Saturday, January 9, 2010

Rhody Basketball - Dancing in 2010!

Okay, I've waited a long time to talk about this because I had to know if this team was for real. They are. URI Rams basketball is FINALLY back this year and in a big way.

At 12-1 heading into Atlantic 10 conference play, the Rams are currently ranked 32nd in the Associated Press poll and 40th in the ESPN/Coaches Poll. They're projected by most "bracketologists" to be an NCAA tournament team for the first time in more than a decade (remember Lamar Odom?), and have all the talent and firepower that that famous 97-98 Rhody team did when they went to the elite eight behind the likes of future professional ballers Antonio Reynolds-Dean, Tyson Wheeler, and of course the 10-year NBA man Cuttino "Cat" Mobley.

If it wasn't for a two-point loss at Virginia Commonwealth, this team would be unbeaten and in the top 25 of all polls. But as it is, they've put together some key Ws at home, on the road, and at neutral sites, too.

The Rams' first really big win of the season came at home versus Providence, in the battle for state supremacy. They came back from 15 points down to win 86-82, putting a huge win against a Big East opponent on their resume in the early going. Providence now stands at 10-6 and are themselves a bubble team if they can put together a decent season in conference play. Every game they win makes the Rams look that much better.

We didn't realize it at the time, but URI's very next game (and win) against Northeastern could prove huge as well. A perennial doormat, nobody expected this to be a tough contest. But the Huskies are tied atop the Colonial Athletic Conference and have an RPI of 63. This could prove to be another "key win" on URI's tournament resume if Northeastern continues to put together big wins in conference as they could themselves be a contender for that automatic bid out of the CAA.

URI's next big win came on the road at Boston College. The Rams beat BC handily in their home arena by double digits. BC is 10-5 right now, and although their RPI is an unimpressive 111 they play a brutal ACC schedule and if they can upset some powerhouses like Clemson (who they play today at 4pm), Duke, or North Carolina, Rhody will be able to call this a resume-making win.

URI's latest, greatest victory came against an Oklahoma State team on a neutral (haha) court, at Mohegan Sun arena in Uncasville, CT. I don't feel bad calling this a neutral site even though it's 50 miles from Kingston and 2,550 from Stillwater, because the Rams played OK State in Oklahoma City last year which was also "neutral". Anyways, the Rams previled 63-59 over the 28th ranked Cowboys who many are still calling a tournament team even after the loss. Again, playing a big opponent from a big conference proves valuable for the Rams as Oklahoma State will now have the chance to play the likes of the #1 Kansas Jayhawks and the #11 Kansas State Wildcats in league play.

Coach Jim Baron's willingness to play anyone, anywhere is not only admiriable, it's been enormous for Rhody's tournament resume.

Tomorrow the Rams begin league play in a HUGE game in Kingston against the #21 Temple Owls. If they win this game, they'll be ranked in the top 25 for the first time in two years.

In the past, URI has started off great in out-of-conference play and then struggled in the A-10, but the difference between this year's team and Rhody teams in the past is their ability to close out games. They used to get so close to beating a team in a key game (see Duke, Xavier games the last two years) and come up just short in the end. This year they've already won games by 1, 3, 4, 4, and 5 against quality opponents. Yes, they lost by 2 at VCU but to be 5-1 in games decided by 5 points or less is something the Rams are not used to. It will definitely help them with their confidence moving forward.

URI is 4th in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), another key tool used by the NCAA selection committee in selecting candidates for the field of 65.

Just to review the Rams' resume as it stands RIGHT NOW:
12-1 (0-0)
RPI: 4
Key Wins: at Boston College, Providence, Northeastern, Oklahoma St. (neutral)
Key Losses: None
Quality Losses: at VCU (9-4, RPI:50)
Listed in 26 of 28 brackets researched, including ESPN's "bracketology" who correctly picked 61 of the 65 teams in the field last year.
Average seed among mock brackets: 9.

Stay tuned for more updates regarding URI!
Go Rams!

1 comment:

  1. Did you know all this stuff from memory, or you had to look it up? Dang.