Much like their cross-state rivals in Providence, URI has zero chance at an at-large bid to the big dance this year. They too, are on their way to New York City looking to accomplish the rare- win of the Atlantic 10 Tournament as an 8-seed, and punch an automatic-bid into the NCAA tournament.
The Rams ran hot toward the end of the season, and were able to stay out of the bottom four, meaning they don’t need to play until Thursday. Regardless, they’ll need to win four games in four days in order to cut down the nets.
Enter the La Salle Explorers- Rhode Island’s first matchup. Rhody only took on the Explorers once this season, a 78-67 road victory in Philadelphia. It was one of the better games for the Rams big-three of Jeff Dowtin, Cyril Langevine, and Fatts Russell. Dowtin led all scorers with 22 points, while Russell and Langevine followed with 20 and 19, respectively. The Rams exploded for 47 points in the second half, with those three scoring 39 of them.
The Explorers finished 10-20 on the year, 8-10 in conference play, and boast a back court of Pookie Powell and Isaiah Deas that combine for over 27 points per game. If Rhode Island can slow down those two, they’ll move onto VCU, the #1 seed in the tournament.
Rhody split their season series with the Golden Rams, winning their home game and losing their road game. The reason Rhode Island has a chance to win the A10’s is this matchup, on Friday at 12 p.m.
In their victory over VCU, URI had an explosive offensive night with four guys in double figures. Russell led the game with 19, Dowtin had 14, freshman Tyrese Martin had 12, and Langevine had 10 of his own. In their loss, they scored just 42 points, and Russell and Martin combined for just three points on just one field goal.
If Rhody can slow down Marcos Santos-Silva and the rest of VCU’s offense, they’ll move on to the winner of St. Bonaventure and George Mason. URI beat the Bonnies by 12 at the Ryan Center this year in the only matchup between the two, and George Mason came into Kingston, only to crush the Rams in one of the first conference games of the season. The VCU game on Friday will prove a much tougher matchup than either the Patriots or the Bonnies, but it’s no walk in the park.
Should they win the semis, URI would find themselves matched up with either Dayton or Davidson, most likely, on Championship Sunday. Davidson beat Rhode Island both times this season, while Rhody recently beat Dayton on the road to spark their win streak. Dayton on the road may be one of the toughest places to play in the Atlantic 10, minus a trip to VCU. Which, according to Jon Rothstein, is more life-altering than a 10-day trip to Europe.
Instead of writing all of those paragraphs, I could have just said this: Rhody has a long road ahead to the NCAA tournament. Can they do it? Sure- it’s been almost a decade since the #1 seed won the A10’s. Will they do it? Maybe. Their matchup with VCU will be the tell-all. If the Rhode Island team that beat the Golden Rams in January shows up to Brooklyn- or even the Rhode Island team that has been showing up over the past few weeks, these Rams have an excellent shot.
I can’t say if we’ll cut down any nets this year, but I can say this. Expect the Rams to make more noise at the Barclays Center this year than McGregor did last April.
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