At this point in the season, Dayton and VCU are starting to emerge from the pack as teams more than likely to make the NCAA Tournament. Nothing is set in stone, but I think most would agree that the Rams and the Flyers would go dancing if the tournament started today. Rhode Island, on the other hand, might not be so lucky. It’s not that the Rams have any bad losses in particular; they just haven’t picked up any good wins this season. Granted, they’ve yet to face Dayton and VCU at home, which should both be great opportunities, but they’ve let previous chances slip right through their hands. Narrow road losses to Valparaiso, Providence, and Houston seem like they could’ve been easy wins looking back. Sure, those are all difficult teams to beat on the road, but looking back, a team like Rhode Island should’ve gotten a win in at least one of those games. A home loss to La Salle isn’t necessarily a horrible loss, but it definitely doesn’t help this team’s case for an NCAA Tournament bid.
We can’t dwell on the past for the Rams; we can only look forward. As mentioned above, there is a lot to look forward to between now and the conference tournament. The Rams get Dayton, VCU, Fordham, and Davidson at home. If they defend home court, they’ll pick up two solid conference wins. But even that might not be enough. This team still has a few tricky road games remaining, and if it doesn’t take care of business against the bottom half of the league, it could spell trouble come Selection Sunday.
Road games against Davidson, Massachusetts, George Mason, La Salle, and Saint Joseph’s remain. Lose more than one of those games, and this team could start to sweat a bit. The Atlantic 10 is at a point this season where most losses on the road are somewhat bad losses (at least from an NCAA Tournament perspective). This league has just 5 teams in the RPI and Kenpom Top 100. A loss on the road to any of these teams (with the exception of La Salle), would be a loss to a team outside the RPI Top 100. Those don’t look particularly well on an NCAA Tournament resume, especially for a team that really only has 1 good win so far this season.
I really believe Rhode Island’s tournament chances are going to come down to those home games against VCU and Dayton. If the Rams don’t win either game, it’s definitely going to take the Atlantic 10 Tournament to make the field. If Rhode Island wins one and takes care of business in the rest of its games, it’s probably going to be right on the bubble. I can’t tell you what’s going to happen; just know that every game from here on out is crucial.