Since joining the Atlantic 10 conference in the early 1980s, the Rhode Island Rams have made the NCAA Tournament a total of five times.
But they’ve failed to qualify since 1999, and that’s an issue. However, the tide could soon change in Kingston, Rhode Island.
Last season, the Rams easily put together their best season since Dan Hurley took over as head coach; it was perhaps their best since their last NCAA Tournament appearance from 16 years ago. Not only did Rhode Island have an overall record of 23-10 and a 13-5 conference performance, but it also recorded multiple wins over top 100 KenPom teams–including A10 adversaries George Washington and Richmond.
Despite failing to reach the tournament, Rhode Island was able to take of business against the decent-to-bad teams.The following graph takes a look at how the Rams fared, according to the pre-game KenPom odds.
(Stats from KenPom).
Despite not reaching their goal of making the NCAA Tournament, tallying 23 wins was a really nice season for a program that previously had just five 20-win seasons since 1999. Wins and losses don’t always tell the entire story, and it’s plain to see that Rhode Island is on the ascent.
The exciting thing for Rams fans next season is that the vast majority of the roster returns from last year. In fact, Rhode Island will not only be returning its top four in minutes from 2014-15, but also its leader in scoring, rebounding, assists, blocks, steals, and its leader in 3PT makes. There are certainly some contributors lost from players like Gilvydas Biruta and TJ Buchanana, but the vast, vast majority of the team’s serious contributors will be back on the roster.
These returns would be significant by themselves, but when the youth of some of these returners is also considered, they might even be more significant. Jarvis Garrett, Hassan Martin, EC Matthews, and Jared Terrell were all underclassmen last season and all were in the top six on the team in win shares. In total, the Rams came in at #277 in KenPom’s experience rating. Just take a look at how Rhode Island’s win shares last season broke up by eligibility.
(Stats from Sports Reference).
Generally, considering that most underclassmen have at least some room for improvement, the Rams are in a really nice position. They return the vast majority of a solid, but not great team where many of the returners are likely to improve. It’s not a guarantee that the team should be better, but there are a lot of proven pieces returning.
Along with this, Rhode Island is adding two transfer with immediate eligibility in Kuran Iverson and Four McGlynn that should help in the backcourt and on the wing and a recruiting class that features 3-star prospect Leroy Butts and Christion Thompson. All four of these guys will have a chance to contribute next season, but with the depth and talent returning, none must make an impact for Rhode Island to remain a solid team or to improve to the next level.
This could be the year for the Rams to make a run at the national tournament. It returns several valuable pieces and adds new pieces to the mix–reaching The Big Dance is possible in 2015.