Rhode Island had a brutal slate of non-conference games. Few wins came easily for the Rams, and E.C. Matthews’ injury certainly didn’t make things any easier. Still though, Rhode Island found a way to win 8 non-conference games and still look like the favorite to win the league, even without Matthews on the floor. Rhode Island has one of the deepest perimeters in the country, and its frontcourt got some valued experience against high level competition out-of-conference. Rhode Island is still the team to beat.
Rhode Island’s win over Seton Hall in the NIT Tip-Off Tournament could be the extra push needed for an at-large if the Rams underperform in conference play. The Pirates keep moving up and are now ranked 21st in Kenpom. Jared Terrell played like a true senior that game and delivered the winning bucket; the most impressive part about that victory was that it came without E.C. Matthews or Cyril Langevine on the floor.
Providence was a good win for Rhode Island, especially as a morale boost. Unfortunately though, the Friars are just 3-2 since losing to URI and barely escaped Brown and Stony Brook at home. While we’re still a long way from March, PC looks like it may get eaten alive in Big East play, and Rhode Island’s home win might not be as pivotal down the road. Also underrated were wins against College of Charleston and Iona. Two good mid-majors that rank in Kenpom top 125 certainly helped prepare the Rams for conference play.
Rhode Island is probably the only Atlantic 10 team without a bad loss, so props to the Rams for avoiding any slips. The Rams had great road opportunities against Alabama and Nevada and were in both to the very end; it’s just tough to beat NCAA Tournament teams on their own courts. Also, credit the way Rhode Island fought against Virginia without E.C. Matthews, because the Cavaliers might be a sleeper pick for the Final Four.
Non-Conference Grade: A-
I was impressed with Rhode Island; the Rams lived up to the hype in November and December. Had URI picked up a road win over Alabama or Nevada, I would have given them a solid A, but the Rams didn’t slip up and got the league’s best win to date: a neutral win over a physical and dominating Seton Hall team. I was most impressed that the Rams held their own without E.C. Matthews for a majority of their games. Danny Hurley put his squad through the ringer with these games, but they came out in pretty darn good shape.