It has been just three games, but the scene has become almost ubiquitous — only three players on the bench watching their teammates on the court, outnumbered by coaches, student managers and everything but Gatorade tubs.
Robert Morris has gone the past nine days with just eight players in uniform and it will for the foreseeable future.
Yet through it all — a yearlong suspension of four players, the extended absence of two others — the team has excelled, winning three games to extend its win streak to a season-high seven.
In a game of speed and pace where depth is paramount, the recent run of success has in some ways defied conventional wisdom.
“We have a very small margin of error right now,” guard Karvel Anderson said. “We only have eight guys, so when it comes to practice, film, the scouting report and games, we have to be more in tune and pay more attention to what goes on. Our sense of urgency has risen a lot.”
Being down six players, the Colonials have had to use an eight-man rotation, which is not drastically different from what they have done for much of this season.
Excluding those that were in a game for fewer than five minutes, Robert Morris’ average rotation in its first 18 games was 9.89 players, with 12 of those contests featuring a 10-man rotation.
While star players such as Anderson and Lucky Jones already were averaging about 30 minutes per game, numerous team members have seen a spike in playing time.
In the past three games, the minutes-per-game average of four of the team’s eight players has been at least five minutes more than their season average before that stretch. For two of those players — guards Charles Oliver and David Appolon — that increase has been more than 10 minutes per game.
“We looked at everyone’s roster in this league and I believe everyone plays seven or eight guys,” Jones said. “The only difference is they have a full bench and we have three other guys waiting to come in and give us sparks. Our guys come in and have useful minutes while their guys are just cheerleaders.”
The day after a Jan. 23 win against Sacred Heart, Robert Morris coach Andy Toole used the late 1970s family sitcom “Eight is Enough” as a model for his team.
The show went off the air when Toole was 11 months old, but he has used its title as a sort of rallying point. Eight was certainly enough for the fictional Bradford family when it came to their children and for the Colonials, it will have to be enough as they pursue their ultimate goals.
“I think it’s something we can adjust to well,” Toole said. “Obviously, we have to stay healthy and stay out of foul trouble, but I think that the guys we have on the floor should be able to go out and handle what’s expected of them.”
Craig Meyer: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG.