Huge game tonight for the Flyers as the head into Kingston, Rhode Island to take on the Rams. There’s plenty riding on this one: VCU lost last night to UMass, giving UD the opportunity to take over sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Ten AND Louisville, Iowa State, Texas A&M and SMU went down in defeat this week — four teams that are just in front of Dayton in the polls. Opportunities galore await the Flyers if they can just get over the hump and finally get a win at URI this evening.
We did a quick podcast with Dave from Rhody Rampage last night, he dropped some tasty tidbits about his Rams. Check it out if you have absolutely, positively, nothing else to do right now.
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Danny Hurley was probably headed to St. John’s before Rhody signed him to a six-year extension last March, giving the school every indication that he wanted to stick around a little longer and continue building what he had started two years earlier.
On paper it made sense, URI was returning four starters from last season’s NIT team and were picked second, just behind Dayton, in the A10’s preseason poll. This was supposed to be the year that Hurley’s club put it all together and competed for the Atlantic Ten crown. Rhode Island was more than likely going to be a 20+ win club, finish in the top three of the league and earn a tournament appearance.
And then E.C. Matthews tore his ACL in Rhode Island’s opening game against American. Matthews, arguably the A10’s most NBA-ready player, was lost just ten minutes into the season and the Rams were forced to recalibrate their expectations. Rhody lost their next game against Valpo, were blown out by Maryland, lost a heartbreaker against Providence and went down in defeat at Old Dominion. URI finished their non-conference slate with an 8-5 record, their post-season aspirations all but extinguished.Rhody is currently 14-10 overall, 5-5 in conference play. For the most part, they have protected their home floor and lost their shirts on the road. You get the feeling that URI, like La Salle, are anxious to get this season over with and fast-forward to next November. Until then, the Rams will play out the string, with still enough talent to give any team in the conference a run for their money.
The Rams play a slower pace, don’t turn the ball over with frequency and get to the foul-line at an above-average rate. URI is a streaky shooting team from the perimeter but has still managed to shoot around 37% from behind the arc this season. The three-point shot is not a major component of their offense, as they get just under 30% of their points from deep.
Defensively is where Rhode Island bridges the gap. The Rams protect the paint better than any other team in the Atlantic Ten. Rhody rebounds the ball very on both sides of the floor and places a priority on guarding three-point attempts. Hurley’s club forces a turnover on approximately 20% of their opposition’s possessions, putting them third behind VCU and Fordham in the conference. If Rhode Island beats Dayton, it will be due to their rebounding and forcing turnovers from UD’s backcourt. It will be a contrast in styles as the Rams want to keep the game in the sixties and Dayton prefers a free-flowing game that typically gets played into the high-seventies.
The biggest question facing Rhode Island is whether or not Kuran Iverson will suit up against the Flyers. Iverson, a transfer from Memphis, took a nasty elbow (it looked pretty deliberate) from St. Joe’s Isaiah Miles that sent the Rhode Island forward sprawling to the floor unconscious. Iverson has been held out of the past three games with a concussion, a huge blow for Rhody considering his ability to stretch the floor and rebound.
Iverson’s absence has opened the door up for Nicola Akele, a 6’7” freshman from parts unknown. Akele is black guy from Italy which must have been a nightmare for him, like being an altar boy with a self-lubricating asshole. Hassan Martin is the bedrock for the Rams, a solid rebounder and a force defensively. Martin led the A10 in blocks during his first two seasons and seems certain to finish atop the conference again this season (Big Steve is his closest competitor at this point, averaging 2.1 blocks per game).You will know who Jarvis Garrett is immediately because he is wearing an obscenely archaic facemask after suffering a broken jaw against St. Joe’s on January 30th (apparently that SJU/URI game was a fucking blood bath). Garrett, just a sophomore, is the catalyst of URI’s offense. He is the team’s best perimeter shooter and on-ball defender. In addition, Garrett accounts for an assist on 27% of Rhode Island’s made buckets when he is on the floor. Garrett vs. Scooch should be an entertaining matchup to track.
Joining Garrett in the Rhode Island backcourt are Jared Terrell and Four McGlynn. McGlynn is a graduate transfer from Towson and takes an ungodly amount of his shots from behind the arc. He has been rather awful from the three-point line in conference play but put up a 6-of-11 effort against George Mason on Tuesday night. Maybe he’s getting back into the zone just in time for UD. Terrell is built like a safety and has been on fire over his past five games, averaging 22 points over that span.
Earl Watson and Christion Thompson are Rhody’s two main cogs off the bench. Watson is a wide bodied man with bad intentions around the rim. If shit goes down, he’ll be at the forefront for the Rams. Thompson is a freshman combo-guard who fades quickly into the background like a subway groper.
Rhode Island’s defense is not only stout, but balanced. They’re in the Top 75 in pretty much every defensive category, from turnovers to shooting percentage. They’re particularly elite at denying three-point basket. Their opponents shoot more than three times as many two-pointers as they do threes. Given this fact, opponents need to be able to score inside and exploit the Rams one weakness on defense — fouling.
If I wanted to try and make a comparison for the Rams defense, it would be a weaker version of Vanderbilt that fouls more often. We all know Pollard can draw contact, but Charles Cooke has that ability as well. The key to the Flyers’ offense will be finishing inside and making free-throws. That’s where they’re going to have to get their points from. Getting out in transition would absolutely help this cause as well.
On offense there’s no aspect that explicitly stands out for the Rams. They do shoot the three ball fairly well (36.8%, 76th), but nothing to get overly concerned about. Jarvis Garret shoots threes at 44%, so UD will need to pay closer attention to him. Four McGlynn gets up most of the volume, albeit at a much lower percentage. One thing you will notice is Rhody, as is common with much of the A10, plays at a snail’s pace. They average 19.4 seconds an offensive possession, which is almost dead fucking last in the league. UD’s defense also slows teams down with their defensive possessions lasting an average of 18.1 seconds.
With limited possessions, remaining efficient on offense will be vital. Getting to the charity stripe is one of the most proficient ways of scoring IF you make your free throws.
I’m strictly playing the odds here, Dayton loses a close one to the A10’s northernmost Rams, 68-65. Dayton has been winning too consistently on the road not to have at least one slipup. The Flyers have routinely under-performed in Kingston, so this seems to be the most likely spot for a road loss. I hope, as always, that I’m wrong.
Tom Blackburn is a proud U. o' D. alum. He loses faith in humanity one day at a time, but not in you, you seem like you are all kinds of alright. Charter member of the T-Man fanclub.