It’s year No. 2 of the WPRI College Hoops Column. With only a few more weeks left of the preseason, we figured we would put together eight preview pieces to chew on leading up to Opening Night on Monday Nov. 7. The first two pieces dropped last week.
Today, we present the Top 5 Games to Watch in 2022-23.
5. Vermont at Bryant
Saturday, Feb. 25 – TBA
If you’ve filled out a March Madness bracket sometime in the last two decades, then you’re probably aware of the dynasty that is Vermont men’s basketball — it’s a dynasty that has a chance to surpass Brady & Bill’s. UVM has won 11 of the last 21 America East regular season championships, and advanced to the Big Dance in eight of those 11 years (2003, 2004, 2005, 2010, 2012, 2017, 2019, and 2022). Vermont’s epic upset of Syracuse in the 2005 opening round in Worcester (and from the parking lot) remains one of the crown jewels in the history of the event. The Catamounts stroll into Smithfield to face the Bulldogs on the same court, on the same weekend Bryant won the NEC regular season championship a season ago. Will this game end up having the same stakes? It might. Though at the very least, it will feature two teams in position to reach the NCAA Tournament.
4. Dayton at URI
Wednesday, Jan. 25 – 7 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)
By late January, Archie Miller’s URI squad should be well aware of its identity and the way their new coach wants his team to play on a nightly basis. That should have them ready to go against a team with Sweet 16 potential and the program Miller nearly led to the 2014 Final Four. We should have a good idea of the direction URI will be trending in. A nationally televised game on CBS Sports Network only adds intrigue. Can Miller’s squad pick off the A10 preseason favorite?
Click here to read about the Top 5 Newcomers to Watch in 2022-23.
3. PC at No. 14 TCU
Wednesday, Nov. 30 – 8 p.m. (ESPN+)
The eighth game of the Friar season reminds me of the eighth game of last season. In 2021, PC handed Texas Tech a loss at The Dunk (we’ll all miss saying that). In 2022, it’s another tournament-caliber team from the Lone Star State. By the time this Big 12-Big East showdown rolls around, Thanksgiving will be in the rearview and PC will have played a few cupcakes and some high major competition. A Quad 1 road win to cap the month of November would be quite a statement. Remember, this was the week last year that catapulted the Friars into the national spotlight. The Friar Faithful hopes it will happen once again.
2. Brown at Bryant
Friday, Dec. 2 – TBA
As we patiently count down the hours until PC-URI, don’t overlook the undercard. These squads also deserve a crowd. Hat tip to the head coaches, Mike Martin and Jared Grasso, for pushing the tip time back a few hours and moving it away from a holiday weekend. (A year ago, the game was buried at 2 p.m. on Black Friday in front of 874 people.) But if the last two matchups are any indication, we’re in for a ball game. Brown nipped Bryant in Smithfield in 2019, and the Bulldogs returned the favor in 2021 — two games decided by a total of eight points. Expect a delicious appetizer to begin rivalry weekend.
1. PC at URI
Saturday, Dec. 3 – 5 p.m. (ESPNU)
Hello, obvious No. 1 choice. Well, a new chapter begins in the heated rivalry between URI and PC. We flip the page from Cooley vs. Cox to Cooley vs. Miller. Both sides have an immense amount of respect for one another. Leading up to their most recent matchup — when PC faced Indiana in 2020 — Cooley described his relationship with Miller as “brother brother.” They shared the same bench in 2015 as assistant coaches for Team USA’s gold medal run in the under-19 World Championships. Now, they clash again. Except it comes in the biggest game for all the bragging rights. The Rhody Ruckus will most certainly be ready. It’s the first time the series returns to Kingston since 2019. Will the Rams be able to ride their crowd? Or will early tests pay off for the young Friars in an atmosphere that will mirror a Big East battle.