The Rhode Island Rams finished off third in the Atlantic 10 Conference heading into Brooklyn next week for the Atlantic 10 Tournament. The Rams finished with a 21-9 record and, 13-5 record in the Atlantic 10. They matched up against several nationally ranked and respected schools including Maryland, Alabama, Louisiana State, Providence, and of course Dayton. In addition, they went on a 10-game winning streak from January 8th to February 11th. Although the regular season is over, their fight is not over as they will roll into Brooklyn with the third-seed in the tournament.
This season has had its ups and downs for the Rhode Island Rams. This roller-coaster of a season started out slower than most seasons. The Rams were projected to finish fourth behind VCU, Davidson, and Dayton. Cyril Langevine, Jeff Dowtin, and Fatts Russell were all selected for preseason conference teams.
Rhode Island’s tough non-conference schedule at the start of the season resulted in success. The Rams would go on to beat teams like Alabama and Providence at home and, manage to keep a close game with West Virginia on the road. Rhody finished with an 8-4 record going into conference play and everything seemed to be on track. And Fatts Russell was carrying the team averaging 20 points per game and being the third-best player in the NCAA in steals per game. Jeff Dowtin and Tyrese Martin’s numbers were exceptional throughout. URI Forward Dana Tate was suspended for three games due to an unspecified violation of team rules. Tate entered the transfer portal but, Antwan Walker, transfer from Georgetown, became eligible to play right in time for conference play.
With 21 wins overall and 13 victories in A10 play, the regular season is far from a disappointment for the Rams. Unfortunately, it’s how URI has finished that’s put them in a precarious position to make the NCAA Tournament. Rhode Island’s 10-game winning streak defined their regular season. They beat teams that usually play them tough such as, Davidson, Duquesne, St. Bonaventure, and VCU who they swept this season. The Ram’s struggles would come when they had to face the talented Dayton Flyers crew led by Obi Toppin (brother of Jacob Toppin).
This year is a season without One Great Team or One Transcendent Player, it’s a different story. You would be forgiven if you had no idea who might succeed Williamson as the 2020 national player of the year. A big reason for that is the nation’s most compelling player is suiting up for the Dayton Flyers in the Atlantic 10 Conference. Obi Toppin filled up the stat sheet as a freshman with 14.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.8 blocks and 0.6 steals per game. Since being held to eight points against Grambling on Dec. 23, Toppin is averaging 20.4 points per game on a blistering .636 field-goal percentage, and he has the Flyers in position for a run at a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Since Rhode Island’s first meeting with the Flyers, they have not been the same team. They went on to lose to Davidson by two points on the road which was a must-win game for the Rams. They would then beat Fordham on the road by just one point which should’ve been an easy game as they are one of the worst in the conference. Rhody then came home to face Saint Louis and Dayton which resulted in two losses. They wrapped up their season against UMass on the road in which they won by one point and should’ve been another very easy game. The loss to Saint Louis definitely hurt Rhody’s chances and two non-competitive losses to 3rd ranked Dayton have done the Rams no favors. With only one quad 1 victory on the season, URI lacks those quality wins.
It’s going to take at least two wins and getting to the finals of the A10 Tournament to get the Rams back into the conversation on Selection Sunday. ESPN’s bracketologist Joe Lunardi, in a tweet Sunday morning, has the Rams far from the conversation, not even making the top 8 teams out. CBS Sports, as of Sunday morning, has the Rams out of the talk for the bubble at the moment. So, clearly Rhody could use a big-time upset in the A10 Tournament, presumably against top-seeded Dayton, who has yet to lose a conference game all season long while going 29-2 overall to net it’s 3rd overall ranking in the AP Top 25. It’s going to take at least two wins and getting to the finals of the A10 Tournament to get the Rams back into the conversation on Selection Sunday.
The Rhode Island Ram’s season is not over. The Rams are heading to Brooklyn with the number 3 seed in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. The Rams will take the Barclays Center court on Friday, March 13th at 8:30 pm. They will face the winner of Duquesne and GW/ Fordham. Rhode Island needs to do all they can to win and hopefully get enough votes on Selection Sunday.