That’s right, it’s “what does my favorite mid-major team need to do to get an at-large bid” season. Every few days, we’ll take a different team and dissect its resume to see what it needs to do to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Today’s featured team is the Rhode Island, who’s on the cusp of returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first time under David Cox.
Record: 20-7 (12-3 Atlantic 10)
Strength of Record: 35
Strength of Schedule: 77
vs. Quad 1: 1-5
vs. Quad 2: 6-1
Good Wins: at VCU, vs. Alabama, vs. Providence
Bad Losses: at Brown
Bracket Matrix: 10 seed (As of 2/26)
If it weren’t for a pair of late free throws by Jacob Toppin to escape Fordham with a win, there’s a good chance that this post doesn’t even exist. Nonetheless, Rhode Island survived and maintained their status on the right side of the bubble with three games to go in the regular season.
Although Rhody is ubiquitous in almost every bracketologist’s field of 68 in Bracket Matrix, their resume can essentially be boiled down into a single tweet:
Rhode Island survives a game it could ill afford to lose. Now the Rams return home to host Saint Louis and Dayton. NET ranking is solid, but they have no wins over teams safely in the field plus a Q3 loss at Brown.— Andy Bottoms (@AndyBottoms) February 27, 2020
Rhode Island’s team sheet consists of a healthy dose of good but not great wins and a single blemish at the hands of Brown.
Of the teams that are projected to receive an at-large bid in Bracket Matrix’s projections, Rhode Island’s lone Quadrant I win is the least of any team in that group. It doesn’t help their case that VCU is in free fall and in danger of dropping down to a Quadrant II win.
The Brown loss is a major blemish, but five of the Rams’ seven losses have come in Q1 games. Now, the other side of that argument is that Rhode Island has failed to capitalize on key opportunities. But when you note that the Rams have yet to host a Q1 game, the Atlantic 10’s lack of top tier teams (save for Dayton) really becomes clear. They scheduled a tough non-conference schedule and fared relatively well, and as a result are ranked 39th in Wins Above Bubble with 1.1.
Their success in Quadrant II is proving to be the backbone of their resume. The 6-1 record in Q2 games puts their combined Q1 and Q2 record above .500. Again, it’s a lot of good but not great wins. For historical context, T-Rank’s resume database shows that teams with Rhode Island’s current resume have had mixed results:
With three games remaining on the schedule — two of which will be Q2 or better — the Rams still have the chance to give their resume some more heft before the A-10 Tournament:
3/1 vs. Saint Louis (NET: 69, Q2)
3/4 vs. Dayton (NET: 4, Q1)
3/7 at UMass (NET: 139, Q3)
The obvious white whale that’s let off the docket is the matchup with Dayton. In the first matchup, Rhode Island struggled mightily on offense. If the Rams are able to deal Dayton its first loss in A-10 play, that would give them their best win to date and a marquee win on their resume. T-Ranketology projects that it would increase their chances of an at-large bid by 25.6%.
That’s a tall task though. So let’s say that the remaining three games go as the predictive metrics think they will: beat Saint Louis, lose to Dayton, beat UMass. Using T-Ranketology again, this scenario wouldn’t move the needle much and might actually cause URI’s chances to dip a little a bit:
It’s important to note that T-Rank is merely one system of projections and is not the end all be all. But it is a useful tool that can be used to analyze the effects of different outcomes with more than just subjective speculation.
Similar to another A-10 team like Richmond, Rhode Island is probably going to need to perform well in the conference tournament. The Rams will receive the coveted double-bye, which helps their chances of getting another Q2 opportunity in the quarterfinals. Here’s the blurb from Richmond’s Bubble Watch, which is essentially the same for URI:
This all goes to say that the further Richmond advances in the A-10 Tournament, the better their resume will look, which, DUH. Their odds will also depend on what happens around them with other teams on the bubble. By the time the conference tournament rolls around, it’s likely that the bubble looks significantly different than it does right now.
Rhode Island is in a better position than Richmond at this point in the season, and it’s definitely possible that the two meet in the A-10 tournament.
The Verdict: Overall, Rhode Island is in a good spot as the season comes to a close. They still have plenty of opportunities left, and a win over Dayton would give them plenty of breathing room. As long as the Rams are able to avoid a bad loss and an early A-10 Tournament exit, their resume should have enough to get them in the field.