As we count down the days to the start of the 2018-19 season, A10 Talk will be bringing you its preseason power rankings, as voted on by its team of writers. We continue the countdown with #5 Rhode Island Rams.
Over the last two years, Rhode Island has undoubtedly been the most successful team in the A-10. Led by Head Coach Dan Hurley, URI was the conference tournament champ in 2017 and the regular season winner in 2018. In both seasons, Rhode Island won a game in the NCAA tournament.
The individuals spurring this success will largely be gone in 2018-2019. Hurley is now the head coach at UConn, and four of five starters from last season have graduated. All conference performers Jared Terrell and E.C. Matthews are gone, as well as Stanford Robinson, Jarvis Garrett, and Andre Berry.
But anyone who thinks that these departures mean Rhode Island is doomed for mediocrity should think again.
Returnees to Watch
Rhode Island returns three key players: Jeff Dowtin, Cyril Langevine, and Fatts Russell. Dowtin has been Rhode Island’s starting point guard for each of the past two conference winning seasons and was second in the league in assists this past year. Expect him to pick up more of the scoring load in 2018-2019. Russell, at 5-10, is a fearless shooter and natural scorer. His percentages were ugly last year (35% from the field; 30% from 3-point range), but expect those to tick up this year.
Langevine is a beast, and probably enters the season as the second most underrated player in the league. He averaged 5.7 rebounds last year, but in a mere 18 minutes. Adjusting rebounding to per 40 minutes in the conference is instructive. Josh Cunningham of Dayton (first team projection) and Eric Williams Jr. of Duquesne (second team projection) both averaged over eight boards per game, and 9.2 and 9.3 in conference per 40 minutes. Adjusting Langevine’s numbers, he pulls down a whopping 14.4 boards per 40 minutes. This is more than 50% better than two of the top other rebounders in the league. If healthy, he will absolutely be an all conference performer and one of the leading candidates for Defensive Player of the Year.
Newcomers to Watch
Rhode Island has a lot of new faces, including a bunch of players in the 6’6 to 6’8 range. Jermaine Harris (6’8) was one of the conference’s two top 100 recruits, and is from the high school basketball mecca that is Prince George’s County, Maryland. Tyrese Martin (6’6) featured prominently in Rhode Island’s preseason game, and has an additional year of experience at Massanutten Military Academy. Dana Tate (6’7) will also feature.
Games to Watch
Rhode Island has a number of games against solid teams out of conference. Matchups against College of Charleston, Harvard, and in-state rival Providence will tell us a lot about where Rhode Island is at this season. West Virginia, preseason #13, will obviously be a big test. In conference, Rhode Island will get Davidson twice. The two teams have met six times the past two seasons, so a bit of a rivalry is developing between the last two A-10 tournament champions.
New Head Coach David Cox has a lot of pieces to make his first year a memorable one.The team will enter with lower expectations than in previous seasons, but still have the pieces to compete at or near the top of the league. Dowtin, Russell, and Langevine make for a solid core, and the new freshman have a lot of potential. Whether that potential is realized, will probably determine URI’s placement in the conference this season.