Normally, hearing news that the Rhode Island Rams will be playing a Division II team will elicit a few yawns from fans… and not much else. But tonight is different. Not only will Rhody be facing off against the number 1 D-II team in the country, but a win will mostly likely give them a shot against one of the better D-I teams in the land… the Metro State Roadrunners It’s all part of the NIT Season Tip-Off, which begins this evening in Tuscon, Arizona… as well as three other “pod” locations. You can check out the news about the three other pods here, but we’ll only be focusing on URI right now. And only tonight’s game… for now…
1. Do NOT Look Ahead
First things first. Sure, it’s fun for us as fans to think about the Arizona Wildcats, but the Rams cannot. The Roadrunners are the best of the best as far as D-II teams go, coming off a 32-3 season a year ago. They’re back at the top once again, and they’re not about to roll over for Rhody tonight. URI needs to focus on winning this first game by playing their best basketball tonight. Saving it for tomorrow might not cut it against a dangerous Metro State squad.
2. Continue To Dominate the Glass
Normally Division I teams can expect a considerable size advantage over a D-II counterpart. Unfortunately, that’s not the case tonight. The Roadrunners have three regulars that are each 6’9″, so the Rams will face a challenge on the boards. The blueprint through URI’s first three games this year has been: win the rebounding battle, win the game. Expect more of the same this evening.
3. E.C., E.C., and More E.C.
The love for E.C. Matthews on Rhody Rampage is no secret. And after his performance last week, there’s also no secret that he is a URI star in the making. We begged for Dan Hurley to turn the freshman loose on Friday night, and he did just that. Matthews is reason enough to watch any and every Rhody hoops game… let’s see what he can do tonight.
4. Minimize Foul Trouble
This was certainly an issue against North Carolina A&T. Both Ifeanyi Onyekaba and Hassan Martin were limited on Friday thanks to a few early fouls. The Rams were able to overcome the setback but it can’t become a habit, especially against some of the tougher teams on their schedule.
5. Exert D-I Dominance
Call it an elitist attitude if you must. But Rhode Island plays in one of the better conferences in Division I. Best D-II team or not, Rhody should be the most talented team on the court. Folks are nervous about this game and certainly there’s cause for concern, but it doesn’t change who each team is and their level of play. The Rams need to come to the court tonight and give the Roadrunners a taste of D-I basketball.
So what are your feelings about tonight, Rhody fans? Nervous? Confident? Somewhere in between? Let us know in the comments!