RHODE ISLAND RAMS
vs. DUKE BLUE DEVILS
NCAA Tournament – Second Round – PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh, PA
Tip-off: Saturday, Time TBD
Line: Duke -10, Total: 149.5
Fresh of knocking out Trae Young and Oklahoma, an overlooked Rhode Island team prepares to take its best shot at Duke.
The 2018 NCAA Tournament started off with a bang on Thursday, when the very first game of the tourney went to overtime. After coming oh-so-close to a regulation victory on a tip-in, No. 7 seed Rhode Island stayed focused in overtime to beat No. 10 seed Oklahoma 83-78, covering a 1.5-point spread. It was a rejuvenating win for the Rams, who had recently suffered a blowout home loss to St. Joseph's and an upset defeat in the Atlantic 10 conference championship game to Davidson. After URI's win, No. 2 seed Duke took the floor and proceeded to wipe it with No. 15 seed Iona, 89-67, barely covering a 21-point spread. Duke also lost in its conference tournament, dropping an ACC semifinal game to UNC last weekend, but showed no signs of a hangover in taking care of the Gaels. Duke opened up as double-digit favorites against Rhode Island, but this matchup between two offensive-minded teams figures to be one of the more exciting showdowns of the second round.
Leading Rhode Island in scoring against Oklahoma was senior G E.C. Matthews, who hit two big three-pointers in overtime en route to 16 points. Matthews got a lot of hype entering last season but has generally flown under the radar since, failing to live up to the prolific scoring season he posted way back in 2014-15. But that clutch outing against Oklahoma was a reminder of how big of an impact he can make, and a vintage Matthews performance against Duke could spell trouble for the Devils. Matthews' fellow senior G Jared Terrell is URI's leading scorer on the season, and while he was only 4-of-15 from the floor against the Sooners, he hit 3-of-5 from deep and had five assists and six rebounds. At 41.5% from three on the season, he could stretch Duke's zone defense. Like many college teams these days, the Rams start four guards, and Gs Stanford Robinson and Jeff Dowtin each had eight points. Starting F Andre Berry had five points. But perhaps even moreso than Matthews, Rhode Island got its biggest boost off the bench against Oklahoma. F Cyril Langevine was monstrous with 14 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks, while G Fatts Russell launched 12 shots in only 21 minutes to rack up 15 points. Langevine will need to bruise hard to succeed against Duke's enormous front line, while Russell brings the kind of swagger needed to upset top teams.
No team in college basketball has more NBA talent than Duke, and it's really not even close. About that front line: C Marvin Bagley might be the No. 1 overall pick. He scored 22 points against Iona and snatched seven rebounds, which could be considered a light night for him. Against Notre Dame in the ACC quarterfinals, he dropped 33 and 17 in the one of the most dominant performances by any single player this season. He figures to spell trouble for a URI frontcourt that isn't particularly imposing. So does C Wendell Carter Jr., another freshman big that could be a lottery pick for Duke. He had nine points and eight rebounds in only 24 minutes against the Gaels. Depending on Duke's ultimate outcome in this tourney, senior G Grayson Allen will probably end his Blue Devil career as a hero or as the goat. Against Iona, he was excellent with 16 points and nine assists, and only one turnover. Freshman G Trevon Duval had four turnovers, something that's been a problem for him all year. But it didn't matter in the blowout and didn't mar his excellent outing, which consisted of 19 points on 11 shots and eight assists. G Gary Trent Jr., one of college basketball's sharpest shooters, hit 4-of-9 from deep. Coach Mike Krzyzewski played a deep bench against Iona, but that won't happen in close games. The bench guys you need to know are C Marques Bolden, the best backup big in the country—sorry for all the superlatives—and G Alex O'Connell, a freshman who is ready to take to torch from Allen as Duke's token annoying guy.