The No. 11 seeds have been giving the No. 6 seeds all the business thus far in the 2017NCAA Tournament.
Rhode Island and USC pulled off upsets Friday with the former crushing Creighton, 84-72. The Rams will now play No. 3 Oregon in the second round, and they could threaten Dana Altman's squad with another upset bid.
Here are three reasons why Rhode Island could keep dancing:
1. Defense — The old adage "defense wins games" is especially true for higher seeds in the NCAA Tournament. Scoring points is important — Rhode Island is no slouch in that department either — but being able to hold opposing offenses in check is crucial.
Forwards Hassan Martin and Kuran Iverson are loads in the paint for the Rams. Martin, at 6-7, 230 pounds, provides the muscle in the middle to eat space and force driving guards out of the lane. Iverson, 6-9, is long and lanky, which allows him to protect the rim.
Rhode Island uses a version of VCU's "havoc defense" to relentlessly swarm the ball. Teams are unable to consistently run their offense with Rams players honing in on them. Oregon doesn't have a prototypical point guard, which could allow Rhode Island to force turnovers and score easy baskets.
2. Balanced scoring — It's impossible to key on just one man in Rhode Island's attack. E.C. Matthews, who returned this season after missing all of last season with a torn ACL, has the ability to shoot from beyond the arc or put the ball on the floor. But he is just one weapon the Rams possess.
Martin and Iverson are threats on offense, too, which gives Rhode Island a nice inside-outside game. Freshman point guard Jeff Dowtin scored 23 points Friday against Creighton. He has great size and excellent vision, which he uses to free up space for his teammates.
Oregon struggled at times defensively this season. With Chris Boucher out with a torn ACL, Rams guards may be able to get into the paint and finish plays in space. The Ducks are vulnerable as a defensive unit right now, and Rhode Island may be able to take advantage of the situation.
3. Current form — After battling injuries early in the season and struggling in non-conference play, Rhode Island has now won nine straight games, including the Atlantic-10 Tournament. Beware of the in-form team definitely speaks true of this Rams squad.
Oregon has been good lately as well, which is why this game poses such an enticing matchup. Yet, the Ducks proved in a loss against Arizona in the Pac-12 Tournament final that they struggle against physical teams. The Rams certainly pack a punch.