The Rhode Island Rams (19-7), led by junior guard Fatts Russell, are one of the many schools on March Madness Bubble Watch. If the Rams don’t win the Atlantic 10 conference tournament, they must rely on the selection committee to determine their fate with an at-large invitation. Rhode Island didn’t help their own cause with an overtime loss 77-75 at Davidson (14-12) this weekend.
According to ESPN’s Bracketology, Rhode Island is projected to have a #10 seed this year. However, a couple of other Atlantic 10 schools are fighting for Rhode Island’s at-large invite, including Richmond (20-7) and St. Bonaventure (18-9).
KenPom currently ranks Rhode Island at #44. He projects the Rams to finish 22-8.
Atlantic 10 Standings – Top 6
Dayton 14-0 (25-2 overall)
Rhode Island 11-3 (19-7)
Richmond 10-4 (20-7)
St. Bonaventure 10-4 (18-9)
Saint Louis 8-6 (19-8)
Duquesne 8-6 (18-8)
The stingy selection committee might only award entries two Atlantic 10 teams this season, which includes the automatic bid from the winner of the A 10 conference tournament. That means only one other team from the A 10 will get a shot at a March Madness berth.
Dayton (25-2) recently moved into the AP Top 5 with a #4 ranking. The Flyers are fighting for a #1 overall seed, so they’re in no matter what.
However, if another team like Saint Louis or VCU wins the A 10 tournament, bubble teams like Richmond, St. Bonnies, and Rhode Island will fail to earn a bid to the Big Dance.
Rhode Island (URI) Hoops History
When people think of Rhode Island basketball, they usually think about Providence. But that’s a Big East school best known for its run to the Final Four under Rick Pitino and Billy Donovan. Rhode Island, also known as URI among New Englanders, is the state school in the smallest state in the union.
Rhode Island appeared in March Madness 10 times in school history, yet only twice since 1999.
URI hit its peak in the late 1990s when coached by Jim Harrick. Harrick guided the Rams to three straight appearances in 1997, 1998, and 1999. He took Rhode Island to its only Sweet 16 appearance in 1998, but they lost in the Elite Eight to Stanford.
Rhode Island had some recent success a few years ago. Danny Hurley, son of the high school coaching legend Bob Hurley, coached Rhode Island for six seasons between 2012-2018. Danny Hurley guided the Rams to back-to-back March Madness appearances in 2017 and 2018. He went 2-2, but never advanced past the Round of 32. Hurley left URI at the end of the 2019 season, headed 55 miles away to coach UConn.
Rhode Island promoted assistant coach David Cox, who assisted Hurley for four seasons at URI. Cox has a 37-22 record in two seasons with the Rams. He went 18-15 in his first season, yet failed to land a postseason invite. He’s trying to get Rhode Island back to March Madness for the first time under his tenure, and only the 11th time in school history.
URI Sliding, Fatts Russell Rising
Rhode Island lives and dies by its backcourt with Fatts Russell and Jeff Dotwin. Russell averages 19.7 ppg. Dotwin, a 6-foot-3 senior, is the team leader and second-best scorer, averaging 14.3 ppg. Russell, a 5-foot-10 junior guard, draws comparisons to Kemba Walker.
Rhode Island won 10 games in a row before hitting a speed bump, dropping two out of their last three games. They lost to Dayton (ranked #6 at the time) on the road, which was expected. The top team in the A 10 beat the Rams by 14 points two weeks earlier in a game the Rams never really had a chance of winning.
Over the weekend, Rhode Island lost a road game at Davidson that they should have easily won. Davidson was just one game over .500, but Rhode Island came out flat and fell behind early.
Dotwin scored 21 points in the loss, while Russell had one of his worst games of the season. Russell scored 8 points on 3-for-17 shooting, including 2-for-6 from 3-point range.
Overall, the Rams shot poorly (35.6% from the floor) and went just 5-for-19 from 3-point land for a 26.3% clip.
Rhode Island couldn’t stop Davidson’s dynamic duo of Grady and Gudmundsson. Iceland’s Jon Axel Gudmundsson, led all scorers with 23 points. Junior guard, Kelland Grady, added 21 points.
On Deck: Rams vs Rams
Rhode Island recently lost two out of their previous three games. With four games remaining, including a rematch against #4 Dayton, the Rams can’t afford to lose any more A 10 regular season matches. It will be up to Fatts Russell to step up with some huge games in the next two weeks.
This week, the Rhode Island Rams visit the Bronx to take on the Fordham Rams (7-19). Rhode Island shouldn’t have a problem with Fordham, who is tied for last place in the A-10. Expect them to bounce back with a vengeance in the “Rams Bowl.”
On Sunday, the Rams host the Saint Louis Billikens (19-8). Rhode Island hasn’t faced Saint Louis yet this season. The Billikens are 5-5 in their last 10 games. They lost to Dayton twice, Davidson, Duquesne, and UMass during that stretch.
Rhode Island needs to win both of these games before a rematch against Dayton in early March.
- Games Remaining: (4) at Fordham, Saint Louis, #4 Dayton, at UMass.
- Key Wins: Bama, Providence
- Losses: #6 Dayton, #7 Maryland, LSU, West Virginia, Brown, Richmond, Davidson
Of course, a victory over Dayton would give them a high-quality win over a Top-5 team, which is the kind of victory that impresses the selection committee.
For OG’s coverage of other March Madness bubble teams, check out: Cincinnati, Saint Mary’s, Richmond, Providence, and East Tennessee State/Furman.