This is how it was supposed to be, back in November when the Rhode Island Rams were ranked nationally and considered a virtual lock for the NCAA Tournament. This is how it was supposed to be come the second weekend in March, the Rams playing for the Atlantic-10 Conference Championship.
Having survived a few bumps along the way, fourth-seeded URI (23-9) will play second-seeded Virginia Commonwealth (26-7) at 12:30 Sunday for the A-10 title. The Rhody Rams buried ninth-seeded Davidson, 84-60, in the first semifinal Saturday at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh. The VCU Rams needed overtime to defeat third-seeded Richmond, 87-77, in the second semifinal.
The winner Sunday will receive the A-10’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The loser will have to wait until the selection show Sunday at 5:30 p.m. on CBS to learn its fate.
This is URI’s first A-10 final appearance since 2007. The Rams hope to win their first title since 1999, when Lamar Odom’s last-second shot beat Temple, and they have a good chance. They were most impressive in beating Davidson for the third time this season. They sank 9 of their 12 three-point shots in the first half, when E.C. Matthews connected on all four of his three-point attempts and scored 14 of his game-high 19 points.
Also, URI has won seven in a row and 11 of 13 since an 11-point loss at Richmond on Jan. 25. The Rams beat VCU by 10 points at home on Feb. 25.