Robert Morris Athletics

2014 NEC Tournament Preview: Can Robert Morris regain control of the league?

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Robert Morris Athletics

It’s been five years since anyone in the NEC other than LIU-Brooklyn or Robert Morris has won the league’s automatic bid. While the Blackbirds have one of the nation’s best point guards in Jason Brickman, they suffered through a down year plagued by injuries and likely won’t extend their reign over the league to a four-peat. Bobby Mo, on the other hand, won the conference by two full games and will head into the conference tournament as the favorite to earn the automatic bid.

(MORE: Browse through all of our conference tournament previews)

The Bracket

When: March 5, 8 and 11

Where: Higher seed hosts every game

Final: March 11, 7:00 p.m. ESPN2

Favorite: Robert Morris

The Colonials have had a bit of a tumultuous season, as three of their rotation players have left the program or gotten kicked off the team during the season. But Karvel Anderson is still around, as is Lucky Jones. And remember, Andy Toole’s team isn’t afraid of the spotlight. This is the same program that knocked off Kentucky in the first round of the NIT last season.

And if they lose?: Wagner

The Seahawks are far and away the best defensive team in the conference, according to KenPom. They contest shots on the perimeter and make life a nightmare for anyone trying to finish around the rim. The question is whether or not Bashir Mason’s boys will be able to score enough to win three straight games.


  • Bryant: The Bulldogs are explosive offensively, as Alex Francis, Dyami Starks, and Corey Maynard make up the best top three in the league.
  • St. Francis (NY): St. Francis won at Miami in overtime this year and nearly knocked off Syracuse at the Carrier Dome two weeks later. They were 9-7 in league play.


  • Karvel Anderson, Robert Morris: Anderson is the best player on the best team in the league, carrying a group that lost three rotation players for the season.
  • Jason Brickman, LIU-Brooklyn: Brickman is the only player in the country to average a double-double in points and assists.
  • Alex Francis, Bryant: Tim O’Shea’s best player is third in the conference in scoring (19.0 ppg) and second in rebounding (8.2 rpg).

CBT Prediction: Robert Morris over Bryant

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.

LSU loses to Charleston, eliminates at-large bid margin for error

Ben Simmons
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Ben Simmons scored 15 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, the second time in his six-game career that the LSU freshman has collected that many caroms, but that wasn’t enough for the Tigers to avoid dropping a game on the road to the College of Charleston, 70-58. It was the third straight loss for Simmons’ crew, as they fell to Marquette and N.C. State at the Legends Classic last week.

But here’s the thing: LSU didn’t just lose.

The game really wasn’t close.

LSU was down by as many as 23 points. It was 39-17 at the half, and that was after Charleston had a shot at the buzzer called off upon review. They made a bit of a run in the second half but never got closer than seven. When LSU would cut into the lead, the Cougars would respond with a run of their own, killing LSU’s spirit while keeping them at arm’s length.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons’ one college year a waste?]

Now, there are quite a few things here to discuss. For starters, LSU’s effort was, at best, apathetic, and, at worst, regular old pathetic. The team has a serious lack of leadership that was plainly evident on Monday night; would Fred VanVleet let his team fold against a program picked to finish at the bottom of the SoCon? Would Tyler Ulis? For that matter, would Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari?

Perhaps more importantly, does any of that change when Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor get back?

Simmons did show off his potential — 18 boards, four assists, he even made his first three of the year — but he also showed precisely why there are scouts that are trying to curtail the LeBron James comparisons. Simmons was 4-for-15 from the floor with seven turnovers against a mediocre mid-major team. There are so many things that Simmons does well, but scoring efficiently — particularly in half court setting — and shooting the ball consistently are not on that list.

But here’s the biggest issue: LSU may have put themselves in a situation where they aren’t a tournament team. As of today, they’re 3-3 on the season with losses to a pair of teams that, at best, seem destined to be in the bubble conversation on Selection Sunday in addition to this loss to Charleston. The rest of their non-conference schedule is ugly. The only game worth noting is at home against No. 6 Oklahoma at the end of January.

The NCAA factors in non-conference schedule strength when determining at-large teams. You need to at least try, and LSU didn’t try; they have one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country.

The great thing about being in the SEC — as opposed to, say, the Missouri Valley — is that the Tigers will have plenty of chances to earn marquee wins. Six, by my court: Kentucky twice, Texas A&M twice, Vanderbilt on the road and Oklahoma at home. They probably need to win at least two or three of those games to have a real chance, and that’s assuming they can avoid anymore horrid losses in the process.

The season isn’t over six games in, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But LSU has done a hell of a job eliminating their margin for error.