If I have learned anything about this year’s Rhode Island men’s basketball team it’s that nothing surprises me.
This is a team that within one week this season took down Bob Huggins and the West Virginia Mountaineers by 13 points on a Sunday, and the following Saturday fell to Bucknell University 84-82.
The latest occurrence in this trend happened this past week. The Rams were on the victorious side of a 71-65 game over VCU at the Ryan Center but then fell to the conference winless UMass Minutemen five days later in Amherst.
Say it’s the youth. Call in the poor three-point shooting. But, this is the fact: it is all rooted in inconsistency.
Consistency has been the key over the course of the last two years, resulting in Rhode Island’s elevation to the top echelon of the Atlantic 10 Conference. A team that once was the first rung of an A-10 ladder the Daytons and VCUs of the conference stepped on on route to the top of the conference has now become the A-10’s marquee team. A regular season and postseason title over the past two seasons tends to do that.
With the absence of consistency coupled with high expectations though, unfortunate storylines seem to be emerging. Freshmen who struggle, road losses, a first-year head coach, etc.; narratives that all take the forefront. Amidst the tumult, it can become easily disregarded that the men’s basketball program from the smallest state’s home university has elevated itself from a somewhat forgotten program in little ol’ Kingston, Rhode Island to a team matchup circled on opposing team’s calendars.
Make no mistake, losses to Stony Brook and George Mason at home are frustrating. I counted five gray hairs on my head following the Bucknell lose (I should add, I’m 21).
However, you can’t mistake close losses and tough performances for a step back. If anything, the opposite may be true. Take a freshman like Tyrese Martin as an example. Martin has gone from a deep bench player to a starter that has scored double-digit points in all but one of Rhode Island’s seven conference games. The kid is a growing stud right in front of your eyes, plain and simple.
This year we have seen the emergence of a healthy Cyril Langevine. Langevine is the lone player in the conference averaging over nine rebounds per game. Langevine has achieved this while averaging a double-double for most of the season.
I circle back to how I began this article. If I have learned anything about this year’s Rhode Island men’s basketball team, it’s nothing surprises me.
Beating West Virginia by two touchdowns doesn’t surprise me. Taking down VCU at home in front of a strong crowd doesn’t surprise me. David Cox’s ability to develop freshmen over the course of the season doesn’t surprise me. That’s because I have seen the value in the Rams as a program rather than a team. Team’s can struggle. Programs take steps forward during those struggles.
The A-10 is still wide open. We aren’t even halfway through conference play. Still plenty of opportunities left. The next one comes on Wednesday at Duquesne.
“The David Cox Coach’s Show” is on YurView live Monday, January 28 at 6PM EST, Cox Channels 4 and 1004 in Rhode Island, and can be viewed streamed live on YurView.com.