Some may think that the Atlantic 10 is a weaker conference this year than it was last year. Temple is gone. Butler, Xavier, and Charlotte… all gone. Sounds bleak, but let’s not forget that the A-10 has retained three of their five NCAA Tournament teams from a season ago. And all three of those teams are poised to be just as good, if not better this season. The Rhode Island Rams will take on one of those teams, the La Salle Explorers, in their third conference game of the 2013-14 season.
2012-13 Record: 24-10 (11-5 in the Atlantic 10)
Key Losses: G Ramon Galloway
Key Returners: G Tyreek Duren, G Tyrone Garland, F Jerrell Wright
Player to Watch: G Tyreek Duren
Ramon Galloway may be gone, but Tyreek Duren is more than capable of filling the void left by the First Team All A-10er. Duren was second on the Explorers in both scoring (15.0 points per game) and assists (3.3 per game) last season, trailing just Galloway in both categories. The 6’0″ upcoming senior scored double-figure points in all but six of La Salle’s 34 games a year ago, and surpassed 20 points on five different occasions. That includes a 21-point performance on 7-11 shooting last February at the Ryan Center, as part of a 72-65 Explorers win.
Prediction: La Salle 76 – Rhode Island 58
Besides Galloway, La Salle is returning literally every single one of their regular contributors from their Sweet 16 run last year. Couple that with the fact that they’ll be playing the Rams in Philadelphia this time around and this becomes an extremely difficult game for Rhody. URI will have to turn in a near perfect effort if they’re going to snag a signature road victory.