The 2015-16 college basketball season is just around the corner. In honor of the Flyers winning 53 games the last two seasons (and because I couldn’t come up with 2,015 reasons), I’m counting down 53 reasons (in no particular order) to look forward to the season.
Follow the blog between now and the season opener against Southeast Missouri State on Nov. 13. I will have four to five updates per week.
I’ll post links on Twitter (@DavidPJablonski) and on my Facebook page: www.facebook.com/DavidPatrickJablonski.
NOTE TO READERS: I want to salute the fans at some point in this series. Here’s my idea: Email me a photo of your favorite piece of UD memorabilia (email@example.com). It could be a ticket stub, a T-shirt, a poster, a newspaper page, a photo of you at a game, etc. And write a paragraph or two or more about the story behind it: where you got it, what it means to you, why it’s special, etc. Also tell me how long you’ve been a fan, how and why you started rooting for the Flyers. I will include the story and the text in a blog entry. The best photo and entry wins an 8×10 print of Vee Sanford’s shot against OSU or Jordan Sibert’s shot against Boise. Your choice.
No. 30: Rhode Island games
Continuing the analysis of Dayton’s A-10 opponents in order of finish last season, let’s take a look at Rhode Island. Dayton plays in Kingston, R.I., on Feb. 12 and hosts the Rams on Feb. 27.
Rhode Island is a team on the rise in the A-10. In Dan Hurley’s first three seasons, they have finished 8-21, 14-18 and 23-10.
The New York Post wrote last February about how Hurley has rescued Rhode Island:
Dan Hurley doesn’t have a background in architecture. But he sure knows how to lay a foundation. He’s become an expert at reclamation projects, leading Rhode Island to the top of the Atlantic 10 less than three years after arriving in Kingston, R.I. Before Rhode Island, there was Wagner College; before Wagner, there was St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark.
Prior to his arrival at each stop, all three schools were in dire need of major overhauls, programs devoid of winning and talented players. The season before the 42-year-old Hurley took over, the Rams were 7-24.
“That was incredibly appealing to me as a competitor,” he said.
The Rams just missed the NCAA tournament last season and will seek their first berth in the big dance since 1999 this season. They return enough talent, including their three top scorers, to end that streak. E.C. Mathews, Hassan Martin, Jared Terrell combined to average 37.6 points per game. They have a balanced roster with three seniors, five juniors, three sophomores and two freshmen.
The 6-7, 230-pound Martin is one of the most impressive physical specimens in the conference. Here’s a story from his hometown newspaper in Staten Island, N.Y.
Martin has generated plenty of buzz as the league’s No.8 rebounder (7.7) and an all-defensive team selection. “He’s already on the NBA radar,” Hurley said of the power forward with the long arms, a steely body and great rebounding instincts.
“I think he can be a Player of the Year type guy in this league at both ends of the court,” said the URI coach, who likens Martin’s game to that of an early version of the Denver Nuggets power forward Kenneth Faried.
The Flyers beat the Rams twice last season: 75-59 at UD Arena on Senior Night and 56-52 11 days later in the semifinals A-10 tournament. Rhode Island’s top scorer, E.C. Matthews, scored 32 points in the two games on 13-of-32 shooting.
With that second victory, UD probably wouldn’t have made the NCAA tournament. Here’s what I wrote:
The game was tied 24-24 at halftime. Dayton grabbed its first lead of the second half with 5:38 to play on two free throws by Dyshawn Pierre, who had 10 points and nine rebounds. The Rams tied the game at 44-44 with 5:20 to play and at 47-47 at the 3:28 mark.
At the 2:59 mark, a layup by Sibert, who led the Flyers with 12 points, started a 6-0 Dayton run. Two free throws by Davis and a layup by Sibert gave the Flyers a 53-47 advantage with 69 seconds to go.
The Rams made it interesting in the final minute, but turnovers plagued them as they did throughout the game. Rhode Island committed a season-high 21 turnovers. Dayton had 12 and only two in the second half.
“The difference in the game really was probably turnover margin and our ability to convert some of them at big times,” Miller said. “Every basket was hard earned, and we are very fortunate to win. But at this time of year, it doesn’t really matter how you get it. You’ve just got to get it.”