ACC Basketball

Know Your Opponent: Robert Morris Colonials

Robert Morris

The Duke Blue Devils had an amazing start to the season, winning their first 14, including convincing wins over Michigan St and Wisconsin. However, back-to-back loses to NC State and a stunner to Miami at home had people questioning the young Blue Devils. Yet, except for a hiccup at Notre Dame, Duke finished the regular season 14-1, including a pair of victories over North Carolina, the rematch against the Irish, plus road victories at Louisville and Virginia. They earned the two-seed in the ACC Tournament and crushed NC State, but in their third meeting with Notre Dame, they came out flat and were taken down in the semifinals.

Despite not winning either the regular season or tournament title, they landed in the South Region as the 1-seed and will face…

WHO: Robert Morris
CONFERENCE: Northeast
RECORD: 20-14
RPI: #174
BPI: #194
KEN POM: #170

ADjO: #184
ADjD: #170

HOW THEY GOT HERE:
Robert Morris struggled hard out of the gate, getting crushed by Lafayette by 27 and then owned by North Carolina, falling 103-59. They went just 4-8 in non-conference play, failing to beat anyone ranked in the top-100. However, once in conference play, the lessons learned from the early season struggles paid off, winning seven of their first nine conference games. However, they started to struggle again, dropping four of five, including a pair to LIU Brooklyn. Yet, thanks to a three-game winning streak to end the season, the Colonials finished second in the regular season behind St. Francis, NY at 16-14, 12-6.

Robert Morris opened up the Northeast Conference tournament with a 23-point win over Wagner, but had to battle for a victory over Bryant. In the title game, they found themselves down 10 midway through the second half but finished the game on a 19-6 run to earn a ticket to the Big Dance, where they were awarded a trip to the First Four to face North Florida. Against the Ospreys Wednesday night, the Colonials again found themselves down in the second half, but were able to overcome a 13-point deficit to earn their first tournament win over 30 years.

STARTERS
G – Kavon Stewart
G – Rodney Pryor
G – Marcquise Reed
F – Aaron Tate
F – Elijah Minnie

BENCH 
G – Lucky Jones
F – Lionel Gomis
F – Andre Frederick

When it comes to strategy, Robert Morris has the kind that could give Duke trouble. They play small, as center Elijah Minnie is only 6-8 and will give away 60 points to Duke’s freshman center and Aaron Tate only stands 6-5 at the four spot. He doesn’t play that much anyhow, giving up time to a fourth guard, Lucky Jones, the third best scoring open on the team. The Colonials like to spread it out and beat defenders one-one-one. They’re a good three-point shooting team (48th), but they don’t take a ton of deep balls (259th). Against North Florida, they only attempted four beyond the arc.

Marquise Reed is the most dangerous scorer and will often take over the point for Kavon Stewart. He’s a solid ball handler and the kind of guy that has given past Duke teams trouble in the first-round of the NCAA Tournament. Using the dribble-drive and mid-range game, he averages 14.8 points per game. Rodney Pryor (15.2 PPG) and Lucky Jones (14.3) are the three-point specialist, taking 356 treys on the year, but it’s the former who is the more dangerous sharp shooter of the two (42.6% from deep).

They don’t get a bunch of buckets inside with what little size they have, which means opponents never have to double down low. They also turn the ball over way too much (246th in turnover %). However, defensively is where Robert Morris can struggle. They play both man and zone, not afraid to mix it up throughout the game. They’re solid at forcing turnovers (9th in steals), but that’s about their one strength. Look for their four-guard set to put a ton of pressure above the arc to keep opponents busy. However, if the ball gets to the paint, their is little the Colonials can do. They can’t block shots, they foul too much and they’re one of the worst defensive rebounding teams in the country.

FINAL THOUGHT
Robert Morris may have the right kind of offense to stun Duke, but they simply don’t have the players or the inside game to actually pull off the upset. Jahlil Okafor should dominate this team, even with double teams. Anything short of 28 points and 10 rebounds would mean that the Blue Devils were dominating so much, he simply didn’t play enough minutes.

I have no clue how head coach Andrew Toole gam plans for Justise Winslow, who will be the best athlete on the floor and both Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones should find plenty of shooting space. Defensively, look for Coach K to trap the Colonials and not let them get set up in a spread offense.

WORTHLESS PREDICTION: Duke, 94-66

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