Out with a whimper; Colonials season ends with 7th straight loss

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One of, if not the most, disappointing seasons to date for the RMU Men’s Basketball program came to end on Tuesday night at the hands of Purdue Fort Wayne in a 78-63 loss in the opening round of the Horizon League Tournament.

The Colonials, who also closed out the regular season with a blowout loss to PFW, finished the 2023-24 season with just 10 total wins, 6 in league play, which was their worst to date outside of the 2021-22 season (we are not counting the 2020-21 nonsense, right?) when they finished with 5 horizon league wins. Where did it all go wrong for this once proud, storied program? When they made the decision to move up to big boy ball and out of the basement that was the Northeast Conference.

The Colonials have never gotten past the 2nd round in the Horizon League Tournament and have only won two tournament games in their four seasons here. Where does head coach Andy Toole go from here? Better question, in my eyes, where does Chris King and the RMU Athletic Department go from here. A school that, at least while I was there and even prior to then, was very proud of the basketball team that represented them, now, would not shock me if folks started showing up like NFL fans have been known; dawning brown paper bags over their heads, except to eye holes cutout, because who would want to even watch this?

Seven straight losses to end the season, only one of which was by single digits (73-71 loss to Cleveland State) with average deficit of 15, makes you really scratch your head if you have followed this program over the last 10-12 years. What is missing from this program, that they have had a plethora of over the years you might ask? Well, since moving out of what felt like a glorified YMCA league in the NEC, RMU, in my eyes, is missing what they built their program on since Mike Rice was at the helm; TOUGHNESS. These guys simple don’t have much of or any of it, to be honest.

At times this season, this group, lead by two studs in Markeese Hastings and Josh Corbin would give you a glimmer of hope, while Justice Williams would sprinkle in some hope here and there as well. But if you blinked, it all changed in seconds, and the hope would be turned to frustration as they walked off the floor with yet another late game malfunction in a 2 point loss or, as it felt like was way more common this season, an embarassing blowout loss.

There has been some minor, very minor, chatter about the future of Toole and whether he would be kept around or even, which I think is more likely, would he want to still hang around what feels like a dying program. Chris King, RMU’s AD, has a tough job and some tough choices to make when it comes to the Athletic Department overall, but one change I would NOT make? Replacing Toole.

Yes, I have a relationship with Toole and I have known him since he was associate head coach under Mike Rice, but in my eyes and I think in many RMU alum’s eyes, he is still the right man for the job, but the better question is, does he still want to be here? The support for the program locally, on campus, is NOT what it used to be. Yes, highly likely due to the six league wins and only 10 overall this season, lack of hope for an NCAA berth, etc. Andy didn’t just forget how to coach over the last few years, recruiting is harder now than it has ever been with NIL, the portal, etc. You recruit a kid, if he isn’t 1,000% happy, he’s gone. You have to continue to recruit your own players, specially if they are your BEST players, as they likely will get poached by the big dogs in the power five conferences.

What needs to change if you are not going to change at the top? It’s easier to change one person rather than a whole roster, but it’s evident that the roster RMU is continuing to build just is not working in this league. This is NOT the Northeast Conference, where you can win every night with one or two players; you need a TEAM, you need DEPTH. I would love to see RMU get back to recruiting the likes of Velton Jones, Jimmy Langhurst, Tony Lee, AJ Jackson; tough, hard nosed personalities that you knew would battle up or down 20; that stuff feeds down the whole roster. I want to see a roster mixed with some transfers with experience and some young guns who simply don’t know any better and have no fear when you roll the ball out there. Andy Toole preaches, or at least preached toughness, both physically and mentally, but both aspects of that word appear to be nonexistent in this program right now.

Hastings will be gone next year, same with Corbin, you hope Justice Williams will not explore the portal, but who knows. TJ Wainwright, who showed some bright spots this season hopefully will return and Alvaro Folgueiras who was a bit of a late bloomer this year is someone you can hopefully lean on in 2024-25. Build around those guys, revamp this roster and give Moon Township and RMU alums something to stick their chest out about again. Winning the NEC was fun, but you always knew the talent level was just not there. Now, in the Horizon League, its ramped up a lot, RMU is getting the full experience of that, and its time they ramp up the changes in how they do business; GET TOUGHER.

2024-25 is going to be a big year for this program. You HAVE to bounce back from this disaster of a season, win a few games in the Horizon League Tournament, get to Indy, Heck win 10+ league games. Something, anything that’s gets this arrow pointing upward.

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