College Basketball - Massachusetts Minutemen at Rhode Island Rams - Free Pick

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by Mike Neri Sports - 3/7/2009 9:40 AM Share
Sport: College Basketball
Game: Massachusetts Minutemen at Rhode Island Rams
Date/Time: 3/7/2009 2:00PM EST
Pick: Rhode Island Rams
Reason: This is the weekend that we see a lot of final home games for teams as the regular season comes to an end before the majority of the tournaments commence next week. That is the case for Rhode Island who closes out the season hosting Massachusetts and only a NIT or CBI invite would mean more home games and that is something they do not want as it is striving for better results. Rhode Island has now won six straight games and 10 of their last 11 to climb to second place in the A-10 standings behind Xavier. The Rams took out Dayton on Wednesday in overtime and then won at Duquesne on Sunday which was a huge victory as far as tournament seedings are concerned. Because of their win over the Flyers, the Rams own that tiebreaker and if they finish in a tie, the Rams get the second seed. With just one game remaining, all Rhode Island has to do is win. The Rams won the first meeting in Amherst last month fairly comfortably as they took out the Minutemen by 12 points. Rhode Island is 12-1 at home this season with its only loss coming against Atlantic Ten leader and nationally ranked Xavier by just a single bucket. If that game had gone the other way, which it easily could have, the Rams would be looking at a conference championship possibility on Saturday. Keeping hold of the number two seed is of importance right now as it means it would avoid Xavier until the A-10 Championship game should they both advance that far. Still, finishing second is huge following this recent run considering it was just the opposite last year as the Rams closed the season going 2-7 in their last nine games and missed the NCAA Tournament. That will not be the case this year as their strong finish overshadows their RPI rank of 60 which I consider very low following a three-point loss at Duke and that two point loss against Xavier. Massachusetts defeated Kansas early in the season and it looked as through it might be in for a special season despite losing a lot of talent from last season. However, it did not pan out that way as the Minutemen followed that win over the Jayhawks with two more victories but since then they have gone 5-11 and any shot of a postseason berth in any tournament has been lost unless it can win the Atlantic Ten Tournament which is quite unlikely. This recent skid includes a 2-6 record on the road with the lone road victories coming against St. Joseph's and lowly Fordham. Massachusetts closed out its regular season home schedule with a senior night victory against George Washington on Wednesday so any emotions still in the tank could very well be left on floor there. The Rams have a clear edge in this matchup as the Minutemen have had trouble this season against athletic teams that are excellent in the transition game. That was apparent in their last two losses against Duquesne and LaSalle, two teams who are similar to the style of Rhode Island, as they dropped those games by allowing 94 and 97 points. I expect more of the same from Rhode Island in what hopes to be its final home game of the season. 3* Rhode Island Rams

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