As the URI men’s basketball season progresses, the Rams continue to rise in the national rankings. This week, the team jumped to No. 18 in the AP Poll, and look to extend their win streak to 15 games with a Friday night home game against the Davidson Wildcats.
While the Rams have shown conviction (e.i. last week’s come-from-behind win against Duquesne), depth off the bench and even some surprise play from younger players like Fatts Russell, the biggest storyline for Rhode Island this season has been the depth in their backcourt.
The Rams have consistently started four guards and a forward this season, making no effort to conceal the team’s confidence in their backcourt. Since E.C. Matthews came back from his wrist injury for Dec. 16, matchup with College of Charleston, URI has generally stuck with starting guards Matthews, Dowtin, Robinson and Terrell, with senior Jarvis Garrett coming off the bench.
This five guard system has been a crucial factor in the Rams’ play. Together, the unit has accounted for two thirds of the team’s total minutes, while also contributing 67 percent of the total points scored, 83 percent of the assists and 81 percent of total steals.
What separates this Rhody backcourt from some of the other elite backcourts in the nation, say Villanova, for example, is the unique balance URI is able to obtain between these five players. For example, all five of these guards have played over 400 minutes, while Nova has two guards contributing close to 700 minutes and two well under 300.
As for scoring, URI has spread the points out mostly evenly, with Terrell’s 395 leading the pack, and Matthews, Robinson, and Dowtin all separated by less than 30. Villanova’s top five guards, on the other hand, have contributed to 70 percent of the team’s total scoring, yet close to 60 percent of this comes from just two players (Brunson and Bridges).
It doesn’t just stop there. Rather, analysis into the advanced metrics of URI’s top five guards compared to those of other, higher ranked teams in the nation easily demonstrates the unmatched depth of the Rams’ backcourt: Arizona’s top five guards have logged 53 percent of the team’s total minutes, with over 60 percent of these coming from just two players. On top of this, four of five Wildcats guards have scored less than 175 points, whereas four of five URI guards are above this mark. URI guards contributed more points, assists, rebounds, and steals than Cincinnati’s top five. The Rams as a team have scored over 400 points less than Purdue this season, yet Rhody guards have still produced almost 100 more points.
Throughout the season, the excellent depth in the Rams’ backcourt has proved itself to be the asset which sets this team apart from all others. No team in college basketball has nearly as much talent at the guard position, and no team has shown they can utilize as many guards in such extensive ways.