Robert Morris (21-13) at St. John's (20-12)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Tuesday, March 18, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Carnesecca Arena (5,602) -- Queens, New York. Television: ESPNU. NIT Record: Robert Morris 1-2, St. John's 41-27. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The St. John's Red Storm will start another run in the National Invitation Tournament, as they entertain the Robert Morris Colonials in first- round action at Carnesecca Arena on Tuesday night.
St. John's is the most storied team in this tournament, holding the record for most wins (41), appearances (15) and titles (five). All those records don't even include the 2003 appearance and championship, which were later vacated by the NCAA. The Red Storm had bigger postseason hopes at the end of this season, but they were disappointed on Selection Sunday, when their 20-12 overall record was not enough to warrant an invite to the NCAA Tournament. However, they did earn a No. 1 seed in this event.
Robert Morris, an eight seed, does not have as long a history in the NIT. However, the Colonials did manage to make quite a statement in the event last season when they knocked off Kentucky in the first round. The win came in their second-ever appearance in the NIT, where they are 1-2. Robert Morris also had NCAA Tournament hopes late in the season as they won the Northeast Conference regular-season title. However, they fell in the NEC Tournament title tilt to Mount Saint Mary's.
This game marks the first-ever meeting between these two schools in men's basketball. The winner advances to face either Green Bay or Belmont in the next round.
After controlling the NEC for much of the season, the Colonials fell flat to a hot shooting Mount Saint Mary's squad in the championship game of the league tourney. Robert Morris allowed a 60.4 percent shooting effort to its opponent, including an 8-of-18 showing from beyond the arc. Karvel Anderson paced the losing effort with 21 points.
Despite what their overall record (21-13) and league mark (14-2) might suggest, Robert Morris has not dominated the competition this season. The squad owns a razor-thin scoring margin (+0.3) by netting 71.6 ppg and allowing 71.3 ppg. They are also shooting at a worse percentage than the opposition (.438 to .457). Anderson (19.1 ppg) is a potent and efficient scorer, connecting on 50.7 percent of his shots from the field. Luck Jones (13.5 ppg, 6.7 rpg) is the second option, but he struggles with accuracy (.391 FG percentage).
St. John's lost to eventual Big East Tournament champion Providence in the quarterfinals, 79-74. The Red Storm did have a 17-8 scoring advantage off turnovers, but they only connected on 13-of-26 shots from the free-throw line and 41.2 percent from the field overall. D'Angelo Harrison recorded a double- double with 21 points and 10 rebounds in the loss.
While St John's doesn't score much more than Robert Morris on average, it makes a concerted effort to limit the production of its opponents at the defensive end of the court by allowing only 67 ppg on 40.7 percent shooting. Chris Obekpa (4 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 2.9 bpg) headlines the defensive effort, as he led the Big East in blocked shots this season. Obekpa isn't the only rim protector on the squad, as the Red Storm lead the nation in blocked shots (7.6 bpg). Harrison (17.7 ppg) is the team's go-to offensive weapon, with JaKarr Sampson (12.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg) also getting into the mix. Rysheed Jordan (9.7 ppg, 3 apg) is the next option, putting up solid numbers as a freshman.
Robert Morris has played with very little margin for error this season. The Colonials will have a tough time sustaining their success against a bigger and more physical St. John's team, which just endured a grueling run through the Big East.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: St. John's 70, Robert Morris 58
03/18 10:33:15 ET