I know you’re not here for a history lesson, but Robert Morris was an interesting dude. He was everything from the richest man in North America to an inmate in a debtor’s prison, in between serving a vital role in the American Revolution on the side of the eventual victors. He was born in Liverpool, signed the Declaration of Independence, and died in a modest home in New Jersey. Google him.
Anyway, the university named after his is Xavier’s first opponent this season. They were 16-17 last year, crashing out of the Horizon League tournament in an overtime loss to Cleveland State. They burnished their record with a couple of wins over non-D1 teams but were generally kind of a non-factor in the whole season. No big wins, no stunning losses, just kind of... there.
Running the show is head coach Andrew Toole, who has been with the program since 2007. When noted good guy Mike Rice, Jr. left the program in 2010 to go lead Rutgers, Toole took over the head job. He has compiled a winning percentage just north of .500 and guided the team from the NEC to their current home in the Horizon League, where they are still finding their feet entering their fourth season as a member.
Toole has had some decent defenses, based mostly around the ability to force turnovers. Like a lot of teams that gamble, they consistently get crushed in EFG% and on the glass. They have also struggled to really get anything going in the Horizon League, though the statistical residue of the effort is still there. His offenses have been mostly abysmal; he hasn’t put one in the top 200 of the KenPom in AdjO since 2015. It’s hard to tell exactly what the game plan is other than playing slowly, but it definitely appears to not be working.
Forward Kahliel Spear led the team in scoring and rebounding with a 15.5/8.3/1.9 game line and was their most important player by a wide margin. Having exhausted his eligibility, he’s playing professionally in Italy now. Guard Enoch Cheeks was right behind him with 15.4/4.4/3.5 per game while also leading the team in steals; he transferred to Dayton in what must be a desperate attempt to pay off some massive karmic debt. Guard Michael Green III led the team in assists while averaging 9.0/1.7/4.2; keen for a change but hesitant to leave the founding fathers altogether, he transferred to James Madison.
That’s the top three in usage rate, the two best guards, two of the three best shooters, and the best forward out the door. Tough development for a team that wasn’t exactly lighting the world on fire to begin with.
Josh Corbin is a 6’3” guard who will be a senior this year; he averaged 10.5/2.5/1.3 and hit 83 threes last time around, albeit with a modest .369/.368/.952 shooting line. He’s the team’s leading returning scorer and will probably be a focal point of the offense along with (what a segue!) forward Stephaun Walker. Walker is a 6’7” rising sophomore who was an excellent rebounder at both ends and shot .557/.182/.723 on his way to 6.8/6.0/0.4 per game.
One final interesting returnee is 6’5” rising junior wing Jackson Last. He went for 5.8/4.1/1.4 but on a grotesque shooting line of .354/.303/.581 while committing 4 fouls per 40 minutes. There is playing time to be had, but he’s going to have to tighten up that shot selection and maybe stop fouling so much if he wants to claim it. Nobody else coming back averaged more than 2 PPG.
The transfer portal was kind to RMU. First up is former Butler big man Markeese Hastings, a 6’7”, 195-pound PF who averaged 8.3/9.3/1.8 at Western Michigan last year. He dominated the glass on both ends and was a good defender; he also took 97 threes in two years at WMU despite being a .189 shooter from deep on his career. Also joining is former LSU guard Justice Williams, transferring in after two lackluster seasons as a Tiger. He was a top-50 recruit out of high school and profiles as a potential big scorer at the Horizon League level.
While not a truly new incoming guy, former Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak’s son Ben is looking for his first collegiate minutes, having missed last year with an injury. He dropped 14 points and 4 assists per game as a senior at IMG Academy as a senior and was, at least at the time, a good shooter with solid feel. Spanish big man Alvaro Folgueiras was an unheralded recruit, but he is a 6’9”, 215-pound 4 that Robert Morris hopes will help spread the floor a bit with his mid-range game.
It’s hard to see this season as anything but a potential step back for the Colonials. They were just getting to the point where they were holding their own in the Horizon League, then the top half of their rotation left after last season. Andrew Toole has been a consistent leader for the program, but his best KenPom ranking was in 2012 and his only NCAA tournament appearance was in 2015. If these guys end up going .500 in conference, it will be a monumental achievement. If they challenge Xavier at home, the Muskies are off to a poor start.