The top two seeds in the Northeast Conference tip off in less than two hours in Hamden with the winner earning the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Robert Morris and Quinnipiac met just once in the regular season with the Bobcats winning 87-79 back on February 20th. Tom Moore's team is 14-0 in home games this season, most recently surviving a challenge from LIU in Sunday's NEC semifinal. RMU, on the other hand, whipped Mount St. Mary's to earn their third consecutive NEC title game appearance. James Feldeine and NEC Player of the Year Justin Rutty lead the way for the Bobcats, who also receive ample contributions from the likes of James Johnson, Jeremy Baker and Jonathan Cruz. Point guard Dave Johnson also played well against the Blackbirds, knocking down some big perimeter shots in the second half.
As for Robert Morris, Mike Rice's team is young in the backcourt but they certainly don't lack for talent. Karon Abraham and Velton Jones have been two of their best contributors all season long while senior Mezie Newigwe accepted his role and subsequently was named NEC Defensive Player of the Year. The frontcourt of Rob Robinson, Dallas Green and Russell Johnson will have its collective hands full with Rutty and Cruz but they are more than capable of winning that matchup. They must keep the Bobcats off the offensive boards tonight; Quinnipiac boasts and offensive rebounding percentage of 41.1% on the season. This has helped make QU one of the NEC's most efficient offensive teams and could earn them a conference title if RMU is unable to deter this.
Quinnipiac needs to do a good job of defending the three-pointer; RMU gets 24.6% of their points from beyond the arc. In the regular season meeting Robert Morris made 39.1% of their shots from three, which is a few percentage points higher than their season average. Rebounding (37-28 QU), along with Quinnipiac's offensive abilities, sealed that game for the visitors. But the Colonials also made just 30.8% of their shots from deep in the second half; if you're going to fire away you clearly have to do it at an efficient rate. Keep an eye on that area tonight; Abraham and Jones are two of the players that Robert Morris can look to for perimeter shooting. But if they aren't getting quality looks it will defeat the purpose given how much better Quinnipiac is on the boards.
Pick: Quinnipiac by five. Simply put Rutty could end up being too much for Robinson, who's playing better of late but can still be an enigma inside. If Robinson stays out of foul trouble this is a game the Colonials can win, but if not the climb becomes that much steeper.