Nov 17, 2013; Lexington, KY, USA; Robert Morris Colonials forward Lucky Jones (22) dribbles the ball against the Kentucky Wildcats at Rupp Arena. Kentucky defeated Robert Morris 87-49. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Duquesne vs Robert Morris: Q + A with Andrew Chiappazzi

 Publisher Andrew Chiappazzi, who covers all things Robert Morris for Colonials Corner on the Rivals network, was kind enough to answer a few questions for us about Andy Toole’s team heading into this weekend’s Duquesne vs Robert Morris

1) When I watch the 2013-14 Robert Morris Colonials, they’re playing uncharacteristically poor defense. What do you think is going on?

It is the perfect storm of events that has thrown Robert Morris for a loop. First they lost their two best overall defenders, Velton Jones and Russell Johnson, to graduation. Then they brought in six newcomers to flesh out the roster, and there’s always an adjustment for newcomers when it comes to playing Division I. Finally, the new foul rules – especially the inconsistent way in which they’ve been upheld – have gotten under RMU’s skin. Robert Morris always played aggressive defense, and that included a lot of contact. Much of it was legal, but even Andrew Toole would admit that they got away with things at times because officials usually let them play. The NEC could get pretty rugged, and officials familiar with the league knew that and let a lot go. Not now. It’s really just a mental battle. RMU has to be more technically sound than many of these players are used to and it’s just going to take some time.

2) How much are the Colonials missing Lijah Thompson and Coron Williams?

Believe it or not, the Colonials miss Thompson more than they miss Williams. Coron Williams was a great shooter, but he wasn’t outstanding defensively. He also decided to graduate and use his final year of eligibility at Wake Forest early enough that RMU could compensate on the recruiting trail. Thompson decided to leave in August, stunning the program. They miss his size and his rugged play, although who knows what would have happened with the new foul rules and him.

3) There are a lot of newcomers for Robert Morris. Who not named Jeremiah Worthem has impressed you most?

Kavon Stewart is the other newcomer besides Worthem who has been impressive, even in just three games. His decision-making can be problematic, and the fact that he got off to a bad start at RMU with a 6-game suspension wasn’t good. But he’s a very skilled athlete who always finds a way into the lane. He’s a pass-first point guard and capable of guarding a couple positions. His offensive game needs work and he’s still learning how to react defensively to certain situations, but it’s telling that he and Worthem are the only newcomers to get significant minutes right now.

4)  In spite of their slow start, where do you think Robert Morris sets up in the NEC?

The good news for Robert Morris is the rest of the NEC has been just as inconsistent. They’re still one of the contenders. The NEC was always going to be murky this year, especially after LIU Brooklyn lost Julian Boyd to a knee injury prior to the season. Wagner’s solid defensively but can’t score. St. Francis-Brooklyn has been a surprise with a couple marquee wins, but they really struggle to score. Bryant’s the only one on stable footing, but they’ve had a few head scratchers. If Robert Morris improves its defense to even NCAA average, they’ll be in sold shape.

5) It seems like in many circles around Pittsburgh, people think Robert Morris’ athletic department has surpassed Duquesne’s. Where are you on this debate?

I think it has, but it’s not as wide of a gap as Robert Morris fans would like to think. The basketball program has been better and the athletic department has also leveraged ice hockey into a major factor in its brand recognition. Football is probably about equal. Where RMU has had more time in the sun thanks to things like the win over Kentucky and hosting the Frozen Four, Duquesne still has an advantage in facilities and its overall base. Duquesne’s had a long history of athletic success, whereas Robert Morris hasn’t even hit 40 years of Division I sports yet. The Palumbo Center is better than the Sewall Center, and the donor base is more aggressive at Duquesne. If RMU can match the facilities and donor base with its ambition, then Duquesne would really be in danger of sliding back. For now, they’re neck and neck, with RMU getting a slight nod because of the splashy news moments it’s had lately.

6) Prediction Time for the County Game?

KenPom’s usually never wrong, and he says Duquesne. But RMU came close to beating an excellent Toledo team on Saturday, and I think they finally snap the skid. It’ll be close. Robert Morris 77, Duquesne 74.

 

You can follow Chiappazzi on twitter @achiappazzi

Tags: Andy Toole Duquesne Dukes