PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – As we inch closer to the most exciting time in college basketball, it’s important to not only keep tabs on the bracketology pertaining to the men’s tournament. There is a women’s program in the state in the bracket if the season were to end today. Tammi Reiss’ squad in Kingston is yet again one of the top in the Atlantic 10 Conference. Her team owns a 16-3 overall record and a perfect 7-0 in the league, good enough for a 1.5 game lead over UMass (who the Rams beat in Amherst on Jan. 4).
Rhody is listed a No. 13 seed in the latest ESPN women’s bracketology released on Jan. 20. It has the Rams visiting No. 4 seed North Carolina in Chapel Hill. If URI continues to stack wins in the regular season it will give itself a chance to move up a seed line or two (assuming it wins the A10 tournament) and avoid playing the host school in the first round.
The upcoming schedule includes a game at George Mason on Wednesday Jan. 25 and then a home date with Saint Joseph’s one week later at 6 p.m. National Girls & Women in Sports Day will be celebrated at the Ryan Center against the Hawks
The Rams need just four more wins this season to record back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time in program history.
With that, let’s get to the latest edition of the WPRI12 College Hoops Column.
Thoughts and observations are below. You can always reach out via email email@example.com or Twitter @MHershgordon.
No. 23 Providence
Record: 15-5 (7-2 in Big East, 3rd place)
Last: 75-64 win vs. DePaul
This Week: Host Butler Jan. 25 at 8:30 p.m., At Villanova Jan. 29 at 12 p.m.
Plain and Simple: Team success will determine if Hopkins wins Big East POY
Assuming good health, Bryce Hopkins will be on the short list of players who will be in consideration to win Big East Player of the Year. As much as the award is an individual accomplishment, Hopkins won’t be able to do it without the help of his teammates. Recent history indicates team success plays a factor. The only time since 2009-10 that the winner of the award came from a team that finished the regular season outside the top three was Kris Dunn in 2015-16 when PC finished tied for fourth place. Hopkins is averaging nearly 21 points and 11.5 rebounds per game in league play.
Hard Truth: Next two games will determine if PC can position itself to repeat
Wednesday night at the AMP is the halfway point of the regular season schedule. Game 10 of 20. PC welcomes a 3-7 Butler squad that is injured and fresh off a 30-point loss at UConn on Sunday. Then it’s a trip to Philadelphia and a date with under-performing, but always dangerous Villanova. Two wins would get the Friars to 9-2 in the league and at worst just one game back in the loss column to first place Xavier prior to their trip to Cincinatti on Feb. 1. The title defense will have serious life if PC flies to Ohio at 9-2.
PC Hoops with Coach Cooley
🏀 Debuts Jan. 29 at 10:30 p.m. on FOX Providence
🏀 1-on-1 with Coach Ed Cooley
🏀 “Be Them Dudes” Play of the Week
🏀 Trivia Question of the Week
🏀 Five Friar Fast Facts
Record: 6-13 (2-5 in Atlantic 10, 14th place)
This Week: Host Dayton Jan. 25 at 7 p.m., Host LaSalle Jan. 28 at 2 p.m.
Plain and Simple: Rams can’t afford rough starts
Archie Miller said it himself. In his pregame availability on Thursday ahead of Saturday’s loss to George Mason, the head coach preached his team’s margin for error is “razor thin.” He cited his team’s lack of physicality as one of the main issues. Well that’s exactly what happened. Rhody was punched in the mouth again right from the jump. They got behind 8-0 nearly three minutes in. Before that on Tuesday, they trailed 9-0 at Richmond when their first bucket came under the 16:00 minute mark. The Rams are already entering games as underdogs and spotting the opposing team a few buckets makes it highly unlikely they will have enough in the tank to get back within striking distance let alone over the hump and take the lead.
Hard Truth: It’s going to be a long final 6+ weeks
The final month and a half of the season will be grind. The Rams lack talent, depth and experience and are 2-5 without even having played the top four teams in the standings. The program will continue to push forward with an eye on 2023-24. The fans need to understand that rebuilds do not happen overnight. Things I’m looking for: good body language, leadership and fundamentals on the floor. Those three areas are things the Rams can control 100% of the time. Shots will be made and missed. Games will be won and lost. But if the Rams control the controllables, I’ll be impressed with Miller’s staff that a true change is in the works.
Record 13-7 (4-3 in America East, 5th place)
This Week: Visit Binghampton Jan. 28 at 2 p.m.
Plain and Simple: Bryant is still a big man away
The absence of a rim protector is noticeable and Hall Elisias is not emerging from that locker room. Bryant’s guards have done a good enough job on the perimeter of limiting opponents to probe the lane at will. But they’ll be forced to step up even more without a game-altering talent on the backline like Elisias was for last year’s NCAA Tournament team. Also, team rebounding needs to be a point of emphasis moving forward. The Dogs were not competitive on the glass (out-rebounded 47-26) which aided the River Hawks to get up 20 more shots.
Hard Truth: Inconsistent performances are cause for pause
Since conference play has begun, it’s been one step forward and one big step back. The Bulldogs are above .500 and should finish in the top four or five but Jared Grasso’s squad has thrown in a few clunkers. Could it solely be getting acclimated to new opponents and playing styles? It could. And two of the three losses have come on the road. However, the losses at Vermont earlier this month and then on Sunday at UMass Lowell weren’t competitive. The Catamounts methodically picked apart the Dogs for 40 minutes and the length and athleticism of the River Hawks overwhelmed a weak performance by the frontcourt. Grasso’s M.O. is that his team’s peak at the right time, and there’s definitely plenty of time still to go. But with every clunker, the chance of this team finishing near their preseason pick fades further and further away.
Record: 10-9 (3-3 in Ivy League, tied for 3rd place)
Last: 97-85 win vs. Columbia
This Week: Visit Cornell Jan. 28 at 2 p.m.
Plain and Simple: Bears earn back-to-back Player of the Week honors
Last week, Kino Lilly Jr. got the nod for his game-winner vs. Princeton and 28-point barrage at Yale. This week, his teammate Nana Owusu-Anane earned the recognition. On Saturday, the sophomore had a career day against Columbia. He went for 27 points and 18 rebounds in just 29 minutes of work. Not to mention the team is without fellow big men Malachi Ndur and rookie standout Kalu Anya. Owusu-Anana is maturing in his second season on the East Side and his discipline is needed, knowing he is the only reliable low post threat on his team right now.
Hard Truth: We’re going to learn a lot about the Bears in the coming weeks
Brown sits at .500 through six games of Ivy play. Five of those were at home, with the Bears going 3-2 in those contests. Ideally, Mike Martin would like to have at least one of those games back that he and his team let slip away. But all in all, the team should be content at 3-3 and squarely in the mix with eight games to go. However, the fortunes of playing at home will only occur two more times. After a heavily weighted home slate in the first half, Bruno will hit the road six times to close the year. Can the Bears play well enough on the road while being hampered by injury to remain alive in the postseason race? We’re going to learn a lot about this program coming up.