The basketball season officially concluded in thrilling fashion, with National Championship game producing an instant classic, and quite possibly the century’s greatest college basketball game, following Villanova’s victory over North Carolina last Monday night.
It has long been done for the University of Rhode Island, who after suffering severely detrimental injuries failed to meet the expectations and capture the seemingly unattainable tournament bid. They, can however, be optimistic as some of the most renown sports websites and basketball pundits have pegged them for plenty of success next year.
The Rams finished 17-15 this past season, but are returning their core unit of E.C. Matthews, Hassan Martin, Jarvis Garrett, Jared Terrell and Kuran Iverson, in what will expectedly comprise the most formidable starting lineups in the Atlantic 10 Conference. Fans have long been anticipating prosperity for their Rams, but now with the pieces in place, it seems that the stars would have to align in order to prevent URI from being March Madness bound. Many, not just the fans, echo this sentiment.
ESPN’s resident bracketologist Joe Lunardi has been generous to the Rams for the last couple seasons, and once again deems them a tournament team in his early predictions for the NCAA Tournament field for the 2016-17 season. He currently has them marked in as a No. 10 seed, which would obviously be a welcome sight for the devout student body who are hoping to witness their Rams dance before they graduate. Lunardi is considered one of the pioneers of the bracket craze, and is partly credited revolutionizing it into a main fixture on ESPN, as their annual Tournament Challenge as widely expanded into a nationwide phenomenon.
Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports was even more giving to the Rams, projecting them to be ranked No. 21 in the country, which given their talent may not seem like an absurd statement, but is surprising considering that they are still not a very efficient offensive team, and may again be plagued by lack of size. There is, however, little to debate that the team on paper should certainly be able to attain conference glory. The question then would then be does any team in the A-10 deserve to be nationally ranked, if it does Rothstein clearly likes URI to represent the always underrated league. They would be around the No.5-6 seed range, which would obviously be the culmination of all of head coach Dan Hurley’s efforts in rounding up one of the most promising groupings of recruits URI has ever seen.
Bleacher Report is in agreement with CBS on where Rhode Island will rank in the field, predicting them to be a No. 6 seed, which presents probably the most ideal ranking for a team in their position. A-10 teams usually never flirt with a seeding higher than five, so URI would likely garner plenty of respect as well as sleeper team status should they meet the seemingly lofty expectations. Not that it is relevant or likely to happen, but Bleacher Report projects them to play Georgetown, which if somehow did happen would be a welcome sight to anyone that knows the Hoyas recent track record in the NCAA Tournament.
Overall, it seems that once again the Rams will be a popular pick to make some unexpected noise, but at this point, it should only come as a surprise if the Rams do not make the tournament. Failure to earn a bid would risk tearing down all of the work it has taken to once again make the Rams a reputable program.