Fatts Russell and the Rhody Rams face a big test at VCU Saturday (Photo: ESPN Images).
The goal has remained the same all year. Find a way back to the NCAA Tournament.
The initial release of the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) rankings on Monday Jan. 4 was a reminder of that end goal for college hoop teams across the country. Those rankings actually served as an eye-opening wakeup call for everyone, from the Top 25 teams looking for precious top seeds to the wild and crazy race for an at-large berth.
That’s certainly the case for the Rhode Island Rams. The current rankings have the Rams (5-6, 2-2 A-10) at No. 91, not exactly where they’d need to be for an at-large bid. However, URI coach David Cox gave his team plenty of needle-moving opportunities to varying degrees of success in the non-conference slate. Plenty more await in the Atlantic 10.
URI finished 3-4 outside of the A-10 and didn’t face a single team outside of the top-140 in the NET rankings (as of Jan. 7). Included was an impressive win over Seton Hall (56 NET).
“We’re not in a horrendous spot. I’m not sure with this schedule, with this type of year, what the expectations necessarily were,” Cox said after the loss at Richmond. “I feel good about this team as long as we clean some things up.”
The expectations back in November were certainly up in the air amidst ample roster turnover and a (pandemic) season unlike any we’ve ever seen. The goal was URI’s third NCAA Tournament appearance in five years. In terms of an at-large bid the Rams are certainly on the outside looking in right now but a host of NET-changing opportunities remain.
With the majority of conference play still to come here is a look at URI’s resume:
URI’s best victories came at home over No. 56 Seton Hall and No. 52 Saint Bonaventure. Its worse losses came at Mohegan Sun vs. No. 108 Arizona State and to No. 137 Boston College.
The NET is one of six sorting tools the selection committee utilizes to build the 68-team bracket come March. This year’s tournament will take place entirely in Indianapolis, Ind. The rankings divide a team’s wins and losses into quadrants based on the opponent’s NET rating. The quadrant criteria is listed below, per the NCAA:
- Quadrant 1: Home 1-30; Neutral 1-50; Away 1-75.
- Quadrant 2: Home 31-75; Neutral 51-100; Away 76-135.
- Quadrant 3: Home 76-160; Neutral 101-200; Away 136-240.
- Quadrant 4: Home 161-plus; Neutral 201-plus; Away 241-plus.
Here is URI’s current breakdown of the games they’ve played thus far:
Quadrant 1: (0-2) at Wisconsin, at Richmond
Quadrant 2: (3-1) vs. Seton Hall, vs. Saint Bonaventure, vs. San Francisco (neutral), at Western Kentucky
Quadrant 3: (1-3) vs. South Florida (neutral), vs. Arizona St. (neutral), Boston College (neutral), vs. Davidson
Quadrant 4: (1-0) vs. Saint Joseph’s
URI couldn’t capitalize on a Quad 1 opportunity on the road Wednesday in a 80-73 defeat to Richmond. Turnovers continue to plague the Rams with 59 in its last three contests. “If we continue along these lines, it’s going to be a tough year,” Cox said about the ball security struggles.
URI still has over half its schedule left to play and 14 conference match-ups remain. Here’s a look at URI’s remaining opportunities, in terms of quadrant breakdown.
Quadrant 1: at St. Louis (12), at VCU (29), vs. VCU.
Quadrant 2: at Davidson (80), at Dayton (139).
Quadrant 3: at Duquesne, at Umass,vs. UMass, vs. Dayton, at La Salle, at Saint Joseph’s.
Quadrant 4: vs. George Mason, vs. George Washington, vs. Fordham
On Saturday Jan. 9, URI will take on strong VCU (9-2, 2-0) at the Siegel Center. It’s not too crazy to say the Rhody Rams may just need to sweep the Virginia Rams with both games being precious Quad 1 win opportunities as of now.
The other golden opportunity for a resume-booster is at Saint Louis on Feb. 10. The Billikens are No. 12 in the NET rankings and a win out in the Midwest may just be a must with such limited Quad 1 opportunities. URI will also need to avoid detrimental losses to the A-10’s bottom-dwellers.
It’s too early to write off any team in almost any conference. This is an odd season in an odd time. Cox is correct when he says his team is still coming together, still finding its way. The good news is that opportunities await, beginning Saturday (2 p.m.) at VCU.