We’ve got a decent slate for a Friday night in college hoops, including some conference action in the Big Ten and the ACC coming off of the Challenge series between the two leagues. While there may be some higher-profile games on the board, it is always fun to dig deeper into a rivalry and we’ll do that here with the matchup between Providence and Rhode Island.
In Game 619/620, Rhode Island is a two-point favorite with a total of 142.5 against the Friars. The Rams have not had a ton of luck this decade in the game considered to be the Rhode Island State Championship. Providence has won eight of the last nine games, but Rhode Island did win on its home floor in 2017 to stop a seven-game losing streak. We’ll see if they can repeat the feat here to take state bragging rights for the year.
Suffice it to say that both teams are kind of disappointed about their starts to the season. Rhode Island has lost three games, though all three came against top-35 teams and two of which came against top-15 teams. Losing to those teams is fine. Losing by 18 to Maryland and 13 to LSU is not, as the Rams simply weren’t competitive enough in those games. Give credit to Rhode Island for playing well in Morgantown in the 86-81 loss to West Virginia last weekend.
Providence, however, has been the much bigger disappointment. The Friars have only won five of their nine games, with losses to Northwestern, Penn, Long Beach State, and College of Charleston. This is only the second true road game of the season for Providence, which makes the losses that much worse. After a blowout win over Merrimack, something flipped for the Friars. They allowed 1.066 points per possession to Penn and then had two feeble offensive performances against LBSU and CoC.
The bounce back win over Pepperdine to finish up the Paycom Wooden Legacy Tournament in Anaheim represents the best win of the season for the Friars, but they rank 133rd per Bart Torvik. Rhode Island on the road is the first Quadrant-1 game for Providence this season, so it does represent a step up in class.
Ed Cooley, widely regarded as a pretty good coach, has to be scratching his head to find the answers. The Friars rank eighth in the country in TO% on defense, but they have not been maximizing those extra possessions. Take into account that Providence is 57th in offensive rebounding percentage and they really haven’t maximized those either. Providence is 157th in 3P% and 168th in 2P%. All while playing a pretty weak schedule overall.
Nate Watson and Alpha Diallo are not playing as well as they did last season. UMass transfer Luwane Pipkins hasn’t quite fit in yet and is only shooting 28% from deep and 31% from two-point range. He is averaging 5.2 assists per game against just 1.9 turnovers per contest, so he’s been very strong in that regard. He just hasn’t found his shot yet. Sophomore David Duke has made a big leap this season, but the upperclassmen need to do more to help out.
On the URI side, all-name team member Fatts Russell is having a big year. This is virtually the same Rams team as last season, but with Russell lighting up the stat sheet, as he leads the team in assists with nearly five per game and points with over 21 per contest. Russell did everything he could in the loss to LSU with 26 and last Sunday’s loss to WVU with 31.
The Rams just have not been efficient shooting the rock. They rank 214th from 2 and 219th from 3. They do rank 334th in 3P rate, so they are not shooting many triples, but they haven’t had much success when they have. The Rams have played a far tougher schedule than Providence, so we’ll see if their offensive numbers get better with the rest of the non-conference and the start of A-10 play.
Both teams shot poorly last year in Providence’s 59-50 win. The game was played to 69 possessions, but Rhode Island was 17-of-57 from the floor and Providence was 18-of-50. Given the offensive struggles this season, we could see another low-scoring affair here.
URI is at home and has played the better schedule. This is a similar team to last season, so the offense should come around. Providence hasn’t had a ton of turnover either, but there is some kind of disconnect with this roster right now. Rhode Island should have the upper hand in this year’s rivalry game, especially with what Fatts Russell is doing. Everybody is motivated here, but especially Russell, who had six points on 2-of-13 shooting in this game last year.
Pick: Rhode Island -2
Lean: Under 142.5