Photo by Autumn Walter |CIGAR|

URI set to take on Duke in the Round of 32

Pittsburgh, PAThe Rhode Island Rams have advanced to their second straight round of 32 appearance in the NCAA tournament. This season they have to face men’s basketball powerhouse, Duke University. This year’s second round draw brings in a much bigger sense of emotion and passion as the Rams get to face one of the most historic programs in college sports and one of the most successful coaches in college basketball history, Mike Krzyzewski.

As much as these two teams have had very different history, the teams this year have a lot of similarities, and as this is March, there is no way to predict the winner. Both teams this season have very similar win percentage, URI is 26-7 and Duke is 27-7. The teams both shoot 70 percent from the free throw line and have the same assist to turnover ratio, 1.4, and same steals per game, 7.4. The teams also share victories against Iona and losses against top tournament team Virginia.

The teams, however, rely on different approaches to being successful. Duke, unlike Rhode Island are much younger and play with a lot of reliance on the forward units. This includes freshman star Marvin Bagley III, who led the ACC in scoring, rebounding and field-goal percentage.

“I feel like we have an advantage,” Rams senior star E.C. Matthews said. “I think older guys, we tend to win games, definitely later on in the season, and this is the perfect scenario to do it.”

Dan Hurley praised the Blue Devil’s length inside and talked about how to get around it. “That was pretty startling to see it in person, both in the zone defense and obviously how they are able to get the ball inside and into the low post,” Hurley said. “We’ve got to be able to pressure them out of the scoring area.” Duke accounts for a plus 9.2 rebounding margin and the best scoring margin in the ACC with at plus 15.2.

Rhode Island focuses much more on the depth and experience in guard play, and they believe that it could prove to be an advantage for them. “I feel like we have an advantage,” Rams senior star E.C. Matthews said. “I think older guys, we tend to win games, definitely later on in the season, and this is the perfect scenario to do it.”

Krzyzewski also gave praise to this Rhode Island team, that has been built on hard work and toughness. Rhode Island has five seniors on the roster compared to Duke’s lone guard, Grayson Allen.

URI can also find some motivation to beat this team. They have yet to beat Duke, as Duke leads the all-time series 5-0 including 2-0 in NCAA tournament games. Last season the teams played each other in the Basketball Hall of Fame tip off, where Duke defeated URI 75-65. But, Hurley thinks that having recent experience can help his team settle in and play their brand of basketball without worrying about the mystique that follows the Blue Devils.

“We hadn’t experienced success in March so I think playing the one time last year, certainly helps to have gotten that first one out of our system,” Hurley said. “I’m hoping that last year’s March and they way fought yesterday, caused us to relax and just play the game, try to find a way to beat that team.”

If URI wins, they would advance to their first Sweet 16 appearance since 1998. Rhode Island and Duke are set to square off in the Midwest Region showdown at approximately 2:40 p.m. tomorrow at the PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh.