Aren't these always a little awkward once the season's over? Anyway, for those of you who aren't quite ready to let go yet, here's what I got for you from the season-ending loss to almighty Duke.
Turning point: Okafor's layup with 9:33 to go that brought the score back to a 20-point gap at 66-46 when just minutes before Robert Morris had made a run to come within 10 at 54-44. Mind you, there were many times when Duke took hold of the game. But after the Colonials showed that spark, I think everyone in the arena was wondering if they were in to see another big first round upset from a Robert Morris team that had come from behind for the win in both of its previous big games. And yet, Duke, of course, took command again, extending its lead to its largest at 31 points.
Game ball: If we're going by winning team it has to be Quinn Cook, senior guard for Duke. He had 22 points, five assists, four rebounds and three steals to lead his team. And he made six 3-pointers, which is more than half of his team's total. He's just one of two seniors on the team, and it's obvious why he's the undisputed leader. I mean, Okafor was also outstanding and made just the entire Robert Morris team look like Keebler elves, so that deserves a mention. And Robert Morris-wise, both Marcquise Reed and Rodney Pryor were excellent. Reed was consistent with his shot for 22 points when no one else was, which continually impresses me since he's just a freshman. Pryor really turned it on in the second half to end up with a game-high 23 points, and for a guy that sometimes has trouble turning around a bad start, that was big.
What it means: Well, season's over. Sorry to be blunt. But it is. The good news is, it's not an unduly hard loss since a No. 16 seed has never beaten a No. 1 seed in the modern incarnation of the tournament, and I don't think many people really expected the Colonials to win, if they took a real deep look into themselves. And Robert Morris played decently. Not it's best game, but there are positives to take from it, and that's kind of what counts when playing a team like Duke. So, for a team that I certainly did not expect to make it to the NCAA tournament with all the ups and downs of the regular season, it's not a bad way to go out. Pretty cool way, actually.
What's next: NOTHING. I'm just kidding, it's offseason, but there's a whole new year on the horizon, my friends. All five starters of Stewart, Pryor, Tate, Reed and Minnie are returning next year. That's a big bonus experience-wise and will hopefully curb the very long getting-comfortable-with-each-other stage they had this year. There's momentum heading into next season as NEC champs and NCAA tournament players. New recruits such as local star Matty McConnell and Isaiah Still will come in to fill the voids left by Appolon and Jones. And there's spotlight on the team, some more recognition on the national stage. And that is a big bonus. Toole said this has been a terrific experience for his players that he hopes pushes the program in the right direction (not to be confused with excellent British boy band One Direction). In his own words, "I hope they take the last two weeks, how they felt, what they’ve accomplished … and remember that feeling about the season."
Random shoutout: To Duke's Tyus Jones. Because, you guessed it, the freshman guard is from Apply Valley, Minnesota. I remember what a big deal it was when he was making his college announcement, and how people were, like, upset he didn't chose my alma mater the University of Minnesota. And I was like, dang, I wouldn't either if Duke came calling. Anyway, he had 10 points, seven assists, three rebounds and two steals as a starter.
Well, that's it guys. But don't suddenly unfollow me over on the Twitter now that the season's said and done. I'll have a season in review coming out Sunday as well as more news about the 2015-16 class (which I am told will be expanding from the two previously announced dudes (Matthew Driscoll style) as Toole is "close" on a few other guys). Ok, I just used parentheses within parentheses and waxed poetic on Tyus Jones, so I think it's time we end this thing. Thanks for keeping up with me through the last part of this season even though I'm not Craig Meyer. See ya'll back in the 'Burgh.