The University of Rhode Island Rams men’s basketball team are looking to stampede into the NCAA tournament. The Rams sat at 16th in the AP poll last week, which is highest in the program’s history. They currently have a 23-4 record, 15-0 at home, and sit atop the Atlantic 10 conference at 15-1 in conference play. This team is one of the best in regular season history for the program.
However, the regular season success means nothing if a team cannot execute in the big tournament. Last year, they started off ranked in the top 25 teams, but slipped as the season went on. They were able to make a run in the tournament by being minutes away from the Sweet 16 with a crushing loss to Oregon in the round of 32 last year.
The Rams only lost two seniors after last season, Hasan Martin and Kuran Iverson, who had huge roles in the team, as Martin was a great big man and Iverson was a great scorer. The two gaps in the lineup have been filled with players such as Jared Terrell and Andre Berry who have really stepped up their game this season to fill the roles and lead to this team’s great success.
URI Athletic Director Thorr Bjorn believes the Rams have what it takes to win it all this year, “not only are we winning, but we’re winning with a great group of guys.” The Rams also have the experience in the NCAA tournament, which is crucial, “playing Creighton and Oregon and having these guys back and healthy, they’ve accomplished that goal, how far can we take this.” Having players back healthy who have experience in play-off runs in crucial when facing other teams who are plagued with injuries and have inexperienced players on the roster. Experienced players can perform in the clutch and have a leadership role in the locker room.
Not only are these players great on the court, they’re great students and people. The Rams are involved in many charity events in their community and are good students in the classroom. Coach Dan Hurley makes sure the students are passing their classes and on top of their work. Just last week, URI guard Jeff Dowtin had returned back on campus well after midnight after a game and was still seen walking to his 9 am class by a URI professor, showing the dedication to education the players have. These players also are not isolated to other student athletes as all of the athletes on campus are a family, “they’re at every baseball game, volleyball game, and football game,” Bjorn said.
The team’s success all starts with Dan Hurley. Bjorn said,“he has incredible abilities, he is very insightful.” Hurley is very energetic and has high standards for his players. He works them hard and pushes them to the limit to ensure that he gets the most out of them. This all is a recipe into URI’s success last year and this year. Practices are intense and the guys all have great chemistry with each other. Hurley does a wonderful job coaching and leading this team.
The Rams are closing off on a remarkable season and seek to polish it off with their first NCAA championship.