URI alumni, fans pumped up about today’s opening-round NCAA game

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KINGSTON, R.I –  March 17, 2017 — As the University of Rhode Island men’s basketball team prepares to battle Creighton in the NCAA Tournament this afternoon, URI students and alumni can barely contain their excitement.

But few can relate to the team’s elation at winning the Atlantic 10 Championship and the adrenaline rush of an opening-round game in the NCAA’s like Phil Kydd ‘81 can. Today’s game is on TBS at 4:30 p.m., Eastern Daylight Time.

“I was a member of the men’s basketball team from 1977-1981, and those were amazing years. We were fortunate to have played in an amazing NCAA game against Duke in North Carolina and two National Invitation Tournaments. Post-season play is a feeling that you never forget,” said the Warwick resident who will be watching the game with his son, Andrew ‘12, fellow alumni and friends.”

Kydd, an executive-in-residence at URI, is optimistic about Rhody’s chances.

“CBS and ESPN analysts during the selection shows this past Sunday predicted that URI will advance to the round of 16 (Sweet 16). This is a team that started the year in the top 25 and carried a strong strength of schedule index. They struggled a bit on the road, losing a few winnable games by a point or two, all while dealing with key player injuries. With all that, they never gave up and closed the season and conference tournament with an eight-game winning streak and an Atlantic 10 Championship… 24-9 overall record.

“I like the draw and bracket placement, both Creighton and Oregon ( a likely opponent if they win Friday) are experiencing season-ending injuries to key players. Rhody has been grinding out wins all year, they are now healthy, confident and peaking at the right time.

Kydd said, “Rhody Pride is many things… it is the feeling you experience when you receive your enrollment acceptance letter. Rhody Pride is the total appreciation that you are a member of a community of Big Thinkers and an institution with a reputation of excellence in its academic programs… but Rhody Pride really shines through when your men’s basketball team raises the Atlantic 10 Championship trophy in celebration and you realize that your team, your school is headed back to the national stage after an 18-year absence. Rhody Pride, can you feel it!”

He said that as a former player, having alumni and student support at games creates a real boost for the players.

“It’s unfortunate that Rhody’s first-round NCAA games are being played on the West Coast, but don’t let that stop you from putting on your Ram gear and colors and getting in front of that TV, because believe me… they (the players) can feel it.”

Paige Mangione, senior elementary education major and URI cheerleader says: “It’s been 18 years since we’ve even made it to the tournament so we’re really excited to even be going.  To advance would mean the world to our team and to our fans. We have such loyal fans at URI and they will go anywhere in the country to cheer for this team so to have them win would be great for our team and the fans.”

Mangione, a resident of Yorktown Heights, N.Y., will be on the sidelines in Sacramento as a member of the cheerleading squad that made the trip.

Hannah Ritchie, a junior pharmacy major from Newhall, Calif. will be at the game in Sacramento along with six other URI students. “My friends and I were in Pittsburgh all weekend watching the A-10 tournament and we flew to California as soon as it ended. When we found out the team was playing here we were stoked!”

Ritchie and her friends left for their 6-hour drive at 5 a.m. this morning to get to the game.

Elana Rivkin, senior film and communication studies major, said URI fans are witnessing history. “The reputation of URI will grow immensely from being known as the university in the smallest state in the nation, to a university that defies all odds.” said the Mineola, N.Y. resident.

When asked about fan support for the team, Jack O’ Marra, sophomore communication studies major from New Milford, Conn. said the basketball games are fueled by fan support.

“When the Ryan Center is packed on game day, the atmosphere is electric. When the fans come out in Keaney Blue to support URI, there might not be a stronger force out there. Nothing brings a smile on my face more than seeing fans at our sporting events,” he said.

O’Marra expects fan support to be at a high level in Sacramento and among students and alumni gathered around TVs around the country.

“A lot of the analysts actually had us as the sleeper picks for the tournament.” said Ryan Sullivan, a sophomore journalism and communications studies major from North Andover, Mass. “If any lower seeded team can make a run, it’s this team. We started the season ranked, beat Cincinnati, and we played decently against Duke. Oregon just lost its best player, so if we win against Creighton, we have really good odds of making it to the Sweet 16, maybe even the Elite 8.”

URI alumni across the country shared their excitement with us as well.

Caitlin Musselman, ‘16, with a bachelor’s degree in political science and public relations is now working in Washington D.C. “I truly believe that with Coach Hurley’s expertise and our diverse group of players, the Rams can take the lead and move on to the next round. Creighton is a tough team, but if anyone can take them on, it’s our Rams.”

Musselman says: “Win or lose, our team played their hearts out all season and the community stands by its side no matter what. URI has always had a championship-worthy team, and this is its time to shine. It’s exciting to see all of their hard work paying off and they deserve all the attention. Rhode Island may be the smallest state, but we sure do have the biggest fan base.”

Sabrina Galiney, ‘16, earned her bachelor’s degree in public relations and is now living in Boston. “Rhody Pride was and still is one of my favorite things about URI,” she said. “From sports to homecoming activities and even Greek events, URI students, faculty, and alumni never seem to forget their love for this school. We truly do bleed Keaney Blue. Have you ever yelled Rhody three times at any given place in Rhode Island? Try it out and expect a loud response; that’ll show you our spirit.”

She’ll head to her favorite sports bar, Tony C’s.. “Nothing like a nice harbor view, cold beers, and some college ball.”

Dave Gregorio, ‘80 who majored in journalism, works a copy editor at Reuters in New York City.

“The good thing about working in a newsroom is that there are TVs all over the place, so I’ll try to make sure at least one of the sets in my general vicinity is tuned to the game at 4:30.  The bad news is that Friday afternoons are usually very busy in the newsroom, so realistically I will not be able to focus my attention on the game. So I’ll have my DVR at home set to record it, and hopefully I can watch every play of Rhody’s win when I get home.”

David Nicolato ‘98 of Latana, Texas, said a win will help put the University on the map.

“We are heading to Austin to visit family and we are heading down early enough to meet with URI alumni,” he said. “It’s the NCAA tournament and Cinderella stories are born each year. I remember 1998 and Kansas…anything is possible. If they play for 40 (minutes) we have a chance…anyone has a chance.”

Nicolato said he would like to see the Rams supported all season long.” We need to support our Rams at each and every game. I wish I could be there (Sacramento) in person.”

Josh Reyes, an intern at URI Department of Marketing and Communications and a Public Relations major, wrote this release.