Rhode Island Rams: 25-7, 15-3 in the Atlantic 10
Head coach: Dan Hurley (6th season)
Players to watch: Jared Terrell (17.8 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 44.8 FG%); E.C. Matthews (12.8 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 43.3 FG%); Stanford Robinson (9.5 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 48.0 FG%)
Season Recap: After winning the program’s second Atlantic 10 conference championship in school history last season, Rhode Island kept its momentum, finishing first in the regular season conference standings thanks to a 16-game win streak from December to February.
That success has come thanks to the steady offensive production of the team’s guards, as the senior duo of Jared Terrell and E.C. Matthews combine for more than 30 points and 2.5 steals per game to lead the team on both ends of the floor. With a guard-heavy attack, the Rams are a team that pushes the floor to compensate for its gaping weakness in the paint—Rhode Island has no rotation players taller than 6-foot-8, and its leading rebounder averages just six points per game.
The Rams’ success on paper is due in part to its weak schedule, giving Rhode Island plenty of reasons to be concerned as the postseason arrives. The team has played just two ranked opponents all year—beating then-No. 20 Seton Hall and losing to then-No. 25 Virginia in November—and lacks any notable wins in the Atlantic 10. To make matters worse, the Rams have faltered as of late, dropping three of their final five regular season games.
How they make a run: Rhode Island lucks out and faces a slew of opponents with weak frontcourts, while the team’s guards shine at the perfect moment with a stretch of hot shooting performances.
How they falter: The Rams are matched up against a team with a formidable inside presence that they simply cannot outrebound or defend, leaving them to live and die by the 3-pointer.