WRITTEN BY MARK HOUSER
The Robert Morris University men's basketball team made it to March Madness this year, the sixth time for the university and the first time in the NCAA tournament since 1992. Seeded 15th, the Colonials drew a tough opponent in Michigan State. But RMU held its own, taking a 28-26 lead in the first half before falling to the Spartans, 77-62. The Spartans went on to beat four more teams before losing in the finals to North Carolina.
Led by Northeast Conference Player of the Year and NEC Tournament MVP Jeremy Chappell, the Colonials defeated rival Mount St. Mary's in the conference championship, in front of the first sellout crowd in Sewall Center history. Junior forward Dallas Green hit the game-winning shot with 2.5 seconds to play to propel Robert Morris to the 48-46 victory.
It was a big year for Mike Rice, who won NEC Coach of the Year for the second time in two years at RMU. Rice signed a three-year contract extension last month and is set to coach the Colonials through 2016. "He has been a great coach, a great representative of the university and a great campus presence," says Athletic Director Craig Coleman.
Senior guard Bateko Francisco was named NEC Defensive Player of the Year, and junior forward Rob Robinson set a school record with 35 blocks, garnering a spot on the 2009 All-NEC Second Team.
Chappell, a senior guard, led Robert Morris in scoring (16.7 ppg), rebounding (6.3 rpg), assists (112), steals (86), and three-pointers (84). He owns a host of records, including most starts in a Colonials uniform, with 123.
Over the last two seasons, RMU has tied or broken a total of 16 school records. Its 50 wins is the most by an NEC program in back-to-back years in league history.