What we saw in the 2019 Atlantic 10 Tournament from the Rhode Island Rams was what was expected of them coming into the season. Dominating La Salle and proving they’re still the best team with a Ram as a mascot in a surprising upset over VCU. Both of these games were clinics on what it means to play “Rhode Island basketball.” They played as a cohesive unit. They defended at a high clip. Jeff Dowtin asserted himself as the best overall player on this team. Even Freshman like Tyrese Martin and Dana Tate proved they can perform under bright lights and added pressure of survive and advance basketball.
Although the Rams had a disappointing effort in the semifinals against St. Bonaventure, I won’t read into that too much. Winning six straight games prior to that loss proved that there is something special brewing in Kingston, in what is hopefully the form of perennial Atlantic 10 contender, and NCAA Tournament team. Prior to the winning streak, the Rams were going nowhere fast and seemed on track to have a “lost” season. URI showed tremendous grit and fight and banded together when they needed to.
David Cox proved to his fanbase he wasn’t just hired because of his impressive recruiting acumen. Gaining National Recognition as well, as he’s in the running for the Joe B. Hall National Coach of the Year. This is an award given out every year to the best first-year head coach in the country. Cox was able to engineer two wins against VCU this year, which accounted for ⅔ of their conference losses. He was also able to lead URI to a series split with Saint Louis, the eventual Atlantic 10 tournament champion and St. Bonaventure, the Atlantic 10 tournament runner-up. The defining ending stretch of this season was massive in regards to the momentum gained for next year’s campaign. Along with this, Rhody loses no starters or main rotation players. The Rams also currently boast the number one recruiting class in the conference and are also bringing in talented transfer Antwan Walker, formerly of Georgetown. While the loss to St. Bonaventure stings now, the Rams find themselves in prime real estate to not only compete in an Atlantic 10 conference that’s on the rise but contend year in and year out.