No. 23 Rhode Island set to show off 'high-level program'

Rhode Island held an open-air fanfest prior to its Rhody Madness opening to preseason practice.

“We want our games to be the celebration this year at home,” URI coach Dan Hurley told the Providence Journal. “What we went for was a carnival-type atmosphere — maybe some strange things happening outside where people can see some things they wouldn't normally see on a daily basis.”

In other words, fun — and Rhody should be able to have plenty of it this season.

The Rams start the season 23rd in the AP poll and open things up at home against Dartmouth on Friday night.

The expectations are there.

“I think it means we've put together a strong, high-level program,” Hurley told the newspaper. “Obviously there are things we've got to accomplish during this season, certain markers: conference championship, an NCAA Tournament. This team has got things that we want to do this year.”

Last season, they lost top player E.C. Matthews to a knee injury in the first game. In March, Hassan Martin was shut down after dealing with a variety of physical troubles. Both are back. Both made the Atlantic 10's preseason second team, and Matthews was named to the preseason watch list for the Lute Olson Award that goes to the top college player who has played at least two years.

The Rams, who went 17-15 last season (9-9 A-10), have a nice warmup, with games against Dartmouth, Marist and local rival Brown. But then they have an important weekend at the Mohegan Sun casino in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Nov. 19 and 20.

URI, picked to finish behind only Dayton in the conference, opens that tournament against Cincinnati, which just missed the opening Top 25, before playing the winner/loser of No. 1 Duke and Penn State. That means a win over Cincinnati leads the Rams into a likely game against Duke.

Jared Terrell and Jarvis Garrett, who led the team in scoring after the injuries, are back and now slip into more complementary roles.

“I think we check most of the boxes,” Hurley said. “Veteran team. We have shooting. We've got guard play. We've got depth. We've got size. Great culture. We've got leadership.

“It's the best team in terms of talent and depth I've had since my second year at Wagner. That's exciting.”

Dartmouth, playing for new coach David McLaughlin, was picked to finish sixth in the Ivy League. Dartmouth went 10-18 last season, 4-10 in conference play.

“I am very excited to be a part of this league and the tradition and history that comes with it,” McLaughlin said during a preseason Ivy League conference call. “I've always prided myself as a head coach on being an expert on my team coming into the season, and that's a work in progress.

“While it's exciting at times, it can also be frustrating. In practice, we are talking about how we want to be defined (by those) who see us play on a regular basis. We have to embrace fatigue right now, meaning we have to know how we are going to execute on back-to-back days and on the road early in the year.”

The Big Green host Fairfield and Marist after the opener, two of their three home games in the first 11 games.