The NCAA Tournament brackets were released and as everyone expected, the University of Rhode Island and Providence College both made the field of 64 and will both face a similar path this postseason.
URI is the No. 7 seed in the Midwest Bracket – already being dubbed “The Region of Death” and will play Oklahoma, a bubble team from the Big 12 that features talented freshman Trae Young, Thursday in Pittsburgh.
Providence is the No. 10 seed in the West bracket and plays No. 7 Texas A&M, which plays in the SEC and plays a brand of basketball that should help the Friars, Friday in Charlotte.
Should the Ocean State teams win, there’s a good chance they’ll end up playing one of college basketball’s elite. A Rams’ win Thursday would likely mean a game against Duke while a Friars’ win would mean a matchup against North Carolina.
It’s the second straight NCAA Tournament appearance for Rhode Island, the first time the program has made it in back-to-back seasons since 1997-98 and 98-99. Providence failed to make the field of 64 last season, losing in the play-in game, but is back in the Tournament for the fourth time in five years. And if you count the play-in game as making the tournament, congrats on being a part of the “everyone gets a trophy” generation.
Who’s road is easier? Neither, really.
Providence is playing better ball right now but it’ll have to deal with Tyler Davis, the Aggies’ 6-foot-10, 266-pound behemoth. The Friars experience playing tough in the Big East should help, but playing UNC in the second round in what is essentially a road game is bad luck. Upside – Xavier is the top seed in the West and PC has already beaten them, so it’s safe to say they have a chance there.
URI is playing Oklahoma, who everyone in the country that doesn’t live in Oklahoma says shouldn’t be in the tournament. The Rams are going to be everyone in the world’s pick, which usually means one of two things – they win by a million or Young, a future lottery pick, is going to win the game on his own. A potential matchup vs. Duke is a great story, because the recent Blue Devil teams seem to lose on the opening weekend or win the title. Rhode Island hasn’t played Duke since Jimmy Baron lit the Blue Devils up in a loss, but if you’re a Rhody fan you’re hoping the Gaels spoil that potential matchup.
If the Rams moved on, the Sweet 16 wouldn’t be easy with Michigan State sitting there as the No. 3 seed, but the matchup everyone wants is Arizona State. The Sun Devils are coached by Bobby Hurley, Dan’s brother, and if ASU wins its play-in game (doable), beats TCU (doable), then beats Michigan State (maybe not) it would give college basketball fans the game they want.
It’ll be a long four days, but hopefully everyone north and south of Warwick can call a stalemate on the rivalry and hope both teams do as well as possible because for this week, it’ll be Rhode Island vs. the world.