The eighth-seeded Colonials (23-10) will host the top-seeded Wildcats (21-11) in a first-round game in the National Invitation Tournament on Tuesday night at the Sewall Center. Robert Morris fell short of qualifying for the NCAA men's basketball tournament, but it got a pretty darn good consolation prize: A home game against last year's national champion, Kentucky.
"I was shocked. I didn't think we were going to play them, especially here," sophomore forward Lucky Jones. "I have confidence in my team that we're going to come out and play hard, play strong and play together, and the best man wins."
Tickets are already sold out for what is, by far, the biggest home game in RMU history. "I don't believe I've ever seen this stadium packed. It's going to be a sight to see," Jones said. "Hopefully, everyone will come out here and enjoy themselves."
Under normal circumstances, Kentucky would have hosted the game. But the Rupp Arena on its campus in Lexington will be occupied by NCAA Tournament games.
So now, college basketball's all-time winningest program has taken the long trip to Pittsburgh to play in a tiny 3,000-seat gym.
That's quite a step down for Kentucky, a traditional powerhouse that went to the Final Four in 2011 and won the NCAA Tournament last year -- the eighth national championships on its resume.
"It's a great lesson for the future of our program and a humbling experience for me," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. It's also a homecoming for the Moon Township native.
RMU coach Andy Toole acknowledged that his players were disappointed by not getting an NCAA Tournament berth, but he said the magnitude of the Kentucky game has quickly captured their attention.
"We have an incredible opportunity in front of us -- maybe the best opportunity any of us has ever had in the world of basketball -- and to not prepare ourselves and take advantage of that opportunity would be foolish," Toole said. "You're talking about bringing one of, if not the elite program in college basketball into your home facility. It is something that very few teams have the opportunity to do -- ever."