the team, but the ability of our young guards to take over in games has helped win games.

This year, the Colonials have shot a little over 41% from the field this year.

That number is lower than the 44.3% that the 2014-15 team shot. The 2014-15 team is the team that beat North Florida in the NCAA Tournament before falling at the hands of the Duke Blue Devils.

A problem for the team thus far is the inability to shoot from behind the 3-point line. The Colonials are shooting just over 31% from behind-the-arc this year. The team that made the tournament three seasons ago shot almost 38%.

The Colonials need to be better at shooting.

[schedule sport=”Mens Basketball” season=”2017-2018″ align=”left” background=”on” border=”right” shadow=”on”]

This was shown in Sunday’s game against Wagner. Robert Morris shot 8-for-13 from behind-the-arc in the first half to help excel the Colonials to a 42-32 lead at halftime.

But, in the second half, they shot 4-for-13 from behind-the-arc. This showed as they were outscored 45-22 in the second half. When Robert Morris cannot make three-point shots, the entire offense is screwed up and they suddenly cannot figure out how to score.

The problem this year has been the offensive, and defensive, presence down in the paint. With forward Braden Burke transferring to walk-on at Michigan State and Aaron Tate graduating, the Colonials found themselves in need of a “big man.”

What they found was Ronnie Gombe, a Kenyan-born, graduate transfer from Canisius. His team-leading 18 blocks have not gone unnoticed. Unfortunately, his 4.2 points per game average have not helped contribute to the game in the paint. With an injury to forward Malik Petteway and underwhelming season by forward David Cole, the Colonials have not been able to establish an inside presence.

The Colonials responded by chucking up threes. A lot of them. They have already shot 487 three-point shots this year. To put that in perspective, the Duke Blue Devils, arguably one of the best team in the NCAA on a regular basis, have only shot 461 three-point shots this year. With that, Duke has also made more of those 3-point shots too. Matty McConnell, Leondre Washington, and Koby Thomas have all shot under 28% from behind-the-arc this year too. Robert Morris cannot expect to win if our guards continue to shoot like that.

Some may say that it is not fair to compare Robert Morris to Duke. But, if the Colonials want to make the NCAA Tournament, they have to “be the Duke” of the NEC.

The freshmen this year have been fantastic and a joy to watch this year. Leondre Washington, Jon Williams, and Koby Thomas have all played great. Their inexperience shows on occasion, but they have proven themselves to be “go-to” players this season. Freshman Charles Bain has also hit some clutch 3-point shots and his tall 6’8” frame has been helpful.

Ronnie Gombe has emerged as one of RMU’s greatest defensive assets. It is his offense that is concerning though. Photo Credit: David Auth

It is easy to criticize anything. Shooting can be tough and you cannot blame an undersized team that shoots. With our best players being guards, shooting and making threes are a crucial part of the game plan. Fans may criticize now, but the team people are watching now was projected to finish 7th in the NEC Preseason Poll.

To win the conference though, the Colonials need to step our game up because it does not matter what the preseason rankings are now. Fans can almost taste another NCAA Tournament berth, so every loss will hurt more and more. The team has to step up now and win big games against St. Francis (PA) and Mount St. Marys.

For now, Robert Morris needs to play better. I believe this team can win an NEC Championship Tournament, but our players might need to take a step back and evaluate what their role on this team is. In the end, shooters always have to shoot.