URI basketball

They could have won. They could have beaten third-seeded Oregon and earned a trip to the Sweet 16. Victory was so close they could certainly see it, feel it, taste it.

But in the end, victory Sunday night was not to be for the University of Rhode Island Rams. Oregon was a three-point basket better than URI and left Sacramento with a 75-72 triumph in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Ducks (31-5) moved on while the Rams (25-10) came home to reflect on their best season in 18 years.

They can do it. They can win. The University of Rhode Island can beat Oregon Sunday night at Sacramento.

Sure, Oregon (30-5) is seeded No. 3 in the Midwest Regional and URI No. 11. Sure, the Ducks have Dillon Brooks, the Pac-12 player of the year, and Jordan Bell, the Pac-12 defensive player of the year. And they have a former blue chip recruit in sophomore shooting guard Tyler Dorsey, who scored 24 points in Oregon’s 93-77 rout of Iona in the first round Friday.

If you are a college basketball fan in Rhode Island, it doesn’t get much better than the thrills URI provided its long-suffering fans on Sunday. The fourth-seeded Rams stymied a late rally by second-seeded Virginia Commonwealth and won the Atlantic-10 Championship, 70-63, at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh.

As balloons descended from the rafters, Rhody players pulled championship T-shirts over their uniforms, hugged each other and hugged the impressive championship trophy. The real prize, though, was the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

COURTESY URI

The Providence College and University of Rhode Island men’s basketball teams have given fans much to cheer about this season. RIPR Political Analyst Scott MacKay reminds us that these two gems of Rhode Island higher education are celebrating more important milestones this year.  

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.

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.

Two teams from Rhode Island in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament? With a little luck, and another victory or two in conference tournaments this week, it could happen.

Expectations are like sand castles at Scarborough Beach. Threatened by waves and tides, here now but probably gone later. And then rebuilt.

So it is with University of Rhode Island and Providence College basketball this season. The Rams started with great expectations based on the return of injured stars E.C. Matthews and Hassan Martin. A Top 25 ranking raised expectations higher. Then a three-point loss at Valparaiso  and a heartbreaking three-point loss to Providence at the sold-out Dunkin’ Donuts Center Saturday dashed those expectations. Good-bye Top 25.

March Madness is on hold for Providence College and has ended for Johnson & Wales University. March Melancholy has set in at the University of Rhode Island. And at Brown, anticipation is the word.

Second-ranked and top-seeded Villanova beat Providence, 76-68, Friday night in the semifinals of the Big East Championship at Madison Square Garden in New York. While the 29-4 Wildcats will play Seton Hall for the title, the 23-10 Friars will sit home and wait for the NCAA Tournament selection show Sunday at 5:30.

They’re going to the NCAA Tournament. The Big Dance. March Madness.

University of Rhode Island

Providence College basketball coach Ed Cooley had to be joking when he suggested this week that the PC-URI basketball showdown Saturday night is not a rivalry game and that it should be played at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence every year.

Providence College and the University of Rhode Island not a hoops rivalry? You gotta be kidding me! Tell that to the 8,000 basketball fans who will cram into the Ryan Center in Kingston for the 7 o’clock start.

It’s Basketball Championship Week in the Big East, Atlantic 10 and Rhode Island Interscholastic League.

Local favorites Providence College and the University of Rhode Island are in New York for the college tournaments, and the top four teams in boys and girls basketball will be at URI for high-school Final Four action this weekend.

Here’s a look:

BIG EAST

Aaron Read RIPR

  Winning, like savoring a single malt Scotch, is an acquired taste. It takes time, 12 years in some cases. It takes work and patience and luck. And just as one must learn to sip that single malt, neat or on ice, one must learn how to win. Providence College and the University of Rhode Island are proof.

Let’s hear it for the University of Rhode Island basketball team.

The WOMEN’S team.

Heading home for Christmas, the rampaging Rams are 8-3, already one victory better than their 2014 final record.  After losing three of their first four games, they have won seven in a row for the first time since 1984. They have defeated Brown, Bryant and Providence College for the mythical Division I state championship.

Befitting a rivalry that spans 127 games over 94 years, Providence College and the University of Rhode Island put on a show for a packed house of 12,246 at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center Wednesday night. Providence withstood a furious URI rally in the last two minutes of the game, escaped with a 68-60 victory, snapped a three-game losing streak and improved to 7-3 on the season. 

URI suffered its fifth consecutive loss to Providence and slipped to 5-3 this season. The Rams made only 12 of 22 free throws, and those misses may have cost them the game.

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