I am going to start this preview in an unorthodox fashion: with a spoiler. The Villanova Wildcats will win their first-round game against the Robert Morris Colonials. While I might consider opening up a psychic hotline ala Miss Cleo, it won't be because I can see the future. It is entirely unthinkable that the Colonials would pull off an upset on Thursday. That is why the game will be played at 12:30pm and it is the reason Robert Morris was given a 15-seed: the Colonials are expected to lose. [Tickets]
It would probably even be a surprise if the Wildcats didn't win this game in blowout fashion. Accuscore gives the Colonials only a 13% chance of winning. Regardless, you are going to watch. Why? For one or more of the following reasons: (1) You're the kind of diehard that watched the Fordham and Delaware games, (2) You would never skip an NCAA tournament game or (3) You REALLY need the catharsis of watching the 'Cats dominate an opponent.
The Colonials got the automatic bid from the Northeast Conference. They finished second in the regular season standings, but came on strong in the conference tournament to upset the top-team, Quinnipiac. This isn't the Colonials' first rodeo either, they won the NEC tournament last year as well, and this will be the school's sixth appearance in the dance (never higher than a 15-seed). They haven't won a tournament game since their first win in a 1983 play-in game.
In their season opener at the Carrier Dome, Robert Morris was picked apart by the Syracuse Orange by a score of 100-60. They lost seven of their first eleven games to open the season.
The Colonials average 7.5 steals per game and will try to force Villanova's guards to turn the ball over, a feat that hasn't been too difficult of late. If the 'Cats can control the ball in spite of that pressure, it will bode well for their success later in the tournament.
You can expect a similar offensive and defensive philosophy to Jay Wright's. Tough man defense paired with a free-flowing motion offense. They will use a lot of fouls and play a physical game defensively, holding opponents to 40.9% shooting from the field and 32.3% from beyond the arc. They shoot slightly better themselves, going 43.7% from the floor and 36.5% from 3-point range. They are only 66.1% from the free throw line as a team.
Their star is NEC freshman of the year, Karon Abraham, a guard who leads the team in scoring with 13.4 points per game. No other player averages double-digit points. This lack of scoring lead the Colonials to average only 68.5 points per contest. Faced with the high-powered Villanova offense, Robert Morris should be beaten into submission.
I hate to sound like commenter BossHogHazard, but this is the perfect match-up for some optimism. A win on Thursday should let the 'Cats build up some confidence to help them get energized for the next round.