It is feasible? At the start of the season, I said “hell no.” At the start of conference play, I said “very unlikely.” Now, I’m starting to see something else: Rhode Island has a chance to finish the 2017-18 Atlantic 10 conference season undefeated. How good of a chance? Well, let’s take a closer look.
Ken Pomeroy gives Rhode Island a 7.1% chance of finishing the regular season undefeated. Those aren’t great odds, but to put that number in context, it was less than 1% at the start of the conference season. Since, the Rams have rattled off 9 straight wins, though I’d argue they’ve faced the easier half of their schedule and still have a daunting task ahead: road games against Davidson and St. Bonaventure to name a few.
If we take the aforementioned games out of the question, we see that Rhode Island has a 24.4% chance of winning the remainder of its games. Even further, let’s take this week’s road game against VCU out of the equation, and we’re still only at a 34.8% chance. Of course, all of this is speculative, and while URI is technically favored by Kenpom in every matchup from here on out, the chance of winning every game is still slim.
The eye test
What about how Rhode Island looks when it’s on the court? Well, the Rams are 9-0 in league play without too many issues against inferior teams. The Rams, I’d argue, have had two “scares” thus far, one coming on the road against Saint Louis and the most recent buzzer-beater at home against Duquesne. The former was a game that the Rams held control (though barely) throughout, but the Duquesne game looked like it might go down as an L in the first 10 minutes of the opening half. Duquesne came out hot, and URI was falling flat.
Rhode Island’s ability to persist, even on an off day, helps prove that this is indeed a top 25 team. However, it’s likely that the Rams will struggle in at least one more game this year; whether or not they pull out the win depends on the opponent and whether or not that opponent came to play. URI has a good chance to beat many A-10 teams, even when the Rams are having a tough shooting night, but a team like Davidson, VCU, or St. Bonaventure could make URI pay if its outside shots aren’t falling.
Going off the “eye test” and putting the entire Atlantic 10 in perspective, I think Rhode Island’s chances are a bit higher than 7%, but again, there are many pitfalls remaining, and some tough atmospheres have yet to be visited. Winning 9 more to finish out the regular season would be one hell of an accomplishment.