I really, really hope the University of Rhode Island beats Davidson in the Atlantic 10 semifinals Saturday afternoon in Pittsburgh and then defeats Virginia Commonwealth or Richmond on Sunday for the championship.
There, I’ve said it. After close to 40 years of no cheering in the press box while I was a newspaper guy, I can take sides now that I am a blogger.
I’m rooting for the Rams because I want to see them in the NCAA tournament, a trip they last took in 1999. The only guarantee for URI is to win the A-10. Rhode Island entered the conference tournament on the NCAA bubble, and bigger basketball minds than mine suggested the Rams need to win it all to ensure a date for The Big Dance. If that’s so, then a spot in the A-10 championship game might not be enough.
Why am I rooting for the Rams? Several reasons. Coach Dan Hurley has poured his heart and soul into this five-year rebuilding effort and deserves a reward. After a serious slip against Fordham at home last month, his players have rallied and won six in a row behind senior Hassan Martin and red-shirt junior E.C. Matthews. They combined for 39 points Friday in URI’s 74-63 triumph over St. Bonaventure in the A-10 quarterfinals Friday. Finally, URI deserves a break. The football team struggles year after year. The women’s basketball team loses. Soccer is not what it used to be. An NCAA appearance would lift the spirit of the entire URI community.
Fourth-seeded Rhody (22-9) beat ninth-seeded Davidson (17-14) twice during the regular season, the second a 73-70 overtime thriller in the regular-season finale at the Ryan Center a week ago. RED FLAG! Davidson will be confident after its 73-67 upset of top-seeded Dayton in another quarterfinal on Friday, and beating a team three times in the same season is difficult. URI will have to kick its game up a notch for this one. Looking ahead to the final, always dangerous, I know, URI lost to Richmond by 11 on the road and beat VCU by 10 at home.
Looking ahead to Selection Sunday, always fun, I would like to see Providence College in the NCAA Tournament for the fourth consecutive season, which would be a program first. The Friars (20-12) did not help themselves Thursday by losing to Creighton, 70-58, in the Big East quarterfinals in New York. Their ball-handling was sloppy (22 turnovers), and their free-throw shooting was abysmal (12 of 26).
“We picked a bad time to play our worst game in five or six weeks,” coach Ed Cooley said after the debacle, according to The Providence Journal’s Kevin McNamara. I’ll say.
Hoop sages had PC in the NCAA tournament no matter how they did against Creighton, but I’m not so sure. PC’s shoddy performance did nothing to impress the selection committee. But the Big East is a basketball power conference, and the Friars did finish the regular season in third place after the coaches picked them ninth.
So, here’s to the Friars as well as the Rams. I hope to hear both names on Sunday.