FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE THIS
The University of Rhode Island Rams are going to be in the NCAA tournament.
Going into the Atlantic-10 tournament the URI Rams had work to do to secure a bid in the NCAA tournament. At 21-9 going into the weekend they were still firmly on the bubble, they were teetering between "first four out" and "last four in" but an early loss in Pittsburgh would likely end their chances at an NCAA berth. At the very least they needed a deep conference tournament run to keep their big dance hopes alive.
Everybody had their own takes on what the Rams had to do to secure an at large bid. There were many who thought their only chance was to win the A-10. I personally believed if they beat Dayton in the semis and lost in the A-10 final they'd probably get in. I know it's been a down year in the A-10 but they usually get at least 3 bids and I think URI would've done enough at that point to deserve an at large bid to the big dance. Then when Dayton went down I was kind of upset at them because I had it so drilled in my head that we would have to beat them to secure an at large spot. Then it hit me... they could just go out and win the whole thing and put any doubt to rest. Get that auto-bid.
If you saw how URI looked just around a month ago and compared it to now it's like two completely different teams. They were playing some of the worst offensive basketball I've ever seen. It looked like they just met each other out there. I'd seen better basketball played at URI at the intramural level. (I'd know because I won an intramural championship, NBD)
Losing by double digits to Fordham at home was probably the lowest point of the year. It really seemed like their NCAA hopes were toast. We were gonna have to wait yet another year. They were 16-9. 8-5 in conference play. They basically had to win out to make the tournament, which after how they had been playing seemed impossible. It was hard to believe this was the team many basketball writers picked to dominate the A-10.
After such a promising start that included a ton of preseason hype, and a spot as high as #21 in the AP poll, the Rams quickly stumbled back to earth. After beating a ranked Cincinnati team at Mohegan Sun the Rams struggled, losing 4 of 6 to drop to 6-4 and it seemed like another season of disappointment in Kingston.
As URI fans we've seen it time and time before. Promising starts to the season, only to falter down the stretch in A-10 play.
In 2007-08 the Rams started 14-1 and were ranked. It looked like they'd make it , Late in the year they had a 5 game conference losing streak and went on to finish the regular season 21-10 before losing their A-10 opener and NIT opener to finish 21-12.
In 08-09 they ended their season with two losses, one on senior day to Umass and in the A-10 opener to Dusquene to go from 22-8 to 22-10 and end their chances at an at large big.
Then in 2009-10 it was more of the same. URI was at one point 19-3 but ended the regular season at 21-8 to dash their tourney dreams.
This time URI didn't even wait until conference play. They went from one of the hottest pre-season picks to have a huge year to off the national radar in the blink of an eye. After looking so good against Cincinnati (and even Duke at times), due to injury and overall just shitty basketball the Rams struggled at times to stay consistent. They had two heartbreaking typical URI losses (horrible free throws down the stretch) to Dayton, and had two reeeaaally ugly conference losses to bad teams in La Salle and Fordham. But as the A-10 season came to a close URI finally got healthy again and ended the season with a 5 game winning streak to earn a double-bye in the A-10 tournament.
In the Atlantic-10 Tournament URI finally again looked like the team we saw glimpses of early in the season. Their offense which at time's looked like a team playing together for the first time finally started gelling again. In the A-10 tournament the 3 ball came alive for Rhody. They shot 50% from deep against Davidson and VCU and now are playing in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1999.
I'm just so happy they proved me and a lot of my friends wrong. I did not think this team could do it, they had shown me for years that was the case. I've been very lucky to have experienced a ton of success from my pro teams, but never URI. They were the one team that kept me grounded by year after year, doing just enough to have you buy in, then just break your heart as the season came to a close.
URI had not made the NCAA tournament since 1999. That's pre YK2, pre 9/11, pre basically everything anybody around my age had even experienced in life. I was 7 but I might as well not have been alive. I have 0 recollection of URI basketball or really anything sport related of life at that point. I was too busy with my pokemon cards and N64.
We've had seasons where they were a win or two away from making it. We've seen this team come very close to ending the streak over the years. Mainly the 2007-2010 Jim Baron run where seemingly URI was a quality win away from cracking the tourney every year. Now we just have to wait until Friday afternoon where the Rams will take on the Creighton Blue Jays of the Big East in Rhody's first NCAA tournament game since 1999.
In an awesome moment of Rhody Pride fans greeted the Rams at TFgreen to a warm welcome after ending a nearly 20 year tournament drought.
Now the big question is can Rhody make some noise in the big dance? I'll address that later this week, for now I'm just very excited that URI has made the tourney. It's the first time I'll ever get to fill out a bracket with URI in it!
Now you KNOW it's official.
Had to come out of retirement to show Rhody some love. Still hoping my URIprobs days can help me get in at BSS.