The main question mark surrounding an otherwise impressive roster for the 2017-2018 season is how will the Rams do defensively without the stellar defensive anchor Hassan Martin from last season. Martin was a force to be reckoned with during the 2016-2017 season averaging 13.6 points, 2.4 blocks and 6.8 rebounds. The losses of Martin and forward Kuran Iverson will be felt but the Rams are keeping some key players from last year’s team, a team that almost upset the Oregon Ducks, an eventual Final Four team.
Rhode Island’s success will start with E.C. Matthews (pictured) and that is no secret throughout the A-10. There were times a few seasons back when E.C. Matthews was mentioned as a potential first round pick and if it wasn’t for some injuries that very well could have been the case, but with a strong redshirt-senior campaign maybe he can work his way back into that conversation.
Now that is not to say that Matthews will be a one-man team because there are some big names returning to the URI campus as well. Senior, Jared Terrell will play a big role this season as he did last season, starting for the Rams in the aforementioned loss to Oregon. In addition to Terrell and Matthews, redshirt-senior Stan Robinson and senior Jarvis Garrett will be very important for the backcourt of Rhode Island.
As for “ruling” the A-10, URI really only has two programs that could stop them in their tracks. The VCU Rams and the St. Bonaventure Bonnies. For VCU, senior Justin Tillman will have to have the year of his college career. VCU’s team is very deep and does not have a clear weakness to exploit and if their backcourt can carry their weight… watch out. The Bonnies on the other hand might just have the best backcourt one-two punch in the entire Atlantic 10. Led by seniors Jaylen Adams (above) and Matt Mobley. The duo combined for just about 40 points per game last season and if they can improve only a little bit then the Bonnies could have a reliable 50 points for each game which would be incredible.
The A-10 should be an interesting battle at the top this season, with programs like Dayton, St. Josephs, Davidson and others being dark horses for a tournament bid. This UMass fan hopes that new coach Matt McCall can get a little momentum going but I’m not holding my breath.
Cover Photo via Sports Illustrated
Article Photos via USA Today