In NCAA tournament play, it has by and large been an unspoken law of the basketball cosmos that schools named after a person (first and last name, it should be noted) don't traditionally perform well. Oral Roberts University. Sam Houston State. Jim J. Bullock Technical Institute. The University of Colorado at Hal Linden.
That's not to say that there aren't exceptions to this rule. Our hearts were stolen away by a plucky George Mason team in 2006, for instance, when the Patriots famously crashed the Final Four. And this year another team based on a lesser-known constitutional conventioneer hopes to do the same. The Robert Morris University Colonials, who just won their bid by squeaking past Quinnipiac and stealing the Northeast Conference Tournament, picks up a fifteen seed today in hopes of dazzling us all and offing number two Villanova in the South Region.
A private university in Moon Township, Pennsylvania -- a suburb of Pittsburgh -- Robert Morris University began in 1921 as the Pittsburgh School of Accountancy, and that institution became Robert Morris Junior College in 1962, Robert Morris College in 2002, and will likely become Robert Morris Space Station in 2067. Taking the name of a Continental Congressman who signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, the team adopted the moniker of the Colonials, so there would be little doubt that everyone was really into the whole "1770's" theme.
But while basketball is king in Moon right now, however, bowling's big. How big? The well-established Robert Morris men's bowling team are regular national contenders and have produced several bowling professionals. And Colonials basketball head coach Mike Rice even took his boys bowling after the quarterfinals of this year's NEC tourney to clear their heads. They were going to need it if they were going to continue their trek and eventually face rival and one-seed Quinnipiac.
It worked. The Colonials eventually faced the Bobcats in the NEC finals, where solid defense and two well-placed free throws earned them the NEC Championship. And now Robert Morris finds itself in the deep end of the pool again, a fifteen seed assumedly being prepared for sacrifice next weekend to a juggernaut. But they have a little ammunition. After all, Karon Abraham was the NEC freshman of the year and a fresh force behind the Colonials, and point guard Velton Jones has stepped in to shoulder the duties left after his predecessor Jimmy Langhurst suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Despite cleared heads and good intentions however, they're still a fifteen seed playing Villanova. And that's one tough row to hoe. But senior Rob Robinson thinks the Colonials could surprise. "Shock the world," he says.
The Colonials might want to hit the bowling alley again. Just to be safe.