Ahead of UD’s contest with Rhode Island, I sat down with our pal Dave, who runs the blog RhodyRampage.com with the twitter handle, @RhodyRampage. Many of us have been going back and forth with Dave for years on the tweeter and he remains one of the better voices in the conference when it comes to team coverage on the interwebz. I picked his brain about Hurley’s future, how much he’s enjoyed the run these last 18 months, and we finish up with some general jackassery (of course).
First things first. While myself and Blackburn are familiar with ya, give the loyal readers a rundown on who you are and how you got involved writing and take-making about the Rams of Rhode Island.
So, my name is Dave, I was born and raised in the small state of Rhode Island and grew up with an extended family of URI alums, which had me in on the Rams waaaay before I even made a decision on a college to attend. They made a run to the Elite Eight when I was in high school (1998) (shout out to Jim Harrick, shout out to Cuttino Mobley) and I was hooked. I ended up going to college in Massachusetts and I now live in Boston, and I welcome your hate for that. I started off writing a small handful of guest pieces about URI for NBC Sports and Deadspin and a few other now-defunct sites before I eventually started my own Blogger site. After a short run there I was picked up by the folks at FanSided and the rest is history.
So, in UD terms, Dave is like the Dayton local who moved to Cleveland and can’t bring himself to cut ties with his first love. Respect.
For historical reference, the 1998 Rhode Island run to the Elite 8 was arguably more improbable than Dayton’s in 2014. URI beat a 29-4 Murray State team in the first round, and then upset the #1 seed Kansas, led by Paul Pierce. Like UD, they got a favorable match-up in the third round, drawing Bryce Drew and Valparaiso. You might remember how Valpo started a run that year…
This post is somewhat different than a normal Q&A that we do because , frankly, it can be less informative. At this point in the year, if you follow the A10 as closely as most of the readers of the site, you know Rhode Island is the top dog. So let’s start there. It’s been a long time since Rhode Island has been riding this high in February, what’s the mood around the fan base right now?
As you would expect, it’s about as high as it’s ever been. Even all (okay, most) of the perpetually negative folks that usually flood my mentions are coming around. And it certainly helps that this season comes piggybacked on top of last year’s March run through the A-10 Tourney and into the Dance. URI has lost five times total in the last year-plus. If that doesn’t get your fandom as high as it can go, then you don’t have a pulse.
With the mood of the fanbase comes the inevitable question, let’s not waste time bullshitting around here: what percentage chance is there that Dan Hurley comes back for next season in Kingston? Do you believe URI is going to put all their cards on the table to keep him? Do they even have a stack of cards large enough to do so?
My first instinct is to say 100% he stays. But who knows what jobs will open up once the coaching carousel gets churning, so I’ll amend it to 99.9% chance he’s back on the sidelines in Kingston. The two jobs I keep seeing pop up as “possibilities” are UConn and Pitt. And the feeling – based on more than just a gut instinct – is that if and when Hurley leaves, it’ll be for a program much bigger than those schools. All due respect to UConn, but these aren’t the Huskies of the 90s. The AAC is trash and UConn is facing some potential NCAA sanctions. Speaking of which, the ongoing FBI investigation could make several desirable jobs much less attractive. And finally, the Rams have a hell of a recruiting class coming in. Folks are touting “Hurley’s last season” for the fourth straight year, and they’ll be wrong for the fourth straight year.
Ok, guys, I’m not going to lie to you. When I read that Dave thinks Hurley will 100% be back next year I almost fell off my damn chair. In the event Hurley signs the check elsewhere this spring, let’s all make a crisp, clean screenshot of this take to send to Dave.
Back to this year – URI came into this year with expectations to win the conference and did it. Has there been a single moment of disappointment from you this year? Has anything rubbed you the wrong way about the team or given you pause with the big games approaching?
Not really! There was a brief moment of panic when E.C. Matthews broke his wrist in the second game of the season. But the Rams then went out and beat both Seton Hall and Providence while E.C. was still in a cast. They weathered that storm incredibly well, and they’ve been even better since he returned. Even URI’s four losses have all been to good teams, and there’s a good chance that all four of those squads dance this year. This answer would have been different if Rhody didn’t escape La Salle with an OT win on Tuesday. But the avoided a nightmare loss, so it’s still smooth sailing for now.
With that in mind, URI does just about everything well: they roll a 9-man rotation at you, have 4 capable guards and two of the conferences best players in Matthews and Terrell that highlight great perimeter defense. They don’t turn the ball over much and are efficient on both ends of the floor. What’s been your favorite part about watching this particular team play?
Two things, and you kind of hit on both. First is the depth. Three of URI’s bench players – Jarvis Garrett, Fatts Russell, and Cyril Langevine – would be starters for any other team in the A-10. And there’s virtually no drop-off when any of those guys sub in. And the second piece is unselfishness. Matthews and Terrell are the clear stars, but the offense doesn’t have to run through them like you see with Adams and Mobley at Bona. Any of Rhody’s top eight are capable of hanging 15-20 on you on any given night, and it’s because they share the basketball so well.
If you’re playing Rhode Island, you know about Terrell, Matthews, Robinson and Berry. Those dudes have been in Kingston for like 9 years. Aside from the seniors as the core, what’s the X-factor for this team?
There’s no Dowtin my mind that it’s Jeff Dowtin. (I’ll show myself out.) Rhody’s starting point guard is only a sophomore but he plays like a senior. He’s long, he defends incredibly well, and at last check he was second in the country in assist-to-turnover ratio. If you want a corny color commentator cliche, he’s “the straw that stirs the drink”. Dowtin was key to Rhode Island’s run through March last year, and I expect that to be the case again this season.
How do you see this group being most successful in March?
As has been the case with Hurley-coached teams, it’s going to start with defense. URI’s six-pack of guards can shut down any perimeter in the country in my mind, so that’s the first key. After that, they’ll go as far as Jared Terrell takes them. I know this kinda contradicts some of my earlier points, but Terrell is a bulldog, and he’s made for big games. If he gets into a groove, Rhode Island should not only win the A-10 Tourney, but they’ll make some noise in the NCAAs.
So where do you see things shaking out for the Rhody Rams when all is said and done? It’s prediction time.
I’m really trying not to get too excited. But if the match-ups shake out right, I think URI is a Sweet 16 team. If it *really* shakes out right, they could go even deeper. I’m well aware of the fact that your beloved Flyers got absolutely hosed last year when they drew Wichita State, who had no business being on the 10 line. So I’ll remain cautiously optimistic until the bracket is revealed. Until then, I’ll give the Rams, say, 75:1 odds of winning it all. Just pulling that number out of thin air.
The floor is yours. Please make your case for Jared Terrell getting POY in the A10.
I was a lot more confident in this a few weeks ago, before Bona got hot and Adams posted back-to-back 40 point games. But the case is simple: Terrell is the best player on the best team in the league. He doesn’t have the numbers that Adams and Aldridge on Davidson have, but he does everything well. 17.6 points, 2.3 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. And although he’s not gonna be a 50 / 40 / 90 guy (FG%, 3PT%, FT%), he’s close. 45.1 / 42.4 / 85.6. And that’s all while guarding the opposing team’s best player, which he’s almost always tasked with. URI isn’t where they are this year if it’s not for Terrell.
I guess we can talk about Friday’s game for a hot second. First, how has attendance been this season? Secondly, how many points does Rhody win by on Friday? Is there a “revenge” type feeling to this game since we did it to you last year and now there’s blood in the water?
URI isn’t breaking attendance records this year, they’re shattering them. Expect a sellout on Friday night, which has become more of a common occurrence this season. I don’t see this as a “revenge” game as the Rams already took down UD already this year. I think the focus will be centered around clinching the A-10 title outright (so far, all they’ve clinched is a share of the crown). I like Rhody by 15.
If our Flyer Faithful find themselves near Kingston, what’s your bar/restaurant recommendation.
The standard near-campus bar is the Mews Tavern, and you certainly can’t go wrong there. But if you want the true Rhode Island / New England experience, then hit Matunuck Oyster Bar. Aside from the food/booze, the location is ridiculous. Unfortunately, the experience is gonna be better in nicer weather, so maybe save it for when it’s not college hoops season.
My favorite question of the season. Rank your top 5 most hated teams in the A10.
This is hard because I don’t really hate a lot of teams. I’ll throw UMass at #1 because of the local-ish rivalry, and the fact that their fans are ready to hang a banner because they kept it close against URI at home this year. I suppose I’ll say St. Joe’s #2… shout out to Donny for giving me the heads up that Hawks fans have a raging disdain for Rhode Island. So sure, screw those guys! I will say that I’d be on board if they ever decide to fire that Hawk mascot into the sun. Let’s put VCU at 3, and again that’s mostly the segment of their fan base that takes themselves WAY too seriously. You know the handful of Twitter accounts without me having to name them. And I’m not sure I have any others… the top five most hated teams for most Rhody fans is: 1. Providence, 2. Providence, 3. Providence, 4. Providence, and 5. Providence. We don’t have time to hate many other teams.
We all need someone to hate, don’t we Flyers?
As always, thanks to Dave for taking the time to answer some questions. Stay #LOWD, Be Normal, only a few games left. Hang in there.