On January 28th, the Rhode Island Rams defeated St. Bonaventure 71-59 to improve to 13-7 on the season. They are 5-3 in Atlantic 10 games, which puts them in a three-way tie with La Salle and St. Bonaventure for third place in the conference. Let’s take a look at how Rhode Island has managed to be one of the surprise teams in college basketball this year and what they can do the rest of the season.
The Rams Rely on Their Defense
Through their game against St. Bonaventure, the Rams were 113th in the country in terms of shooting percentage at 45.7 percent. They were also 242nd in the nation in points scored with 1500 point through 20 games, which is an average of 75 per contest. However, they have only surrendered 1328 points this season, which is an average of 66.4 per game. That is good for second in the Atlantic 10. Hassan Martin, who hails from Staten Island, NY, averages over six blocks and five rebounds to go along with just over 10 points per game.
The Season Hasn’t Been a Total Fluke
The Rams have faced some stiff competition this year, and they have handled themselves quite well. They have a win over Cincinnati while playing Duke tough in a 75-65 loss back when the Blue Devils were the top-ranked team in the nation. Rhode Island has also played A-10 rivals Dayton close this season losing by three points on January 6th at Dayton. If they can stay above .500 overall and in conference play, they may keep themselves in the running for an at-large NCAA tournament berth.
What the Future Holds for Rhode Island
The Rams are going to need Hassan Martin to continue his great play the rest of the season if they want to keep winning. Their schedule is favorable with games against teams with conference records of .500 or lower. This includes a pair of games against Davidson as well as a game against UMass that is currently 2-7 in conference play. It isn’t out of the question that they could go 7-3 in their final 10 games and get 20 victories on the season. That is usually good enough for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, even if the have to participate in a play-in game.
Rhode Island hasn’t been known for its success in basketball in the past several seasons. However, they find themselves in prime position to either make the NCAA tournament or at least keep themselves in the conversation deep into the season. As long as they continue to stifle teams with aggressive defense, they could be a dangerous matchup for anyone that they may meet in the postseason.