Top-seed RMU enters NEC tourney with eye on big prize
Robert Morris cleaned up many of the Northeast Conference postseason awards Tuesday.
The Colonials received a trophy for winning the NEC regular-season title, Andy Toole was named Coach of the Year, Karvel Anderson was Player of the Year and Lucky Jones earned second-team all-NEC honors.
But one thing the team wants most still must be earned.
The Colonials needs to win the NEC Tournament to earn the league's automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.
Robert Morris opens play at 7 p.m. Wednesday against No. 8 seed Fairleigh Dickinson at Sewall Center. By winning the regular-season title, the top-seeded Colonials will play every game at home.
Robert Morris (19-12) needed a late rally to beat Fairleigh Dickinson (10-20) on Feb. 27, using a 22-2 run to end the game and squeeze out a 69-64 victory.
“Nothing is a given this season, but I guess if you ask the coaches in the conference, they'd like to play at home,” Toole said. “It won't be easy. There is not much separation between the top teams and the bottom teams in the conference.
“You can't just show up and play. You have to follow your formula that made you successful.”
Having the player of the year in your lineup doesn't hurt.
The award is something Anderson, a sharp-shooting senior guard who averaged 19.6 points, had in his sights on for a while.
“This is my biggest accomplishment that I've had,” he said. “I got the player of the year in high school, and I was disappointed I didn't get it in junior college.
“Not to be selfish and say I wanted to be player of the year. I wanted to work hard and get myself to that level of play.”
Anderson said he couldn't have achieved the award without the help of his teammates.
“I'm very thankful,” he said. “I can only thank my teammates and Coach Toole for pushing me like they do and having the confidence in me to let me go out and shoot the ball like I know I can and putting me in positions to be as successful as I've been.”
Robert Morris was the 2013 regular-season champions and had home-court advantage, but the Colonials lost to rival Mount St. Mary's in the semifinals.
That loss still stings for senior point guard Anthony Myers-Pate, Anderson and Jones.
“Winning the tournament is a must,” Myers-Pate said. “The season wouldn't be complete if we don't make it.”
Twice since 2008 Mount St. Mary's ended Robert Morris' run in the semifinals and sent them to the NIT. They could meet in the semifinals again.