Rhode Island (5-3) is off to the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii, brimming with confidence after Sunday’s neutral court win over Big 12 foe West Virginia, 83-70. Despite the choppy nature of the affair, it was the Rams best win and most complete 40 minute effort, particularly when adjusted for competition level. Rhode Island led almost wire-to-wire and showcased an extra gear late in pulling away from the Mountaineers.
As the end of the calendar year approaches, my mind is filled with random musings about the Atlantic 10 generally… along with Rhode Island — so much so that focusing content themes for this column proved challenging. I thought about forcing a “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” inspired column, but I’d be equating Cousin Eddie to three-point shooting which is immediate grounds for revocation of a press credential.
So here’s where this column is going to land… there are 10 days remaining in 2018. Here are 10 Rams, Atlantic 10 musings. For better or worse, here we go.
1. The Atlantic 10 and Mountain West conference formally announced a Challenge agreement yesterday. The league is paced by undefeated Nevada (11-0) so far this year and the current top five is comprised of Utah State, Fresno State, San Diego State, and UNLV (also a participant in the Diamond Head Classic this weekend). I like it. The MWC has always been a solid league and with both the A10 and it’s western partner here, there’s a general stability with what you’re getting at the top of the leagues each year from a metrics perspective. Power 5s aren’t lauded for their scheduling altruism of non P5 leagues like these two, so might as well take matters into their own hands and generate some brand awareness, collaborate, and line up a showcase offering a quality non-conference game for the participants.
2. 15.6ppg and 10.6rpg. These are Cyril Langevine’s numbers through eight games. This includes 38 offensive rebounds. Rhode Island’s next three highest offensive rebounders, Christion Thompson, Jermaine Harris, and Tyrese Martin have combined for 38 offensive rebounds. Langevine is ridiculous folks. And these numbers are indicative of how critical it is for him to stay on the floor for a team that will improve its shooting, but isn’t going to morph into the Warriors anytime soon. I expect Langevine to continue averaging double-digit boards throughout the Atlantic 10 season. As we’ve also seen as year’s progress, expect his finishing around the tin to improve as the days grow colder too.
3. Perception is funny. If Rhode Island set off for Hawaii at 5-3 this week with the five wins including one against Stony Brook rather than WVU, would there be the same buzz? In a word, no. People can argue whether that’s fair to a well-coached, 10-win Stony Brook team, but it’s reality. It also explains the why the perception of where this URI team can go is about as volatile as marijuana stocks. Bottom line, most of the time things are never as bad or as good as they seem in a given moment.
4. Whether it’s NET Rankings (103 right now), quadrants wins… you name it. It’s too damn early. But, if you love that stuff even in December, I like the quick snapshot style presentation of Warren Nolan.
5. Fatts Russell committed to putting the ball on the deck more against West Virginia and generating paint touches that proved helpful to jump-starting his own game offensively and getting teammates involved. Encouraging to see and, while three-point makes continue to evade him, he authored an all-around game against the Mountaineers, collecting six boards, registering five assists and maintaining a disruptive presence on defense. Some of his swagger returned as well.
6. Nobody is quite sure what to make of the Atlantic 10 right now, but I remain optimistic on both Davidson and Saint Joe’s once league play begins. Davidson in particular, is one poor pass (from a great passer in KiShawn Pritchett, mind you) from likely being only a 2-loss team and 6-10 freshman Luka Brajkovic (12ppg, 6.4rpg) is a guy every other school is going to want to personally walk across the stage at graduation by the time his four years pass. Ditto to redshirt freshman Luke Frampton (9.5ppg, 2.8rpg), who Bob McKillop was nearly as high on entering last season as he was on Kellan Grady — before Frampton was force to sit the whole year with a knee injury.
7. Perhaps positivity is enveloping me during the holidays, but I like Rhode Island’s inclusion in the Diamond Head Classic — in terms of competition level. I understand logistics/travel aren’t peachy with this excursion (and it’s unfortunate URI couldn’t grab a game on the way out to break the trip up) but — for this team, this year, it’s a field that maps well to where the Rams are in their program transition. No goliaths, a couple of P5 teams in TCU and Colorado as potential opponents, and they’ll likely cross paths with only one potential landmine opponent.
8. Speaking of freshmen, Rhode Island’s Jermaine Harris continues to establish more comfort as we march towards the new year. In his last four games, Harris (5.5ppg) has elevated his scoring to 8.3 points a night, including two double-digit efforts. While he needs to curb over-zealousness that leads to ticky-tack fouls drawn, that will come with more minutes and experience. Harris took a step in the right direction against WVU, providing David Cox with 11 energetic and productive minutes despite being saddled with two first half fouls. His ability to stay on the floor while Langevine sat with foul trouble of his own was critical and won’t show up in box scores. Qualitative growth.
9. Jeff Dowtin (16.8ppg, 4.1rpg, 4.3rpg) continues rolling. Named MVP of the Hall of Fame Holiday Showcase, Dowtin also collected Atlantic 10 Player of the Week honors on Monday. For his career, Dowtin now has 292 assists to just 79 turnovers and is one of the most poised lead guards you’ll find anywhere in the country. Rhode Island will go as far as he takes – and ultimately persists in buoying – the play of everyone around him. You may recall that he was a preseason All-A10 second team selection in October. He’s tracking a level up at the season’s quarter pole.
10. “Finally, some parting wisdom drawn from Cousin Eddie (i.e. Randy Quaid) — Please remember to empty your $h#%*ers everyone. And Mele Kalikimaka to all!”
The Rams next game on YurView is vs. Middle Tennessee on December 30th at 5pm ET. YurView is Cox channels 4 and 1004 in Rhode Island.