Welcome to A10 Talk’s Top 25 Player Countdown. Each day, we publish a new article counting down the 25 best players in the Atlantic 10 this past season, as voted by our staff. Today, we feature #11 E.C. Matthews of Rhode Island.
One of the most dynamic players in recent school history, E.C. Matthews took a struggling Rhode Island program to the postseason three times in his four years, culminating in back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances in his junior and senior campaigns. Though he was plagued by injuries in 2015-16 and (to a lesser extent) 2017-18, he was still named to the third team all-conference this past season.
Though he excelled pretty much every time he played this year, several performances stood out above all others. His highest-scoring outing was a 24-point showing against LaSalle on January 3rd, but not necessarily his most dominant. I would argue that that title goes to his first game back from injury on December 27th against Florida Gulf Coast. The Eagles kept things competitive for the first eighteen minutes or so, but Matthews drilled back-to-back threes to close out the first half and effectively the game. FGCU never threatened again, and Rhody won by 20, which also happened to be E.C.’s points total for the day. Finally, Matthews did everything he could in URI’s second-round NCAA Tournament loss to Duke, putting up 23 points and grabbing 7 boards. Matthews was the only Ram to show up, however, as Rhode Island fell to Duke 87-62.
2.2 In his senior year, Matthews reduced his turnovers per 40 minutes rate from 2.6 to 2.2, corresponding to a program-wide drop in turnovers allowed and rise in turnovers forced that saw Rhode Island crack national leaderboards.
1.1 Matthews stepped up his steals per 40 minutes rate from 0.7 to 1.1, creating extra opportunities for his team to capitalize on inefficient offenses.
Matthews was part of a four-year basketball revival in Kingston that saw a struggling Rams program turn itself around under himself and coach Dan Hurley. While neither will be back next season, Rhody should be in a great place to challenge for the postseason with new coach David Cox at the helm. The NCAAs may be a stretch, but URI should expect to qualify for one of the four end-of-season tournaments come March. That being said, the 2018-2019 A-10 is looking like anyone’s conference, so don’t sleep on Rhode Island in Brooklyn.
Previously: #12 Jon Axel Gudmundsson