Friday, March 29, 2013

Buzz: Has Toole interviewed for the Siena job.... twice?

Andy Toole is a beloved figure at Robert Morris, that much I know for sure. Lee has told me he would give $10 of every paycheck of his every month for the next two years to have him stay. I've suggested a lemonade stand to raise money as well. With all that on the line, Toole is going to be a serious candidate at some big-time job openings this off-season.

Siena has been the name most floated around when talking about Toole. Siena has seemed to narrow the list down to three, putting Toole, Loyola (MD) coach Jimmy Patsos, and VCU associate head coach Mike Rhoades as the other two main candidates. Toole has reportedly visited Siena more than once, writes Andrew Chiappazzi:
It does not appear that Toole was offered the job Thursday, but that doesn't mean he won't get an offer. Mark Singelais of the Albany Times-Union, one of the main papers covering Siena, wrote just a short while ago that it appears Loyola (MD) coach Jimmy Patsos and VCU associate head coach Mike Rhoades are Siena's other prime candidates. Singelais wrote that both will visit at some point next week, and that Siena will likely make a decision before the Final Four.

Robert Morris, meanwhile, is prepared to put together an aggressive package to try to keep Toole. This process could come down to a couple factors. The first is what Toole is looking for out of a coaching situation. The MAAC has a better conference RPI than the NEC and a better overall reputation, but in nearly every year it's still a one-bid league. That said, Siena has a larger backing than Robert Morris. Siena plays in a multi-purpose arena in downtown Albany, one that's funded by more than just the college, and Siena has more financial resources available.
This is only the beginning in what will be a long off-season full of rumors, folks. According to Andrew, Toole met with Siena officials last week to gauge his interest and again Wednesday for a visit.

The fact that Toole went back to Siena for a second time is not surprising, but maybe a little worrying. Toole was born in New York and his interest in coaching in the New York region would just seem natural. Siena is a good program who has hit a bit of a slump lately.

RMU commit Britton Lee has already tweeted that if Toole leaves he would ask for his release from Robert Morris. I don't think it would end there, either. I'm sure the rest of the recruiting class would leave as well, including three-star recruits Kavon Stewart and Jeremiah Worthem. Besides that, I'd fear that guys like Lucky Jones and Stephan Hawkins would follow him and Mike McFadden, who has an option to not return to the team this year and graduate, would not return as well.

That's not to say RMU would be hindered for this upcoming season. The talent they have with Anthony Myers-Pate, Coron Williams, Karvel Anderson, and Lijah Thompson could still win an NEC title, but any future coach would face a lot of pressure to bring the recruiting class Toole did.

Of course, this is all worst case scenario. As we've said many times, it comes down to
Is this the last we've seen of Andy Toole at RMU?
(p/c: Justin Berl)
preference. President Greg Dell'Omo is going to do everything in his power to keep Toole. How do I know this? He did the same thing with coach Mike Rice, who he gave a raise to but left only because a job surprisingly opened up at Rutgers and couldn't turn down a great deal.

Would Siena be a better job than Robert Morris? Depends on what your definition of "better" is. In terms of facilities and budget, yes, it would be. If Toole wants to win now and reach the NCAA tournament, it's a no-brainer that he'd stay at RMU. If I had to guess, Toole gets a raise close to the $450K range at RMU and gets an offer at Siena that's closer to $650K. That could be tough to turn down

I honestly believe Toole does stay and spends one more year at RMU if schools like Siena are his best option. Siena is a two year rebuilding process minimum while RMU is in a win-now mode. If Toole stays and makes the NCAA tournament I'd be shocked if he didn't get an offer from an A-10 or Big East school. If he goes to Siena, it'll be another rebuilding process. Is the extra money worth the lack of success? That's up to Toole and his family.

Feel free to comment and let me know if you're interested in the lemonade stand. No Huddle has kept it no secret that we would love to keep coach Toole. As your new president of the colonial crazies, feel free to add fundraiser ideas to help the athletic department.

--Chris Cappella

Update: I've been told my figures are way off. RMU will likely give Toole a raise in the 200-250K range while Siena would likely go no higher than 300-350K. We'll just say I was right in principle.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Now what?

The ride has finally came to its end. The 2012-2013 RMU men's basketball season is over, with the Colonials falling at Providence 77-68. The team finished 24-11, 14-4 in conference, falling in the second round of the NEC tournament to Mount St. Mary's. Of course that led to the defending national champion University of Kentucky Wildcats playing a rare road game in Moon Twp, PA where the Colonials shocked the nation and upset Coach Cal's gang. All that is in the past though. What lies ahead? A lot of question marks, and program altering answers.

(Needs to be said: Thank you to the senior class of Velton Jones, Russell Johnson, Treadwell Lewis and Shane Sweigart, specifically Jones and Johnson. They both had incredible careers at RMU, and put the program on the map with their performances vs Villanova and the win over Kentucky.)

First off, how big was the win over Kentucky? Sure this program has had a ton of success over the past few years; 24 wins (2012-13), 26 (2011-12), 18 (2010-11), 23 (2009-10), 24 (2008-09), 26 (2007-08). That's impressive, but NOTHING gave them the exposure that last Tuesday's win provided. National TV, court storming, epic game. It had it all. Now what will it do for the program?

Can RMU keep its head man?
It all starts up top, and that leads us to question number two, can RMU keep Andy Toole? Toole will be a hot name when it comes to young coaching candidates this off season. I'm not here to discuss where or what it will take RMU to keep him; Chris does that here. If he stays RMU will keep their great recruiting class, continue to build upward, and gets closer to becoming a mid major power. He leaves, and the athletic department will have to find another coach to keep the bus rolling. Two points that I do need to make; one, I will not be in anyway upset at Andy if he moves on. He will get paid a lot more money, move to a program with more resources and likely a better conference. Maybe the biggest reason? He has done his job here at RMU. Sure, he never won an NEC title and never reached the NCAA tournament, but he won 25-26-18 games a year, took the team to two NEC title games, and in the year he didn't reach the title, got the biggest win in program history over UK in the NIT. Job well done. Second, just because he moves on doesn't mean RMU can't continue to grow. Look at VCU. Jeff Capel and Anthony Grant both moved on to bigger programs, and it was Shaka Smart who got VCU over the top. But that's enough about that. If Toole moves on, we can look at potential replacements but until then, lets focus on the program with him in the picture.

RMU will miss Jones and Johnson
but the team is in good hands.
One way to tell you have a great program? When you lose big time seniors/players, and come back just as strong. Sure RMU will miss Jones and Johnson, but the team will still be a major contender in the NEC next year and will be one of the better mid major teams in the country.

Ant Myers-Pate will replace Jones as the #1 point guard, and there will be depth behind him with a great freshman class coming in (we will get to that in a bit). Coron Williams and Karvel Anderson will be seniors, and will give RMU the two best shooters in the conference. To build on that, Anderson will only get better. The last few weeks of the season he became more than just a spot up three point shooter. Not to mention he won't be playing with a broken wrist (we will get to the injuries in a bit too). David Appolon returns as well. If Appolon develops more of an offensive game, he could become Andy Toole's (I hope) most versatile player. He is a tremendous athlete, and maybe the teams best perimeter defender (ask All American PG D.J. Cooper).

A healthy Lijah Thompson will help
RMU immensely next year
Then there are the forwards. This is where I see RMU becoming a better team. Russell Johnson will be very hard to replace, but Andy Toole (again, I REALLY hope) won't have to rely on one player to do it. Lucky Jones might be the teams best player next season. He is a great athlete, and really came into his own this year. He is one step away from becoming a first team NEC caliber player. Mike McFadden should be back for his senior year. He battled knee injuries all season, and it really bothered him. McFadden was extremely explosive in the NIT when he had ample time to rest before games. If he can stay healthy, watch out. He improved his free throw shooting this season, and showed flashes of being a go-to low post threat. The difference maker could be senior Lijah Thompson. Thompson missed the whole season with a torn ACL, but is making good progress and should be back next year. With him in the fold, RMU has a true center, and a guy who can control the glass, along with protect the rim (something the team sorely missed once Vaughn Morgan left the program). Stephan Hawkins should be back, along with Keith Armstrong to provide good depth. Hawkins is a raw prospect but with a full season under his belt, could become a big threat. Armstrong battled injuries all year, and never got into the mix as a legit option for Andy Toole. That should change next year as he will have a full off season to improve his game.

Speaking of injuries, can this team really have the luck (or should I say BAD luck) that it did this year going forward? Thompson missed the whole year, Anderson played through a broken wrist for over a month, Velton Jones got a head injury, and missed time with a nasty shoulder injury (and played with it for multiple games), Armstrong had a foot injury that cost him 2/3 of the year and his whole off season, McFadden battled bad knee injuries all season, Johnson battled back injuries early in the season, and Myers Pate had a nasty ankle injury in December (take a breath). Yikes! I'm sure they will battle injuries next year, after all every team will, but will there be that many?

Worthem could be a huge get for Andy Toole.
Assuming Andy sticks around (by the way, I think RMU does everything in its power to do so) he will bring in a GREAT recruiting class, maybe his best ever. Toole is known around the country as a great recruiter and this class is evidence of that. Kavon Stewart highlights the class. He is a 3 star prospect from nationally ranked Hudson Catholic in New Jersey. Stewart is a pure passing point guard much like Ant Myers-Pate. According to, he got offers from Cincinnati, UMASS, Seton Hall, Rutgers while gaining interest from other big schools. Britton Lee and Jeremiah Worthem come in from Mathematics, Civics and Sciences Charter School in Philadelphia. Their school is one of the best in the state, ranked in the top 10 for much of the season. Lee is more of a scoring guard and could be an explosive scorer for Andy Toole. He can really attack the basket. Both Lee and Stewart are known for their lock down D, something all guards need when playing at RMU. Worthem could be the star of the class. He is a 6'6'' bouncy forward who can score from all over the floor. According to rivals he received offers from Temple and La Salle, and got interest from Pitt and Villanova. He is also a 3 star. Rounding out the class is 6'7'' forward Emmanuel Omogbo from Princeton Day Academy in Maryland. He is a bit more unknown, but adds nice size down the road. Max Preps list him as RMU's top recruit (though I lean more toward Rivals).

With that class, the team should look something like this assuming nobody transfers and the recruits remain committed.

1) Myers Pate- Stewart/Lee (One may red shirt)
2) Anderson-Williams-Appolon
3) Jones-Worthem
4) McFadden-Hawkins-Omogbo
5) Thompson-Armstrong

Myers Pate, Anderson, Williams, McFadden, and Thompson will all be seniors. Andy Toole will certainly have options.

Some other questions that RMU will have to answer: Can they upgrade the facilities? The Chuck isn't exactly state of the art. Can they attract big time programs to play in Moon? Tough to get teams like Ohio (forget about UK) to schedule a series. What about the NEC? The conference is losing two big time programs in Monmouth and Quinnipiac, might the Colonials look for an upgrade too?

There is no doubt that RMU has had tons of success over the past six seasons. My ultimate question is this....Was the Kentucky win the start of RMU's next big step in its quest to become a great mid major basketball program, or was it the climax of this era of RMU hoops? Only time will tell.

--Lee Kunkel

Game Day: RMU at Providence

Tonight, the Robert Morris Colonials (24-10) will take on the Big East's own Providence Friars (18-14) in the second round of the NIT tournament. Providence, a four seed, defeated Charlotte in the first round while Robert Morris is fresh off their biggest win in the history of the program. The winner of this game will take on Baylor later in the week. Tip-off is at seven and you can catch the game on ESPNnews,, or tune in to 730 WPIT AM with Chris Shovlin. Andrew Chiappazzi of gives some interesting insight, we encourage you to give it a full read:
Providence is a bit of a chameleon, a Big East team capable of grinding it out with physical defensive play on the perimeter and a large presence inside in Kadeem Batts, and an ACC-team willing to get out and run behind the steady backcourt duo ofVincent Council and Bryce Cotton. 
"It's going to be a situation where if they feel they have an opportunity to break, they're going to take off and they're not going to stop until we get back in transition defense," Toole said. "If they need to slow it down and execute offense, they can do that as well."
Providence is an interesting, and very inconsistent, team. Like Andrew pointed out, they're a complete team capable of playing a multitude of different styles. They looked good against a tough Charlotte team and have more than enough players that can take over a game if needed.

Could this be the last we see of
Velton Jones? (p/c: Justin Berl)
Bryce Cotton is the name to know. Cotton was one of the Big East's best scorers averaging 19 points per game. A lot of the offense runs through him and while his point totals are impressive his shooting percentages (43 from the field, 36 from deep) are... average. 

Forward Kadeem Batts can bang down low in his big, 6'10'' frame and is very efficient from the field and a solid rebounder. Forward LaDontae Henton is the team's third leading scorer but is not very efficient from the field. 

It's the same old song and dance for RMU right now. The keys to the game are the same as what they have been all year: Can they rebound against a solid rebounding team like Providence and can they hit the three ball. If they can do those things, than there's no reason for RMU not to walk away with a win.

I'm interested to see if head coach Andy Toole starts Anthony Myers-Pate as his starting point guard again or if he goes back to Velton Jones. I don't think it matters too much, but Myers-Pate is definitely playing his best ball of the season and if he can set the tone early again it could go a long way for RMU. Also, RMU needs to get something from Karvel Anderson from behind the arc, who seems to really be struggling with his broken wrist.

The Colonials have to prove to the nation that their upset over Kentucky wasn't a fluke, and that's what is so exciting about tonight. Beating a good team on your home court is one thing, but flying out to a hostile environment in a win-or-go-home tournament is another. If this really is the last time we watch Velton Jones and Russell Johnson (and very possibly coach Toole) I hope everyone understands how much they've meant to this program and everything they've done to make Robert Morris what it is. Speaking of, Velton Jones only needs eight dimes to give him the all-time assist record and Johnson needs nine rebounds for the all-time rebounding record. 

Prediction: Why not? Lets keep this thing going with a 67-66 victory.

--Chris Cappella

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Did Tuesday's win mark the end of the Andy Toole era?

Colin Dunlap's last article (posted in the mid-week links) about RMU head coach Andy Toole has certainly raised some eyebrows to those who have read it. We encourage everyone to give it a read if you haven't already, here is a little excerpt of it:

Now, as Toole is set to turn 33 in September, it’s time to realize his work in Moon Township is complete. 
And there’s nothing wrong with such a notion. 
It’s simply business…on both ends. 
Not to be the buzz kill here, but Toole shouldn’t coach many more games for RMU. Simply put, when this NIT run is over, makes no difference how much of a raise university president Greg Dell’Omo wants to give Toole or what promises he bestows the coach, the Andy Toole era must come to an end.
Is Andy Toole's work at RMU done? (p/c: Justin Berl)
 It's definitely an interesting article by Colin and one that makes sense. One thing we said about the Kentucky game is that it would be a showcase game... for everyone, including Toole. Toole was going to already have his opportunities to move up in the ranks at least slightly this upcoming off-season but his name is as hot as ever right now.

I don't think he leaves to go out west (like USC) or too far down south. Toole's main recruits come from the Philadelphia/New Jersey area, so I think if the right job comes up around there, he will leave. 

I also don't think Toole leaves unless he goes to a multiple-bid conference, meaning you won't have to necessarily win your conference tournament to get into the big dance. Would the CAA or Patriot league be a step up from the NEC? No doubt! But is it worth it? That's the big question.

There's no way Toole does not get a very competitive raise from Robert Morris. If I had to guess, I'd say he gets an offer close to half a million dollars per year to stay at Robert Morris. Dunlap is right that Toole's name will never be hotter, but I guess it really just comes down to price. If Siena can truly triple Toole's pay like some fans insist, than I think it'll be tough to keep him. 

It sounds bad, but it's truly not the worst situation if Toole is gone. Robert Morris is now on the national radar for at least a little and President Dell'Omo and the athletic department can now tote about the success of the program's last two coaches. Who's to say Robert Morris doesn't become a main stepping stone for assistant coaches looking to get their foot in the door?

RMU fans everywhere obviously should not be hoping for Toole to leave. The recruiting class he's bringing in would be good for Xavier, let alone Robert Morris and Toole is really building something here. Besides, it's not like he's without imperfections. Does it worry anyone that he has come up small in the NEC conference tournament since he's been here?

Right now, just enjoy this run that Robert Morris is on and enjoy the spotlight. After that, keep your fingers crossed.

--Chris Cappella

Mid-week links

  • Robert Morris wins one for the lambs, according to Dana O'Neil (
  • Robert Morris defeats Kentucky, stroms the court (CBS Sports)
  • Did the RMU-KY game really get better TV ratings than NCAA games? (USA Today)
  • Andy Toole's work at RMU is done, says Colin Dunlap(CBS Pittsburgh)
  • James Madison bounces Long Island (Big Apple Buckets)
  • Robert Morris will play Providence on Monday (

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

RMU defeats Kentucky

Karvel Anderson and RMU students celebrate the team's upset over Kentucky.
I've always been made fun of for my sports teams. I get it, it's easy to make fun of a kid who roots for the Jets, Mets, and Knicks and I don't take anything personal, it's all in good fun.

But after Robert Morris' NEC semifinal loss two Saturday's ago to Mount St. Mary's I had a serious moment of weakness. It was re-evaluation time. Was I praying to the wrong God? Was I eating the wrong foods? Why does the disappointment never end? 

And that's what made last night's 59-57 win vs. the defending champions in the first round of the NIT so incredible. Robert Morris, a team that got blown out of the water in the last game they played, didn't bat an eye against a college basketball Goliath.

What's even more strange is how RMU beat Kentucky. They didn't do it by hoisting up 35 three's and while Velton Jones had a good game, it wasn't one of those that he took over and dropped 20+ in. Nope, RMU just simply outplayed Kentucky. The defensive effort was easily the best I've seen all year and the Colonials rebounded better than anyone thought they could. They slowed the tempo down, which was an absolute must against a team as athletic Kentucky, and went 14-14 from the free throw line.

Russell Johnson was great again for RMU (p/c: Justin Berl).
It's hard to single out one guy who had "the best" game. Lucky Jones was fantastic and led the team with 15 points but also was thrown out after a flagrant two call late in the game, which was the right call in my opinion. Mike McFadden hit the two go-ahead free throws with eight seconds remaining and was fantastic defensively on the low block. In fact, I thought Mike had his best game before he hit the free throws. Russell Johnson did what Russell Johnson has been doing, filling the stat sheet with a 14 point, five rebound, and three steal game. Coron Williams set the tone early and both point guards played great. 

Then there was the crowd, who packed the chuck with 3,444 strong. They got in there early, were loud, crowd surfed the mascot AND A ONE YEAR OLD BABY, had Moses part the red sea, and had an epic (albeit slightly dangerous) court storming. In my opinion, it gets to a point where having 3,400 people going nuts right on top of you is probably just as loud as playing in an open 20,000 seat arena. Like No Huddle has said before, this team will rarely ever lose with a great atmosphere.

You could tell where this game was going to go after the first few minutes. If Kentucky was going to come out focused and ready to play, we would have known it. Instead, it was the opposite, with RMU silencing big blue nation and amping up the home crowd with a 10-0 start. I believe RMU only trailed once late in the first half took a 28-27 lead into the locker room, where they improved to 23-0 when leading at half (compared to only 1-10 when trailing).

I would like to give KY credit: they fought all night. RMU just had an answer for everything which was the most surprising part. Archie Goodwin was tough for the Wildcats and kept them in the game, even tying it with under two minutes left. 

Andy Tooe is officially on the radar of
major college programs.
To me, the most impressive offensive possession came with 1:45 remaining, Kentucky in the midst of a run but saw RMU still clinging to a two point lead. Velton Jones was iso'd with Wille Cauley-Stein, gave him a head fake, went to the buck to draw an extra defender and dumped it off to Mike McFadden for the slam. RMU needed a bucket bad and got it there. 

What more can you say about head coach Andy Toole, who out-coached John Calipari. His gameplan was great but he had his players believing they could beat Kentucky. The in-bounds play he drew up that eventually lead to the game winning points was brilliant. If that is the last time we ever see Andy Toole in the Sewall Center, that's a helluva way to go out. 

But coach Calipari said it best: If Kentucky would have won the game, it would have been a shame. The Colonials truly did deserve that one. The Robert Morris basketball team is the team I root for to avoid disappointment, and that certainly was the case last night. 

--Chris Cappella

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Game Day: Kentucky at Robert Morris

Tonight, the Robert Morris Colonials (23-10) will play hosts to the defending national champion Kentucky Wildcats (21-11) in the first round of the NIT. The winner of this matchup will advance to take on the winner of the Charlotte-Providence game. Tip-off is at 7:30 and the game can be found on ESPN or you can listen to 730 WPITAM with Chris Shovlin on the call. Andrew Chiappazzi of has a solid game preview, we encourage you to give it a read, but here is part of it:
Though it'll be a more compact version, Andy Toole expects Kentucky to be used to the madness. 
"I think our guys might be surprised by the atmosphere more than they will," Toole said. "It's awesome to have this type of atmosphere, it's great to have this type of attention, and it's incredible to have this kind of fan support that people are lining up to get tickets, but there's still a responsibility that we have as a team and as players to go out and compete and do the right things." 
Toole has harped on his team's attention to detail all season. At times, the focus helped Robert Morris win 23 games. But it also slipped away from them at times, including the heartbreaking NEC semifinal loss to Mount St. Mary's. The ability to consistently compete and be detailed on every possession is something Toole said is a hallmark of good teams, including John Calipari's Kentucky squad.
So here it is. Today has come with much anticipation and there is truly a great buzz not only on campus but in the community as well. 

Kentucky is the national defending champions, and I'm not talking about the NIT. This is a big, athletic group led by Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress on the offensive end. Center Willie Cauley-Stein is every bit the part of his seven foot frame and I worry about RMU's ability to rebound.

This colonials squad lives through two things: the three ball and Velton Jones. Last Saturday, Mount St. Mary's gameplanned to make Jones a shooter and not let him work the passing lanes. It resulted in a 2-of-17 shooting day. I'd expect coach Calipari to carry the same gameplan towards this game, so it is important Velton knocks down some early treys, not only for his confidence but to make Kentucky respect him a little more.

There is some silver lining. Kentucky is without their best player Nerlens Noel, who is out for the year with a torn ACL. Since he's been out, Kentucky has not won a road game. Also, KU has really struggled shooting the ball lately, going under 40 percent as a team the past three games. This could be the perfect storm; lots of road teams initially have trouble shooting in the Sewall Center because of the lack of... anything behind the backboard. The depth of the shooter is thrown way off.

We'll know exactly where this game is heading within the first few minutes. Is Kentucky going to come out and play like a team mad they didn't make the tournament or annoyed that they had to travel to a 3,000 seat gym? With such a young team, Calipari said he worries about his teams mental readiness for this game.

Overall, just enjoy the atmosphere. This is unexpected and fun; it's the first time RMU has ever hosted a power six conference team. Like ever. Night classes have been cancelled (and as coach Cal joked at practice yesterday: "who does that?") and this is a great showcase game for the program. It is a student red-out.

Prediction: why not? RMU ends Kentucky's season, just like everyone predicted in November 68-66.

--Chris Cappella

Game Notes

Hard to believe: It doesn’t quite feel like real life, but it is. The NCAA defending champion Kentucky Wildcats will be in Moon township tonight for the first round of the NIT tournament.

“I think it’s going to be an incredible atmosphere. I think its going to be as big a crowd as we’ve had here in my six years,” said head coach Andy Toole. “I think it’s going to be loud and I think Kentucky is going to be use to it, obviously.” 

“It’s just now really hitting me,” said senior point guard Velton Jones. “I got the phone call from Russ (Russell Johnson) and he was like ‘we’re playing Kentucky’, and I was like ‘oh that’s cool’ and he was like ‘we’re playing them here’. I didn’t believe him. It’s unreal.”

Guard Lucky Jones also added he was impressed the game was sold out within two hours.

“I’m very happy it’s here and I’m happy fans are coming out and supporting us.”

Matching up: Half the guys on Kentucky could probably start for the Sacramento Kings. This is a big, athletic team that will be hard to gameplan for.

“They’re so physically gifted. I think that’s the biggest thing. Their talent level and their physical abilities are extraordinary,” said Toole. “And that’s something we’re going to have to try and neutralize with multiple bodies or great positioning or great fundamentals or different things like that.”

KU will likely trot out a starting five that looks like the following:
PG Ryan Harrows- sophomore
SG Julius Mays- senior
SF Archie Goodwin- freshman
PF Alex Poythress- freshman
Russel Johnson will have his hands full guarding
Alex Poythress. (p/c: Justin Berl)
C Wille Cauley-Stein- freshman

Cauley-Stein has had the difficult task of trying to replace superstar freshman (and NBA lottery pick) Nerlens Noel at center but has done a good job finding his role. Poythress is an unbelievably efficient stretch-forward who shot 58 percent from the field and 43 percent from three on the year while grabbing six rebounds a game. Archie Goodwin is a poor-mans Michael Kidd-Gilchrist; a tough defender and great at getting to the rim. Goodwin leads the team in scoring.

So what does RMU do? They’re going to be undersized and won’t have nearly the same athleticism. On defense, I’d expect to see more 2-3 zone than usual. KY is a 34 percent team from downtown (not bad, but by comparison Robert Morris is at 38 percent) and could prevent from Kentucky getting to the rim. Also, I’m not sure RMU can lock down on man defense against a much more athletic Wildcat team and it should help with rebounding.

Don’t expect much change from the offense. RMU definitely has an edge in pure jup shooters when you look at guys like Karvel Anderson, Coron Williams, and Lucky Jones. I’d expect those three to have a lot of screens run off for them and for RMU to fire up the three ball 30-40 times.

Other odds and ends:  Velton Jones will hope to look past a 2-for-17 shooting day last Saturday, but did not participate in practice Monday with a shoulder injury… Karvel Anderson (wrist) was limited and Anthony Myers-Pate had his shoulder wrapped but did not appear to be in much pain… Both coach Toole and Lucky Jones hesitated on whether they’d rather play this game or would be in the NCAA tournament but both said the tournament: “If you’re looking for a consolation prize, this is probably about as good as it gets,” said Toole… This will be the last home game for the Colonials this season… Tickets have been sold out as of 11:20 this morning but you can find tickets on craigslist for nearly around $100.

Monday, March 18, 2013

NEC NCAA outlook: LIU vs JMU

Jamal Olasewere is a lot to handle in the low post. 

If you like mid-major basketball there’s no reason to not be a little excited for the Long Island-James Madison NCAA first round match-up. Ignoring the fact that the winner of this game gets a date with Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo, and the rest of Indiana, No Huddle will try and help all JMU and LIU fans understand how this game figures to shape up.

Vegas has this game as a pick ‘em, which shows how close many figure this game to be. Both teams finished fourth in their conferences before pulling some upsets in the CAA and NEC tournaments to get an automatic bid.

Long Island started the year with high expectations and have become something of a mid-major dynasty after winning their third straight NEC title. They started slow and had to overcome the loss of 2011-2012 NEC player of the year Julian Boyd to a torn ACL and suspensions to key players for their first two conference games.

Jason Brickman is one of the best point
guards in the country (p/c: NY post).
Even without Boyd, this team is full of talent. Point guard Jason Brickman gets the high powered offense going ( LIU averages 79.5 points per game, fifth in the country) as a great facilitator who protects the ball and has improved his jump shot this past season. Senior shooting guard C.J. Garner can cook. In my opinion Garner, who averaged an absurd 28 points per game in the conference tournament, is the most important player on the team and if he gets going you have no chance of beating the Blackbirds.

The name every JMU fan will soon know is reigning NEC player of the year Jamal Olasewere. Olasewere is as big-time as they come and is the conferences best chance at having a player drafted this summer. Olasewere is at his best with his back to the basket but you have to respect his outside game and is a force rebounding.

The key to beating LIU is slowing down their tempo, which could bode well for James Madison. The Dukes are a solid defensive team and did a tremendous job not only slowing the tempo down against Delaware and Northeastern, but taking their best player out of the game (Devon Saddler for Delaware and Joel Smith for Northeastern).

The Dukes need Rayshawn Goins to win. 
I do think JMU is capable of slowing the game down against LIU but they cannot win without forward Rayshawn Goins, who was just arrested on charges of obstruction of justice and disorderly conduct. Goins is the teams leading scorer and his match-up against Olasewere would be fun to watch.

Other names for JMU fans to know: LIU freshman E.J. Reed is a stretch-forward who gives a solid 20 minutes a game. He has a reliable jump shot and is a good rebounder. Guard Brandon Thompson is a good glue guy and forward Kenny Onyechi is a bruiser on the block.

JMU freshman Ron Curry is going to have to be big off the bench. If Devon Moore can do enough to pester Jason Brickman and A.J. Davis/Curry/Andre Nation can keep Garner in the high teens in scoring, no one will be surprised if the Dukes win.

Prediction: Even if Goins plays, I think LIU has too much depth and size for the Dukes. LIU 78, JMU 72.

--Chris Cappella

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Breaking: Kentucky to face Robert Morris

So as if this season wasn't crazy enough, Robert Morris will be playing the Kentucky Wildcats in the first round of the NIT tournament.

Yes, the defending national champion Kentucky Wildcats. Oh, and there's a catch.

Because Rupp Arena is being used for NCAA tournament games, Kentucky will travel to Moon Township for Tuesday's 7:30 ESPN game. Kentucky staff will not be able to help out for any games near Lexington, thus moving it to none other than the Sewall Center.

There are lots of storylines here, but none bigger than the fact that this is the biggest game in RMU program history. We'll be sure to have many more posts in the next few days.

Feel free to leave your thoughts.

--Chris Cappella

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Mid-week links

  • Robert Morris and UCONN will meet in the AHA quarterfinals (
  • Mount St. Mary's gameplan for Velton Jones and what lies ahead for the basketball team (
  • Long Island three-peats as NEC champions (Big Apple Buckets).
  • The Broncos signing of Wes Welker makes them winners of two straight off-seasons (Yahoo! Sports).
  • The World Baseball Classic is proving to be more than an exhibition thanks to the U.S. (Sports Illustrated).
  • Jim Boeheim reflects on the last Big East tournament as we know it (

Why the Ravens will be JUST fine.

Ray Lewis. Anquan Boldin. Paul Kruger. Dannell Ellerbe. Bernard Pollard. Ed reed will be next. All gone from the Ravens Super Bowl winning team. But guess who remains? No, I'm not talking Joe Flacco, or Torrey Smith, or even Ray Rice. Nope not talking, Terrell Suggs, or Haloto Ngata. I'm talking about the man who has built this franchise from the ground up. Ozzie Newsome. Has Newsome ever steered the Ravens down a bad road? Nope he hasn't, and he isn't going to this offseason. If there is one thing that I have learned over my many years following the NFL, and sports in general, it is this. No player, especially in the NFL, defeats father time. Ozzie is no fool. Boldin is on his last legs, Pollard and Reed are both aging, and quickly. Kruger isn't old, but lets pose this question... Does he have Dwight Freeney quickness, or JJ Watt strength? The answer is no. He is a hustle player, and that's all. Sure, those guys are nice to have, but they aren't worth anything close to the money that Cleveland gave Kruger. Losing Ellerbe was a clear shock to Ozzie and the Ravens, but that is it. He too is replaceable. The Ravens, like all the other elite franchises do not "make their money" in March. They make it in April.

The Ravens will be just fine come September. 
Make no mistake, Boldin, Pollard, Reed, etc still have good football left in them, but at the right price, and for the right amount of years. None though, are guys that Baltimore HAD to keep. The secondary will be faster, the linebacking core will be younger and more explosive, and Torrey Smith will step in as the new number one option. Keep in mind, free agency JUST started. Baltimore has plenty of time to add pieces, and will likley do that on the secondary market. It's cheaper and comes with much less risk (1 and 2 year contracts). Newsome will also look at the Ravens season as a whole. This is a team that was crushed by injuries (because they were old) and truthfully under achieved until the playoffs (lost 4 of last 5 games in the regular season). If Joe Flacco doesn't complete a miracle bomb in Denver, all these moves would actually make complete sense. But he did, and now fans and rivals think Baltimore looks stupid for many of their moves. Did they go on to win the Super Bowl? Yes, they did. But there is no way this group was going to defend their title.

So lets wait and let the great Oz work his April magic. I have a feeling this roster will look just fine come July when training camp kicks off.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Looking ahead

Saturday: The Robert Morris Colonials had their March Madness dreams snatched in a crushing 69-60 loss at the hands of the Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers.
It was certainly tough to watch. I’m glad posted this recent article on the Mountaineers gameplan and how they planned on slowing down the Colonials offense. Here’s a sneak peak:
In order to beat the top seed on the road, Christian devised a plan that naturally centered around Velton Jones.

The core of that plan? Don't let him pass. Make the redshirt senior guard, who had single-handedly beaten teams in clutch moments in the past, try to shoot his team to another Northeast Conference title.
"He's such a good player in terms of getting everyone shots. So we really just tried to limit his ability to create assists, quite honestly. We wanted to make him beat us scoring the ball," Christian said after Mount St. Mary's 69-60 upset win. "We were determined to make him shoot ten or more times and not allow him to create for others."
The Mount dared Velton Jones to make shots Saturd-
ay (photo credit: Justin Berl).
Christian found that when Jones shot ten or more times in a game, Robert Morris was just 4-5, compared to 19-4 overall. The plan worked well, as Jones had only one assist and was a paltry 2-for-17 from the field.

It certainly is an odd plan when you think about all the times Velton has come up big in big moments, but it worked. He went 2-of-17 from the field, which has to be the worst shooting game of his life. The ball movement was the worst I had seen it this year and now we have a better understanding why.

There still was the luck factor, though. I am not saying Mount St. Mary’s got lucky because they didn’t; they certainly were the best team on the floor Saturday. But there is a little luck that goes into it, right? I mean, how many times is Velton Jones going to have that bad of a shooting day? If we played that game 100 times how many times does Velton miss 15-of-17 shots? The team overall went 5-of-19 from three and Karvel Anderson, Coron Williams, and Russell Johnson, and Velton Jones had none of them.
I don’t mean to bash Anthony Myers-Pate because I’m a big fan of his and his play Saturday (and the second half of the year, really) was outstanding, but when your backup point guard is the best player on the floor for your team, it’s not a winning formula.
The near future: The news only gets better throughout the article. Robert Morris’ season is not over as they will get a chance to play in the NIT tournament. Playing in the NIT, especially as a mid-major, is nothing to be ashamed of and gives RMU a better opportunity to win some games. Obviously, it’ll be disappointing to see them in that rather than the big dance but it is what it is at this point.
32 teams make the NIT tournament and I would expect RMU to be around a seven seed and could get an opportunity to get revenge on Arkansas or Xavier. Other possibilities include Ole Miss, Maryland, Alabama, and Providence.
Sharp shooter Karvel Anderson will be back to lead
a dangerous RMU squad (p/c: Justin Berl). 
Looking ahead: When it is all said and done, the careers of Velton Jones and Russell Johnson will be over. Velton might go down as the best player in program history and Russell will go down as one of the best rebounders in program history who probably didn’t tap in to enough of his talent, whether that’s a fair statement or not. Anthony Myers-Pate, Lucky Jones, Karvel Anderson, and Coron Williams, will return as will center Lijah Thompson, who missed all of this season with a torn ACL. No one is quite sure what lies ahead of Mike McFadden, as he is eligible to come back for another season.
RMU also brings in possibly its best recruiting class ever, headlined by highly-touted point guard Kavon Stewart from Hudson Catholic in New Jersey. The lefty is a bit undersized but is a pure pass-first point guard and a lot of recruiting experts feel like Robert Morris “stole” Stewart away from some bigger schools.
6’6” wing player Jeremiah Worthem hails from Philadelphia and is drawing some comparisons to current NEC player of the Year Jamal Olasewere. Worthem’s strengths are still when he has his back to the basket but is beginning to develop a solid inside-out game. Worthem had offers from La Salle, Temple, Wagner, and Stony Brook.
Head coach Andy Toole also snagged shooting guard Britton Lee and power forward Emmanuel Omogbo.
If RMU would have won the NEC and made the NCAA tournament, I think the future of head coach Andy Toole would be much more up in the air than it is now. Toole is one of college basketball’s great minds but has been unable to get over the hump the last three years. The rumor is that Siena is itching for Toole and could increase his salary by nearly triple what it is now.
I believe that if it comes down to it RMU will make a significant offer to keep Toole and I’m not sure Toole jumps ship for a school like Siena in a one-bid MAAC league. If he does leave, I believe he’ll definitely stay on the east coast and would jump to a conference like the A-10.
Feel free to post your thoughts on anything basketball-related.
--Chris Cappella

Saturday, March 9, 2013

RMU upset by Mount St. Mary's

Boy was I wrong.

Robert Morris was upset at home by Mount St. Mary's by a score of 69-60. You catch the box score here. The Colonials tried to make a run at it late but fell short in a game pretty much dominated by the Mountaineers. Robert Morris started off the game well but Mount snagged a lead by the under eight media TO and didn't look back after that. Rashad Whack lead all scorers with 26.

There are a few considerable numbers that stand out from this game. Velton Jones had the worst game I've ever seen him play in a 2-17 shooting night and turned the ball over four times. RMU is a team that lives by the three and when that happens, sometimes you fall on your sword. RMU shot 5-19 from three (26.3 percent).

The only word to describe this game is devastating, really. How can you not feel awful? Sure, this team went through their bumps, but it's hard not to feel like they were the best team in the NEC this year. I tip my hat to the Mount, who just seemed to always have an answer, but it's going to be tough to watch Tuesday's championship game.

Robert Morris will get a chance to play in the NIT. It'll be disappointing, but fun to watch the guys try and pull of some upsets and reach Madison Square Garden.

NEC second round outlook

Today, Long Island will make the short trip to Staten Island to face Wagner and your Robert Morris Colonials will play host to the Mount St. Mary's Mountaineers. The LIU-Wagner game will tip at 12:00 and the RMU game tips at 2:30.

Wagner has defeated Long Island both times they've played, the first by a score of 85-76 and the second by an epic score of 94-92. LIU was still adjusting to play without Julian Boyd and had a few players shaking off the rust from suspension in the first loss but provided a wildly entertaining game at Wagner, which saw the Blackbirds erase a ten point deficit in the last 2:06 only to lose off a Kenny Ortiz putback with one second remaining.

As many will remember, Wagner was in a very similar position last year as they are this year. Last year, Wagner was coming off one of the best seasons in school history and hosted a very experienced Robert Morris club with a chance to go to the finals on the line and could not pull it out.

There are a lot of variables that could determine this game. Wagner hung a 56 spot in the second half of the last game, can they do that again? Can they get another 7-10 shooting night from Mario Moody and have Dwaun Anderson go 3-4 from downtown again? I'm interested to see if that can happen.

Robert Morris has only matched up once this year with Mount St. Mary's and I think it's safe to say neither team had reached their best play. RMU won the game 76-68 thanks to a strong run to end the game from the Mount that turned a blowout into a close game.

Karvel Anderson lead all scorers with 22 and Russell Johnson added 14 but besides that we saw balanced scoring from the Colonials. Julian Norfleet and Shivaughn Wiggans did the bulk of the scoring for Mount St. Mary's with 21 each. The Mountaineers had more rebounds and free throws than RMU but really just ran out of time in this game.

Everyone knows the Mount likes to give you 40 minutes of the full-court press and RMU has struggled at times, but overall this is a much better match up for the Colonials for a few reasons:

a) Velton Jones is healthy, giving RMU two viable point guard options to handle the ball.
b) The Mount like to play small, which works well for Robert Morris
c) Mount St. Mary's likes to play more zone than your average team, which plays right into the strengths of Robert Morris' offense.

Maybe I'm more optimistic than I should be, but RMU is playing their best basketball of the year and their best is better than anyone else's.

My predictions:
Wagner over Long Island 85-82
Robert Morris over Mount St. Mary's 77-69

--Chris Cappella

Thursday, March 7, 2013

RMU defeats St. Francis and elsewhere around the NEC

Last night, the Robert Morris Colonials avenged a January loss to St. Francis (Brooklyn) and sent them packing with a 75-57 defeat in the first round of the NEC playoffs. If you weren't fortunate enough to catch last night's game, just think of what January's game looked like against the Terriers and it was the opposite of that.

Robert Morris fans came out to support Russell Johnson and
the Colonials (Photo credit: Justin Berl).
Russell Johnson set the tone early by canning a three and a few more mid-range J's en route to 12 first half points and 19 overall. Robert Morris came sprinting out of the gates early and really never looked back. St. Francis made a nice run to bring it within four at the under twelve media timeout but that was as close as they would get. Velton Jones effectively broke the press the few times St. Francis went to it and dished out eight assists. Velton did an excellent job not forcing shots (he only had three points on 1-4 shooting) and finding the open man.

RMU had just a really solid all-around game. They canned eleven three's, controlled the boards, played solid defense, and had outstanding ball movement. I was impressed with the colonial "big's" of Mike McFadden, Russell Johnson, and Lucky Jones. They did a great job battling with Jalen Cannon, who is the Terriers best player. Johnson had probably the best all-around game with 19 points (on a very efficient 7-12 shooting), seven rebounds, five steals, and two assists.

Finally, what else can you say about Karvel Anderson? I mean, the guy is playing with a broken wrist and has stepped up in every big game this season. He led the team with 20 points and put the nail in the coffin with his own 8-0 run late in the second half. There is no one who can shoot like him in the NEC.

Hat tip to the RMU crazies, who showed up in full force, stood (!), and made noise the whole game. As always, we encourage all students to stay that extra night so you can attend the semifinal match-up, which will be broadcasted on FSN and MSG among other networks.

Around the NEC: I was not surprised with any of the outcomes in the first round of the quarterfinals. Quinnipiac gave LIU a scare (again) but couldn't seal the deal in the second half (again) and lost by a score of 91-83. The refs were whistle happy in the game; Ike Azotam, Zaid Hearst, Dave Johnson, and Ousmane Drame all fouled out for the Bobcats (their four best players, by the way) and Jamal Olasewere fouled out for LIU. Olasewere, the NEC player of the year, didn't have the monster game he did last Saturday but still added 20 and six. C.J. Garner was the star of the game with 30 points.
Rashad Whack was the best player on the floor last night.

Mount St. Mary's went into Bryant and defeated the Bulldogs by a score of 75-69. It wasn't the high scoring affair one may have expected, but nonetheless the Mount overcame an eight point second half deficit thanks in part to the complete game that guard Rashad Whack played and their ability to hit free throw's down the stretch. Sam Prescott did not go for 40+ in this one but he didn't have to thanks to the balance scoring of his teammates. The Mountaineers had four players in double digits. I do have a few additional thoughts about this game:

1) Is there anyone who wants to play the Mount right now? They're winners of eight in a row and ten of                           their last eleven.
2) I understand that Bryant has a great student section, but lets stop with the notion that they're the toughest place to play in the NEC. They lost their three biggest NEC games of the year at home (LIU, RMU, MSM).
3) Is there a more boring name in college athletics that the "Mount St. Mary's Mountaineers"?

Finally, Wagner handled Central Connecticut State with a final of 72-50. Kyle Vinales got his with 23 points but needed 22 shots do so and CCSU shot an uncharacteristically 25 percent from the field. Jonathon Williams paced Wagner with 20 points.

Saturday's match-ups look like the following:

(2) Wagner vs (3) Long Island,, 12:00 pm
(1) Robert Morris vs (5) Mount St. Mary's, FSN, 2:30 pm.

Look for a post tomorrow that breaks down these games and tune in to No Huddle on tonight at nine for more exclusive coverage. We'll have Andrew Chiappazzi of on at 9:20 pm and will be taking calls all night to talk NEC hoops. The number to call in is 412-397-6816.

--Chris Cappella

MLB season preview: New York Yankees

This month I am previewing every team in the majors and giving my predicted finish for them. Today comes the New York Yankees, and while I am a huge Yankees fan being from New York I will do my best to be unbiased…and trust me this season that won’t be too much of an issue.

How much longer can these guys be the face of the Yankees?
I will be the first person to tell you that this Yankees team is old, and will not be the same Yankees offense that has been known. Manager Joe Girardi has already stated that the diminished offense will already have to learn how to rely on things other than the long ball. The losses of Nick Swisher and Russell Martin are the two biggest. Martin’s absence leaves a gaping hole at catcher and the replacements, Chris Stewart and Frankie Cervelli do not inspire much hope on offense. The Yankees will have to rely heavily on their pitching staff this season and how they do will decide how the Yankees do.

Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, and Robinson Cano are all pretty much locked in as 25+ homerun hitters and that pretty much sums up the power in the starting lineup. Derek Jeter led the majors in hits last season but comes off a nasty ankle injury. Brett Gardner was hurt most of the season but can steal 40+ bases when healthy, and Ichiro is old, 39 to be exact, but he hit .319 with the Yankees last season and still is one of the best defenders in the outfield. Kevin Youkilis will take over third base this season and well, his numbers have been declining a lot in recent seasons and the Yankees will just hope he can regain something and continue to be a walk machine.

The Field
C: Frankie Cervelli
1st: Mark Teixeira - Out until May
2nd: Robinson Cano
3rd: Kevin Youkilis
SS: Derek Jeter
LF: Curtis Granderson - Out until May
CF: Brett Gardner
RF: Ichiro
DH: Travis Hafner

Matt Diaz - Outfield
Chris Stewart - Catcher
Eduardo Nunez - Infield
Juan Rivera or Melky Mesa – Outfield

The offense just does not inspire a whole lot of confidence in the run scoring department and they have shown that they will and can fall into major slumps and strikeout a lot. Cano, Teixeira, and Granderson provide the power while Gardner and Ichiro provide the steals. The Yankees will also hope that Hafner, Diaz, Rivera, and Youkilis all find some form of their former selves to be serviceable pieces.
Team defense should be fine though as once Granderson is healthy they should have one of the best outfield defenses in the league with Gardy, Grandy, and Ichiro. Cano and Teixeira are gold glovers while Frankie Cervelli has become a pretty decent defender behind the plate. Jeter has lost a lot of range and Youkilis is not really anything special at the hot corner. If Melky Mesa makes the team he could provide a good spark with his skill set. Reports say the power, speed, and arm strength are all very real.

Granderson and Texiara will both be out until May. It sounds like Eduardo Nunez could get the nod at third and Kevin Youkilis will move to first base-- not the worst situation out there but not ideal. Don't be surprised to see the Yankees look elsewhere around the majors to solve the left field situation. Alfonso Soriano anyone?

The Rotation
CC Sabathia
Hiroki Kuroda
Andy Pettitte
Ivan Nova
Phil Hughes

The ‘Pen
Mariano Rivera
David Robertson
Boone Logan
Clay Rapada
Joba Chamberlain
David Aardsma
David Phelps

CC Sabathia is a bonafide ace, we all know that. Kuroda pitched very well in his first season in the Bronx and he thoroughly enjoyed pitching there as well, his performance in the playoffs was inspiring but we worry after putting more than 200 innings on that right arm last season. Pettitte just cannot say goodbye and returns once more to try and win another ring, he proved last season that when healthy he can still be a very effective pitcher. Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes round out the rotation and despite their massive amounts of talent they struggle to put it all together, Nova with his command, and Hughes with putting guys away. The bullpen will be very good, Mo is Mo and despite coming off a torn ACL the ageless wonder returns for what is expected to be the final season of a first ballot hall of fame career. David Robertson and Boone Logan are excellent in the setup roles while Clay Rapada and David Aardsma take care of same side hitters. All in all the pitching staff while be the vocal point for the Yankees and they will hope that Michael Pineda can return in early May and regain the form he showed during his rookie season with the Mariners.

Player to Watch
Brett Gardner is the player to watch for me this season on the Yankees. He is a slap hitter with top of the line speed. His ability to make the pitcher work will be a key component for the Yankees this season and they will hope that he stays healthy all season which should allow for him to steal 40+ bases while playing gold glove defense in center field.

Brett Gardner can be a pain for all AL pitchers. 
Predicted finish: 2nd in the AL East
This Yankees team will still be good, just not as good as recent teams have been. The talent is there and reinforcements are on the way. They have many youngsters in the farm systems who are very close to contributing to the big club and one name to listen for this season is reliever Mark Montgomery. I won’t make too much of a fuss about a reliever a lot but Montgomery has some of the best stuff I’ve seen in a long time. Guys like Jeter, Pettitte, and Rivera will keep this team fighting and I think we see the Yankees take 2nd in the division but in this league, who knows if that equates to a playoff spot.

--Kenny Celelli

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

NEC tournament first round game day: RMU vs St. Francis-Brooklyn

Tonight, the Robert Morris Colonials (22-9, 14-4) will take on the St. Francis (Brooklyn) Terriers (12-17, 8-10) in the first round of the NEC tournament. The game is at the Charles L. Sewall Center and has been deemed a student whiteout, with the first 1,100 fans getting a free "Pack the Chuck" t-shirt. Tip off is at seven and you can catch the game by going (ideal) or tuning in to Chris Shovlin on 730 WPITAM. As always, Andrew Chiappazzi of has a fantastic game day read, here is part of it:
Always in search of some reassuring bit of news, Robert Morris fans might want to take the following number to heart when Northeast Conference quarterfinal play begins Wednesday night with St. Francis-Brooklyn looking to knock off the top-seeded Colonials. 
That's the number of times a No. 8 seed has beaten the top seed in the NEC Tournament. The Top 3 seeds are 21-0 in the last seven years. Even in the crazy, wild, wacky 2012-2013 version of the NEC, those are comforting numbers. 
Just don't tell the Colonials. They won't hear it. Home court advantage was a goal. But in reality, it's just a means to an end. Because if these Colonials have learned anything, it's that nothing is guaranteed. 
 So there you have it. No one seed has ever lost in the first round of the NEC tournament and if you're a colonials fan the expectations should be it remains that way. 

These two teams did face off in Brooklyn on the last day of January and the Terriers did defeat Robert Morris by ten, so the potential for an upset is there. It was a weird game in the respects that Velton Jones played the first two minutes but left after sustaining a shoulder/pec injury and did not return. It was evident that threw the RMU off their game as the offense was out of rhythm and the defense couldn't get gritty stops when they had to. In my opinion, Anthony Myers-Pate was the best colonial on the floor that night, and with all due respect to Myers-Pate, that's not exactly a winning formula for RMU.

RMU only shot 6-21 from beyond the arc in the last meeting and Coron Williams was 0-4 and 1-7 overall. Mike McFadden also only went 2-5 and didn't grab a single rebound, which can't happen this time around.

St. Francis is tough on the block, lead by Jalen Cannon, a second team all-NEC selection. I would imagine you're going to see him and Russell Johnson going at it a lot throughout the game. Akeem Johnson is another forward who is a very capable scorer and a good rebounder, and guard Ben Mockford went 4-7 from three in the last meting.

Overall, Robert Morris is just a flat-out better team than St. Francis. They play (slightly) better defense, can shoot the three ball, and Velton Jones and Karvel Anderson are guys you can trust to take a game over if is tightly contested. When talking to the players, you know they're focused on St. Francis. They see them as a dangerous team that beat them earlier in the season, not an eight seed.

I made my first round picks earlier in the week. This team does not lose in front of a packed house and I think RMU defeats St. Francis 80-61.

--Chris Cappella

Monday, March 4, 2013

Season preview: Toronto Blue Jays

This month contributor Kenny Celelli will take a look at every team in the MLB. Kenny starts his preview with the AL East and the Toronto Blue Jays.  

In my first article I highlighted how the Blue Jays were easily the winners of the off season. They brought in big names and general manager Alex Anthopoulos stuck to his word and will field a great team this season north of the border. However, Anthopoulos may have traded the future for the present when he traded many of the great pieces that made the Blue Jays farm system one of the best in the league. For Blue Jays fans though the time is now, this team is filled with talent and very high expectations. But can they live up to them?

Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey
Jose Reyes, R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Melky Cabrera, and Emilio Bonifacio all join the Jays in an effort to make the playoffs for the first time since 1993, when they won the World Series. Their lineup will be potent with the likes of Reyes and Cabrera joining the already dangerous Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Lawrie, and JP Arencibia. The rotation looks deadly with reigning NL Cy Young R.A. Dickey joining former ace Josh Johnson and workhorses Mark Buehrle, Ricky Romero, and the uber-talented Brandon Morrow. The Jays finally look poised to make the playoffs and be a very competitive team for the next few years.

The Field
C: JP Arencibia                      
1st: Edwin Encarnacion
2nd: Macier Izturis
3rd: Brett Lawrie
SS: Jose Reyes
LF: Melky Cabrera
CF: Colby Rasmus
RF: Jose Bautista
DH: Adam Lind

Josh Thole – Catcher
Rajai Davis – Outfield
Mark DeRosa – Infield
Emilio Bonifacio – Utility

That may be the best offense in the league. Bautista has hit more homeruns the past 3 years than anyone else in the league. Encarnacion, Lawrie, Cabrera, Lind, and Arencibia can all knock out 20 or more homeruns as well. Bonifacio, Reyes, and Davis can all steal 30+ bases while Lawrie and Cabrera can steal a double digit amount.

The team defense should be average as they have a decent mix of good defenders and some guys not so well known for their defense. Up the middle they are solid with Reyes, Izturis, and Rasmus all being pretty good glove men. The Melk Man and Joey Bats have huge arms but not always the greatest route runners when going for the ball. Edwin Encarnacion only plays the field because he is slightly less awful then Adam Lind, and Brett Lawrie has a great arm but his range can be somewhat suspect. Arencibia has been improving and has become a good game caller but his throwing skills still could use work at time. Emilio Bonifacio will be a defensive replacement in most games while Josh Thole was brought in specifically because he has caught R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball before.

The Rotation
R.A. Dickey
Josh Johnson
Brandon Morrow
Mark Buehrle
Ricky Romero

The ‘Pen
Casey Janssen (closer)
Sergio Santos
Darren Oliver
Brett Cecil
Steve Delabar
Aaron Loup
Brad Lincoln

The Jays had issues with the bullpen last year and this year it will remain the weakness this season. Sergio Santos started last season as the closer but injuries and ineffectiveness put Casey Janssen in the role and he converted 22 of 25 opportunities, enough to keep the spot for this season. The problem will be in middle relief most likely for the Jays, Darren Oliver is old but still solid at getting lefties out. Brett Cecil gets moved from the rotation to most likely become the long man. Brad Lincoln is coming off a pretty good season and has good strikeout and walk rates. Everyone else is just your run of the mill reliever and pretty interchangeable. The Jays will rely heavily on their star filled rotation and the numbers suggest that at least four of the starters will be very good, the weak link, Ricky Romero. The numbers for Romero last year were not good at all, walks were up, home runs were up and he overall just did not look like he knew what he was doing on the mound.

Player to watch
Emilio Bonifacio could be the player to watch in Toronto. 
I could go with one of the obvious, Jose Bautista, Jose Reyes, R.A. Dickey, or Josh Johnson but instead I will go with someone who could have quite an impact on the team, Emilio Bonifacio. When healthy Bonifacio is one of the fastest players in the league, he can play every position except, pitcher, catcher, and first base, he walks a fair amount, and won’t kill you with his strikeouts. If he stays healthy all season he will steal at least 40 bases, providing the potent Jays hitters with more opportunities to drive in runs. Just think about this, last season Bonifacio stole 30 bases in 64 games, and he was only caught 3 times. A full season could see him steal the league lead.

Predicted Finish: 1st in the AL East
I think every move pays off, I don’t think they win 100 games like some people think but this team is good and with the Yankees, Rays, and Red Sox all very vulnerable this season the division is the Blue Jays to take. I think Dickey regresses a little which is expected but Brandon Morrow continues to show talent and the bullpen is not too awful. The offense will strike out a lot, and I mean a lot, but they will challenge to lead the majors in runs scored and I think that translates to a first place finish in the division.

--Kenny Celelli