Rhode Island Rams

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 05:  Rodney Purvis #15 of the Connecticut Huskies reacts after hitting a three pointer against the Syracuse Orange during the Tire Pros Classic at Madison Square Garden on December 5, 2016 in New York City. Connecticut defeated Syracuse 52-50  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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CBT Roundtable: College Basketball’s Biggest Disappointments

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Travis Hines: Given the expectations weren’t all that high for the Huskies, consider this one hell of an achievement to find them here. They’ve been that bad while Markelle Fultz has been amazing. You have to start with Fultz’s brilliance to fully understand Washington’s ineptitude. The potential No. 1 draft pick is averaging 22.8 points on 49.7 percent shooting from the floor and 48.7 percent from the 3-point line while also putting up 6.9 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game. Throw in the 2.1 steals and 1.2 blocks, and he’s literally on pace to post numbers that have never been posted in college basketball. As a freshman. That’s just absurd. What else is absurd is that Washington has a guy of Fultz’s caliber performing up to the hype and still somehow sits 4-5 with losses to Yale, TCU (twice), Nevada and Gonzaga, which came in especially embarrassing fashion in a 27-point drubbing on national television.

The “how’ of Washington’s struggles clearly land on the defensive end of the floor, where one coach remarked to our Rob Dauster that “They were so ******* bad on defense. It was like they had never been coached. They had no plan.” So, that’s not good, I don’t think. The Huskies’ season is disappointing on a number of levels, first being it appears that we won’t be watching Fultz in the NCAA tournament, which is a bummer. The second is Lorenzo Romar didn’t need to surround Fultz with McDonald’s All-Americans to have a successful season. Capable dudes (given a defensive plan) would have been enough. And Washington wasn’t able to do that. How disappointing.

Rob Dauster: UConn has been an absolute mess this season. They lost to Wagner and Northeastern at home in their first two games. They barely escaped Loyola Marymount with a win. They went 1-2 in the Maui Invitational, with the one win coming in a closer-than-it-should’ve-been win over Chaminade. If that wasn’t enough, UConn has also been devastated by injury, with two starters – McDonald’s all-american point guard Alterique Gilbert and Terry Larrier, who was their best player at the start of the year – going down with season-ending injuries. This was a team that entered the season with a legitimate case to be considered a top 25 team and is, in all likelihood, going to end the year with a win over a potentially NIT-bound Syracuse team in Madison Square Garden being the highlight of their year.

This is how bad things have gotten for UConn: When I was at the game at MSG, a UConn fan told me that he would consider this season a success “if UConn shows up as a bad loss when they show Syracuse’s NCAA tournament résumé.” For a team that has won two of the last six national titles, that’s quite a fall from grace.

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Terrence Payne: Outside of the major six conferences, the Atlantic 10 is up there as one of the best. The A10 looked like it was on its way to another banner year when the preseason poll included both Rhode Island and Dayton. Currently, both teams find themselves outside the top-25, but more importantly, the conference as a whole finds itself with an underwhelming non-conference résumé. The A-10 is slightly above the American Athletic Conference for seventh place in the Conference RPI rankings, while KenPom rates the A10 as the eighth toughest league.

Rhode Island landed an early-season victory over No. 24 Cincinnati on a neutral floor, but the Rams have lost three out of four, all on the road, to Valparaiso, Providence and Houston. Dayton has been plagued by injuries to Kendall Pollard and transfer Josh Cunningham, which contributed to a 2-2 start. The Flyers have won five straight since, but Dayton could enter conference player with its best out of league win being against Northwestern or New Mexico, neither team pegged to land an at-large bid at this point. And it’s not just the team’s that began the season ranked. VCU, another A-10 power, hasn’t looked up to par, dropping back-to-back games against Illinois and Georgia Tech.

With a few weeks before conference play begins, the A-10 is lacking signature wins. Three years after receiving six bids, an all-time high for the conference, the A-10 is on pace to have, at best, half that amount this upcoming March.

Scott Phillips: It’s tough to call a young, injury-riddled team disappointing, but if Tom Izzo can angrily sit at the end of his own bench in the middle of games then we’re allowed to have such feelings. This Spartans team is 7-4 with single-digit home wins over Florida Gulf Coast, Oral Roberts and Tennessee Tech. Michigan State’s rebounding and free-throw shooting woes have cast serious concerns about their ability to win games early in the Big Ten without Miles Bridges. Of course, I expect Michigan State to make the NCAA tournament – and figure things out quickly – but they better do that before conference play begins.

Rams’ Martin out indefinitely

Rhode Island forward Hassan Martin (12) scores over Providence forward Rodney Bullock, left, during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015, at the Ryan Center in Kingston, R.I. Providence defeated Rhode Island 74-72. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
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Rhode Island’s Hassan Martin is out indefinitely with a quadriceps injury, the school announced Tuesday afternoon.

“The senior forward has begun treatment and rehab with the timetable of a full recovery and return to the court,” the school said in a statement.

Martin, whose absence will begin Tuesday night with the Rams facing Old Dominion, is averaging 16.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game this season while ranking third in the country with 3.9 blocks per game.

He has an injury history after developing a stress fracture in his right knee that cost him the end of the 2016 season.

The Rams will have a difficult time replacing his production, but with an experienced group consisting of Jared Terrell, EC Matthews, Jarvis Garrett and Kuran Iverson, they’ll likely be able to paper over his absence in the short term, though where Martin will be missed most is on the defensive end where his shot blocking is a game-changer.

Rhode Island, who many picked in the preseason to win the Atlantic 10, have dropped two-straight games, losing to Valparaiso and Providence on the road last week. After facing Old Dominion tonight, the Rams have another solid test with a road game against Houston. Following that, the next big date on Rhode Island’s schedule is Jan. 6, when they travel to Dayton.

Providence beats No. 21 Rhode Island 63-60

RALEIGH, NC - MARCH 19:  Head coach Ed Cooley of the Providence Friars  reacts in the first half against the North Carolina Tar Heels during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at PNC Arena on March 19, 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley knew the Rams were in for a tough one against Providence, which had won the matchup of cross-state rivals six straight times.

He didn’t see this coming, though.

Kyron Cartwright, who had made four 3-pointers all season, hit four of five from beyond the arc in the first half. The Providence point guard finished with 19 points and eight assists to lead the Friars to a 63-60 victory over No. 21 Rhode Island on Saturday.

“That’s sports, and that’s the type of thing that makes coaches go gray and lose their hair,” Hurley said after his team lost for the third time in four games. “Four 3-pointers in seven games and he made four today – all in the first half.”

Rodney Bullock scored 17 points for the Friars (6-2). Cartwright had 15 in the first half and Jalen Lindsey scored nine of his 13 points in the second, five during a 7-0 run that erased a seven-point deficit.

“My teammates were telling me, `You need to take those shots to open up the defense,”‘ Cartwright said. “(And) we don’t shoot the ball to not make it.”

Hassan Martin had 14 points and 17 rebounds for Rhode Island (5-3), which lost at unranked Valparaiso and Providence a week after falling to No. 1 Duke. E.C. Matthews scored nine points and went 1 for 8 from 3-point range, airballing a 3 with 2 seconds left with a chance for the Rams to tie it.

“Games like this might help us down the stretch,” Martin said. `’So you just tell everybody to keep their head up.”

The Rams led 47-40 with 12:15 left when Cartwright’s arm appeared to catch Christion Thompson in the left eye. Thompson went to the court, flailing his arms in the air looking for a call, but the teams played on until Lindsey hit a 3-pointer to make it a four-point game at 11:00.

Lindsey’s free throws brought the Friars within two points, and Ryan Fazekas scored on a fast-break goaltending call to tie it. From there, there were three more ties and kept the game within one possession until Lindsey hit a fallaway jumper with 43 seconds left to give Providence a 59-55 lead.

“We beat a tournament team today,” Providence coach Ed Cooley said.

POLL IMPLICATONS

It will be difficult for Rhode Island to stay in The Associated Press Top 25 after its stumbles.

Hurley said he isn’t concerned.

The goal at the beginning of the season was to win the Atlantic 10 and play in the NCAA Tournament.

That’s all still in play.

“We expect to have a long and great season. Nothing’s changed for us,” he said. “We lost two tough road games in a long season.”

BULLOCK’S BOUNCE-BACK

Bullock scored a career-high 36 points against New Hampshire on Wednesday, but he missed all three shots from the field in the first half and had only three points on six free throws at the break.

Cooley told him not to worry about the shooting and to try to make something happen with rebounding or defense.

“Somebody coming of a great scoring game like he did there’s going to be a lot of attention on him,” Cooley said. “I thought he showed some definite grit in the second half.”

TIP-INS

Rhode Island: Martin hit all three of his 3-point attempts in the first half. … Martin surpassed the 1,000-point milestone against Valparaiso on Tuesday. … The Rams have lost nine straight to Big East teams.

Providence: The Friars lead the all-time series 73-56, including a buzzer-beating victory last year in Kingston. … They are 1-1 against ranked teams this season, having lost to then-No. 7 Virginia on Nov. 26.

UP NEXT

Rhode Island: Hosts Old Dominion on Tuesday.

Providence: Hosts Brown on Tuesday.

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25.

Valparaiso picks up key non-conference win over No. 21 Rhode Island

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 31:   Tyler Cavanaugh #34 of the George Washington Colonials guards Alec Peters #25 of the Valparaiso Crusaders during their NIT Championship game at Madison Square Garden on March 31, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
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Alec Peters had 27 points, nine boards and a pair of blocks, including on a potential game-tying three, as Valparaiso picked up yet another impressive win, knocking off No. 21 Rhode Island, 65-62.

Peters, who entered the game averaging better than 25 points on the season, is one of the best players in the country, not just at the mid-major level, and what makes this result so significant is that it means the Crusaders are in a really good spot to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.

Granted, there is a ton of basketball left to be played.

But as of today, Valpo has wins over URI, BYU and Alabama. The Rams figure to contend for the Atlantic 10 title, the Cougars look like a potential tournament team and Alabama plays in the SEC, which means that it should at least be a top 100 win come Selection Sunday. Their only loss? On the road against an Oregon team that you have to figure will end up back in the mix at the top of the Pac-12 come February.

And they still get a chance to swing up at Kentucky in Rupp Arena next week.

I’m not saying that this team is a lock to get an at-large bid, not by any stretch.

But if they beat who they’re supposed to beat, if they take care of business in the Horizon League and falter in their conference tournament, they should find themselves in a really good spot to hear their name called on Selection Sunday.

For a team in a mid-major league, that’s really all you can ask.

No. 21 Rhode Island survives Brown’s upset bid

Rhode Island's Kuran Iverson (23) shoots past the defense of Brown's J.R. Hobbie (12) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016, in Kingston, R.I. Rhode Island defeated Brown 79-72. (AP Photo/Stew Milne)
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Rhode Island had its first scare of the season.

The 21st-ranked Rams narrowly defeated Brown, 79-72, on Wednesday evening in a game in which Rhode Island had to sweat until the final moments.

Brown pulled to within five with under 4 minutes to play before Rhode Island answered with a bucket from E.C. Matthews followed by a Jared Terrell steal  and another Matthews layup to gain nine points worth of separation and eventually a victory.

The game being tight is a bit perplexing given the Rams’ stats are pretty solid for the night. They shot 57.7 percent from the field – including 37.5 percent from 3-point range – but they really hurt themselves on the line, going 13 of 22 from the charity stripe. They also didn’t control the boards quite like they have this season with just seven offensive boards while surrendering 10 to Brown.

Jared Terrell was 7 of 11 from the floor to finish with a team-high 18 points while Matthews had 17 and Hassan Martin 12 courtesy of 6 of 7 shooting. Steven Spieth had 21 points for Brown.

Rhode Island is an interesting case study this year as they’re the consensus A-10 pick despite the fact they’re a team that went 17-15 last year and 9-9 in the league. What’s given them the edge, in most eyes, is Matthews, who missed all of last year with an ACL injury.

He certainly looks as though he’s fully recovered, scoring  at least 17 points in all three of the Rams’ games this season and shooting 71.8 percent (!!!) from the floor. So, yeah, he’s pretty good and could be the difference in a conference race.

Still, there’s likely some kinks that need to be worked out as Matthews reintroduces himself to the rest of the Rams, and a night like Wednesday probably shouldn’t be too alarming. But it is a reminder that while Rhode Island is extremely talented, the A-10 is probably going to be hotly contested between the Rams, Dayton and VCU.

Left ankle injury to sideline Rhode Island’s Martin

Rhode Island forward Hassan Martin (12) scores over Providence forward Rodney Bullock, left, during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015, at the Ryan Center in Kingston, R.I. Providence defeated Rhode Island 74-72. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
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Rhode Island’s 71-65 loss at Old Dominion Tuesday night proved to be a costly defeat, as they lost their best player for the foreseeable future due to injury.

Junior forward Hassan Martin, who played in just 11 minutes Tuesday night as a result of injuring his left ankle in the first half, has been declared out indefinitely according to Bill Koch of the Providence Journal. The Rams won’t play again until December 30 against Brown in their final non-conference game before the start of Atlantic 10 play.

URI opens up conference play with home games against Saint Louis (January 2) and Richmond (January 5), and according to Koch’s report it’s likely that Martin will at the very least miss the games against Brown and SLU.

Martin’s currently averaging a team-best 11.9 points per game while also contributing 5.4 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per contest. He’s one of the nation’s best defenders, so losing Martin is a serious blow for Dan Hurley’s Rams to absorb. How long Martin remains sidelined as a result of the injury remains to be seen.

URI is already playing without junior guard E.C. Matthews, who suffered a torn ACL in the team’s season opener against American.