(WPRI) – Now that was a success. Rivalry weekend in Rhode Island is complete, and it certainly did not disappoint. (Unless you’re a fan of either Bryant or URI) Two charged up arenas on consecutive nights featuring the squads we cover on a daily basis in the Ocean State. The only thing that could top it? A double header on the same day at one location or a round robin tournament on three consecutive days during one weekend at the Amica Mutual Pavillion. It just happened at the Palestra in Philadelphia.
Well, we can only dream. Let’s get to the latest WPRI College Hoops Column.
Thoughts and observations are below. You can always reach out via email firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @MHershgordon. Let’s keep everything rational. It’s the holiday season.
This Week: host Manhattan December 7 at 8:30 p.m., host Albany December 10 at 2:30 p.m.
Plain and Simple: Friars feeling better about themselves
It was a big sigh of relief for everyone in Friartown at 7 p.m. on Saturday night. Their team picked up a win it desperately had to have, on the road against their bitter rival (thanks Ed Cooley). PC bullied its way to a 14-point win and gained some much needed confidence after a rocky 5-3 start. Jared Bynum discovered a successful formula as a No. 1 option, Bryce Hopkins was a bulldozer in the paint, and Noah Locke saw his shot fall through the rim.
Hard truth: The non-conference resume is still weak
As much as Cooley will talk about the strength of Big East play and the opportunities for quality wins on a nightly basis, come March the committee will see the Friars laid an egg before conference play. There’s nothing that can be done about it now, and no sense looking in the rearview mirror but it certainly adds pressure to the 20 games from mid-December to early March. Strong showings against Manhattan and Albany to build off the win in Kingston is a must before the trip to Seton Hall.
Last: 88-74 loss to Providence
This Week: Host Brown Dec. 7 at 7 p.m., Host Army Dec. 10 at 2 p.m.
Plain and Simple: Rams are making progress despite results
If you’ve kept up with my work here the last five years, you’ve come to know I’m very fair and unbiased. Call things as they are. Good or bad. It’s nothing personal. Just the job. As I tweeted after the game on Saturday, I rarely do the silver lining stuff but URI keeps improving despite the results. Their identity is being shaped. Their head coach holds them accountable. He doesn’t take the glass-half-full approach either. Very Danny Hurley like. Archie Miller’s quote at the end of his press conference, “We’re six months in and eight games in. We can win big here … I look forward to that day” was eerily similar to Hurley’s “You better get us now, ‘cause it’s coming” statement in January 2020 when he in the midst of rebuilding UConn. The Huskies check in at No. 5 in this week’s AP Top 25 Poll. It wouldn’t shock anyone if Miller has the Rams in the Top 25 in a few short years.
Hard truth: Rams should end non-conference play near .500
The improvement despite the results is nice and all, but now it’s time for Rhody to string together wins. They should be favored in four of their five remaining games before Atlantic 10 play arrives. Brown, Army, UMass Lowell, Georgia State and Milwaukee is all that’s left. With four of the five at home, URI should go 4-1 and be near the .500 mark prior to the trip to Duquesne on New Year’s Eve.
Last: 97-71 loss at Cincinnatti
This Week: PPD game at Tulane Dec. 6, host Stony Brook Dec. 9 at 6 p.m.
Plain and Simple: The Bulldogs health and safety is most important
Six players were held out of Sunday’s contest at Cincinnati due to an undisclosed illness. Following Sunday’s loss to the Bearcats, Jared Grasso mentioned how the team is dealing with a serious issue. Monday morning, the program released a statement that forward Kvonn Cramer is in intensive care in a Cincinnati hospital and Tuesday’s game at Tulane has been postponed. Health and safety is paramount.
Hard truth: Reality check for the Bulldogs
From the high of beating Syracuse on the road, to the low of getting blown out at home to a shorthanded Brown squad at home. It was a humbling week for the Bulldogs. Head coach Jared Grasso repeatedly stressed in his postgame availability on Friday night he urged his team all week that a performance like the one they turned in vs. Bruno was possible. He was right. The 10-point favorite never led and trailed the entire way outside of the first 35 seconds.
Last: 65-51 win at Hartford
This Week: at URI Dec. 7 at 7 p.m., at Michigan State Dec. 10 at 4:30 p.m.
Plain and Simple: Bears were the team of the weekend
Down two starters, Mike Martin’s team rallied around being the underdog and counted out against Bryant and rode a near perfect first half to a double-digit road win at Bryant. Make that two straight wins in Smithfield for Bruno and two of the last three in the series with their in-state rival. Aaron Cooley had a career-high 14 points in place of Dan Friday and Malachi Ndur’s game-high nine rebounds in place of Nana Owusu-Anane fortified the middle of the defense. Paxson Wojcik played with the poise of a fifth-year senior. Rookie Kalu Anya rose to the occasion yet again. And Kino Lilly Jr. was excellent down the stretch. That’s a signature win for Martin’s squad. Sunday’s victory over Hartford means the Bears have a four-game winning streak heading into Kingston on Wednesday night in a date with Archie Miller’s Rams.
Hard truth: Friday’s dominant win alters season expectations
Brown was picked sixth in the preseason Ivy league poll. Based on the performance we saw on Friday night, the Bears should finish no worse than in sole possession of fifth place. They should be expected to go .500 or better in the league. Before the year, I had them at 5-9 or 6-8 in the league. If their ceiling is 9-5 it’s fair to assume they finish 8-6 or 7-7.