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 ColonialsCorner.com 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

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