The best part of the March Madness is the cinderella stories and the Davids who take down Goliaths. The NCAA and CBS networks romanticize underdog stories and upsets. Over the past few years The greatest March stories are Butlers back to back title appearances, VCU, George Mason, and of course Wichita State’s final four run. A final four run from a team that represents the smallest state in America can serve as a great underdog story come March. Rhode Island is a mid-major from the Atlantic 10 conference, but the Rams have a power 5 roster. Leading scorer E.C. Matthews, former Memphis forward Kuran Iverson, guard Jared Terrell and former Indiana guard Stanford Robinson were all top-100 recruits coming out of high school. The Rams have an athletic roster and have a roster with a lot of depth. Rhode Island is one of the best defensive teams allowing just 64.9 points per game and ranked 32nd nationally in defensive efficiency. The Rams were a preseason Top 25 team but got out to a slow start losing 4 out of their first 10 games. The Rams have battled injuries throughout the entire year, most notable losing Hassan Martin through December and January. The Rams were a bubble team going into the Atlantic 10 tournament, but the Rams were able punch their ticket to the big dance after beating VCU 70-63 in their conference tournament championship. Rhode Island is going to the dance for the first time in 16 years. The Rams are riding an 8 game winning streak, and they are one of the hottest teams in the county.
In addition, the Rams get a very favorable matchup in the first round. The Vegas line opened with Rhode Island as a three point underdog, but as of Wednesday afternoon the line has moved as a pick em. Despite being an 11 seed, Rhode Island may possibly become a favorite in their matchup against Creighton by tip-off. While Rhode Island has been riding a hot streak after key players began healthy, Creighton has been struggling since star point guard Derrick Watson suffered a season ending knee injury. Since Watson tore his ACL on January 16th, the Bluejays are 7-8, and they haven’t been the same offensive juggernaut. Creighton was awarded the 6 seed in the tourney due to their impressive body of work throughout the season; including their 17-1 start that was lead by Watson.
Moreover, the Rams first round matchup against Creighton is the best scenario coach Dan Hurley could have asked for. The Rams are built to stop what Creighton does best; shoot the three. Creighton’s high octane offense is highly reliant on three point shooting, and Rhode Island is the second best team at guarding the three point line allowing opposing teams to shoot a measly 29 percent from behind the arch. The Rams have 5 athletic defenders who rarely get beat off the dribble, and the Rams are very good at slowing down transition offense. The Rams will control the tempo of the game and they should win their matchup against Creighton.
The Rams have a very tough second round draw against a very good Oregon team. The Rams benefit from playing the Ducks without Chris Bouche, but even without him the Ducks still have one of the most talented rosters in the country. The Rams should be able to hang with the Ducks from an athletic standpoint, and their efficient defense should keep the game close. Without Chris Bouche in the middle of the Oregon defense, it will open opportunities for Rhode Island bigs Hassan Martin, Kuran Iverson, and driving guard Jared Terrell to score in the paint. If the Rams can find a way to get past the Ducks, Rams will a decent matchup against Louisville or a great one against Michigan.
In 30 of the last 32 tournaments, there has been at least one team seeded 10th or worse to make it to the second weekend of the tournament. In recent years. There has been only four double digit seeds who have made a run to the final four run in tournament history. I have Rhode Island making the sweet sixteen in every bracket, and have them going to the elite eight and final four in another. The Rams are very talented team that will be very fun to watch during the tournament. Rhode Island is a team that can potentially “Ram thru your bracket” this March.