Three keys to the 2014-15 season for Robert Morris

Written by Craig Meyer on .



A version of this story appeared in today's Post-Gazette, as we kick off our college basketball coverage with three major themes that will impact each local Division I team.

1. Up all night to get Lucky

From virtually the moment he arrived on campus, Lucky Jones has been a strong contributor for Robert Morris. But with the graduation of 2014 Northeast Conference player of the year Karvel Anderson, Jones will be in a new role as the Colonials’ unquestioned star. This senior’s numbers have improved each year — climaxing in 2013-14 with 13.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game — and he has emerged as one of the top defenders in the conference. Can he hoist his team on his back in difficult stretches, as Anderson and Velton Jones did in previous years? His past production gives the indication that he is up for the task.

2. Incorporating the newcomers

A quick look at the roster reveals a number of unfamiliar names. In fact, more than half the team (8 of 14) is comprised of players who were not around last season. Of those eight, six have never played in Division I. Undoubtedly, there’s talent in that group. Freshman guard Marcquise Reed was a high-volume scorer in the Pittsburgh Basketball Club Pro-Am this summer and rangy freshman forward Elijah Minnie was one of the WPIAL’s best players last season while leading Lincoln Park to a PIAA championship. But for all the promise that comes with new additions, it’s hard to cast lofty aspirations on the Colonials until the parts get a chance to blend. For any uncertainty, though, there’s a silver lining — each of Robert Morris’ six returning players averaged at least 15 minutes per game last season, meaning that there is a solid base on which to build.

3. It all comes back to defense

Defense has been a central tenet under coach Andy Toole and, previously, Mike Rice. But early last season, the Colonials struggled in their typical man-to-man scheme before switching to a matchup 2-3 zone that helped salvage their season. Part of those defensive lapses came from having a largely inexperienced group that wasn’t accustomed to Toole’s system. Once zone was implemented, things became simplified and the team thrived. With a similarly green roster this year, there might be another feeling-out process, in which Toole figures out what defense best fits the team.

Craig Meyer: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG


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You say you want a revolution?

State Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (Associated Press photo)

Republicans won the five available state Senate seats on Tuesday, as part of a sweep that seemed to include nearly every contested race – with the notable exception of the contest between The Battling Toms – across the country.

So everything should be happy in Republiland, right?


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Post Route Podcast: Episode Eight

Written by Sam Werner on .


Hello and welcome back for another week of the Post Route Podcast, hosted by Post-Gazette college writers Sam Werner (Pitt) and Stephen J. Nesbitt (WVU).

Pitt fell to 4-5 with a heartbreaking 51-48 double-overtime loss against No. 22 Duke Saturday, a loss that came after the Panthers missed a 26-yard field goal as time expired in regulation. No. 24 West Virginia also lost on a field goal, but this was a made one from TCU’s Jaden Oberkrom that gave the No. 6 Horned Frogs a come-from-behind 31-30 win in Morgantown.

On a time crunch? Here are some helpful time stamps:

0:43-12:32: Pitt’s losing skid continued Saturday as the Panthers lost a heartbreaker in double-overtime to Coastal Division leaders Duke. Pitt had a chance to win the game at the end of regulation, but normally-reliable kicker Chris Blewitt hooked a 26-yard field goal wide left and the Blue Devils took advantage of their new life. The Pitt loss came despite a career day from running back James Conner, who finished with 263 yards and three touchdowns on 38 carries. What can the Panthers learn from this loss, and where does Pitt go from here? Conner and company have a bye this week before three straight games to end the season. Can they get the two wins needed for bowl eligibility?

12:33-24:38: With College GameDay in town, the game between the Mountaineers and Horned Frogs certainly lived up to the hype in terms of excitement. West Virginia overcame a so-so game from Clint Trickett and the offense to be in a position to win late, but couldn’t quite get the one score they needed to put the game away. Did coach Dana Holgorsen go too conservative late? And what was up with him requesting that players not be asked about the TCU game in the days following the defeat? With a trip to Austin to play Texas looming this week, what are realistic expectations for the Mountaineers the rest of the way? Kansas State looms in a few weeks as another top-ten, and potentially top-five opponent coming to Morgantown.

24:39-42:22: We got our second batch of College Football Playoff rankings on Tuesday, so what can we learn about how the selection committee will approach things on a week-to-week basis? Is it OK that committee chair Jeff Long basically said it came down to the “eye test” when it came to slotting Alabama ahead of TCU? This weekend should start to provide some clarity, with an astounding six games between top-25 teams. Notre Dame/Arizona State, Ohio State/Michigan State and Kansas State/TCU will all basically serve as playoff elimination games, and one-loss teams Baylor, Alabama and Oregon all face stiff tests on the road in what is shaping up as one of the best Saturdays of the season.

Sam Werner: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and Twitter @swernerpg. | Stephen J. Nesbitt: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.

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WPIAL quarterfinal predictions ..... Complete playoff schedule for Western Pa.

Written by Mike White on .

Tomorrow's live blog will come from Woodland Hills vs. Central Catholic. For scores and reports of other games, follow the @PGVarsityXtra Twitter account to the right of this blog. If you have a score, note or photo tweet it to @PGVarsityXtra, and tweet with #WPIAL

Now for the WPIAL quarterfinal predictions. All games are tonight at 7:30. Last week's record, including the City League championship, was 26-7 (.787 pct.). Season: 102-37 (.733 pct.).

Below the predictions is a complete playoff schedule for every district outside of the WPIAL. Now, the predictions:


Pine-Richland vs. Altoona - Ben DiNucci gets 6,000 yards passing and Pine-Richland gets win No. 11. I'm a week ahead of myself, but Pine-Richland also wins next week to get to Heinz Field. Winner: Pine-Richland.

Plum vs. McKeesport - Terrific job by Plum second-year coach Matt Morgan. I think the Mustangs will definitely be competitive in this one, but will need turnovers to have a chance to win. Winner: McKeesport.

Penn-Trafford vs. North Allegheny - Penn-Trafford is the No. 2 seed, but will have its hands full with a North Allegheny team that has won seven in a row. Running back Devin Austin (pictured) could be the difference. Winner: Penn-Trafford.

Central Catholic vs. Woodland Hills - Terrific matchup. Before the season, it seemed just about everybody had these two pegged as the WPIAL's best teams. Now they meet in the quarterfinals. The game will be won in the trenches and also by the team that makes a big pass play or two. Winner: Central Catholic.


Central Valley vs. Indiana - Indiana has never made it to the WPIAL semifinals. Central Valley, meanwhile, has made at least the semifinals all four years of its existence. Indiana will need a terrific effort from its defense to have a chance. Winner: Central Valley.

Ringgold vs. Hampton - Ringgold hasn't lost since the first game of the season against Thomas Jefferson. Will RB Chacar Berry and QB Nico Law give Hampton some problems? I say yes. Winner: Ringgold.

Thomas Jefferson vs. Mars - Terrific job by Mars coach Scott Heinauer to get the Planets this far after losing his top player, Josh Schultheis, in the season opener. Thomas Jefferson's running game is just too strong. Winner: Thomas Jefferson.

West Allegheny vs. Franklin Regional - West Allegheny's defensive front and linebackers will be the difference. Winner: West Allegheny.


South Fayette vs. South Park - When these two met in the regular season, South Fayette won pretty easily. The Lions will roar again. Winner: South Fayette.

Highlands vs. Seton-LaSalle - I'm hearing Highlands is bruised and battered with injuries. That means ... Winner: Seton-LaSalle.

Aliquippa vs. Mount Pleasant - Thirty years ago, these two met for a WPIAL title for the second year in a row. Aliquippa won at Three Rivers Stadium. They'll celebrate the anniversary with another victory. Winner: Aliquippa.

Washington vs. Apollo-Ridge - Washington coach Mike Bosnic has quietly built Washington into one of the best programs in Class AA again. I have to pick an upset somewhere, don't I? But would it be that big of an upset if Apollo-Ridge won? The Vikings have never been to the semifinals since the school opened in 1969, but for some reason I think Tre Tipton and Duane Brown (pictured) find a way to get it done. Winner: Apollo-Ridge.


Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic vs. South Side Beaver - South Side Beaver's wing-T offense has gone far enough. Winner: North Catholic.

Riverside vs. Avonworth - Avonworth has lost three games the past two seasons - all to North Catholic. Avonworth will get another shot at the Trojans next week. Winner: Avonworth.

Clairton vs. Shenango - A win puts Clairton in the semifinals for the ninth consecutive season. Shenango hasn't been to the semifinals since 1987. Winner: Clairton.

Neshannock vs. Jeannette - This is a terrific matchup. I think Jeannette very easily could have been the No. 4 seed. This one is a tossup. Will Jeannette's speed be the difference? Winner: Neshannock.


Westinghouse vs. Chestnut Ridge - Westinghouse is the City League rep for Class AA and now plays in the District 5 playoffs in order to try and advance to the PIAA playoffs. I don't know anything about Chestnut Ridge except there is a pretty nice golf course on Route 22 called Chestnut Ridge. That's enough for me. Winner: Chestnut Ridge.

Western schedule

Thanks to Kenny "The Horse" at the Post-Gazette, here is the playoff schedule for all districts on the western side of the state, outside of the WPIAL.




Friday — Westinghouse (1-6) at Chestnut Ridge (8-2), 7 p.m.

Bye — Bedford (9-1).



Friday — Conemaugh Township (4-6) at Berlin Brothersvalley (9-1), 7 p.m.; Everett (5-5) at Meyersdale (8-2), 7 p.m.

Saturday — Northern Bedford (5-5) at Shade (6-4), 7 p.m.; Windber (5-5) at Tussey Mountain (8-2), 7 p.m.


Regional Semfinals

Friday — Punxsutawney (6-4) at Somerset (9-1), 7 p.m.; Johnstown (7-3) at Clerafield (8-2), 7 p.m.



Friday — Southern Huntingdon (5-5) at Mount Union (10-0), 7 p.m.; Forest Hills (5-5) at Tyrone (9-1), 7 p.m.

Saturday — Huntingdon (5-5) at Juniata (9-1), 7 p.m.; Penn Cambria (6-4) at Martinsburg Central (8-2), 7 p.m.



Friday — Williamsburg (6-4) at BishopGuilfoyle (10-0), 7 p.m.; Moshannon Valley (6-3) at Blairsville (10-0), 7 p.m.

Saturday — Homer-Center (7-3) at Portage (9-1), 7 p.m.; Penns Manor (8-2) at Bellwood-Antis (8-2).



Friday — Moniteay (5-5) at St. Marys (7-3), 7 p.m.

Bye — Karns City (9-1).



Friday — Union-Rimersburg (5-5) at Ridgway (9-1), 7 p.m.; Brockway (5-5) at Redbank Valley (7-2), 7 p.m.; Curwensville (6-4) at Clarion (9-1),7 p.m.

Saturday — Kane (6-3) at Elk County Catholic (8-2), 7 p.m.



Saturday — General McLane (5-5) vs. McDowell (6-4) at Veterans Stadium, Erie, 7 p.m.



Friday — Meadville (6-4) vs. Erie Cathedral Prep (10-0) at Veterans Stadium, Erie, 7 p.m.; Erie Central (6-4) vs. Conneaut (9-1) at Edinboro University, 7 p.m.



Saturday — Sharon (5-4) vs. Fairview (6-3) at Edinboro University, 7 p.m.; Northwestern (5-5) vs. Greenville (9-1) at Wilmington, 1 p.m.; Seneca (7-3) vs. Slippery Rock (10-0) at Slippery Rock University, 7 p.m.; Hickory (7-2) vs. Girard (7-2) at Fairview, 1 p.m.



Friday — Wilmington (5-4) vs. Cambridge Springs (8-2) at General McLane, 7 p.m.; Iroquois (6-4) vs. Sharpsville (7-3) at Hickory, 7 p.m.; Farrell (7-3) vs. Lakeview (7-2) at Slippery Rock University, 7 p.m.; West Middlesex (8-2) vs. Cochranton (6-3) at Franklin, 7 p.m.



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Empty Netter Assists - 11-06-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .


-Marc-Andre Fleury got paid.

-Scott Harrington is going to play at some point right?

-How far along are Penguins goaltending prospects Tristan Jarry and Matt Murray?

-According to Team Marketing Report, the Penguins have the 12th most expensive fan cost index at $378.07. The report bases it's numbers on the average price of tickets for a family of four, two small draft beers, four small soft drinks, four hotdogs, two game programs, two adult-sized caps and parking for one car.

-The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins recalled forward Carter Rowney from the Wheeling Nailers, assigned forward Matia Marcantuoni to Wheeling and released forward Zack Torquato from a professional tryout contract.

-Former Penguins forward Jarkko Ruutu has left EHC Biel of Switzerland's NLA.

-Happy 69th birthday to former Penguins defenseman Darryl Edestrand (right). Acquired in the 1970 offseason along with Larry McKillop in a deal which sent Barry Ashbee to the Flyers, Edestrand spent parts of three seasons with the Penguins. After spending all of 1970-71 with the Penguins' AHL affiliate in Hershey, Edestrand appeared in 77 games with the Penguins during 1971-72 and scored 33 points. In that spring's postseason, he saw action in four games and recorded two assists. He followed that up in 1972-73 by setting career highs in games (78), goals (15) and points (39). After three games and no points in 1973-74, Edestrand was traded to the Bruins in exchange for Nick Beverly. In 158 regular season games with the Penguins, Edestrand scored 72 points.

-After the Jump: Jack Johnson is suspended.

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