The Best Basketball Team in Rhode Island

Over the last few days, the four D1 Men’s College Basketball teams in the state of Rhode Island have been facing off against each other. In this period, Brown University in particular has gone 2-0 against their in-state rivals by defeating Bryant and Rhode Island. With no more remaining in-state games, the Brown Men’s Basketball team Twitter account has taken note of their dominance this year:

This got me thinking: how often does a Rhode Island Men’s Basketball team go undefeated against their in-state rivals in a single season?


The Coffee Milk Cup

To that end, I decided to create a Championship Cup based on a few (reasonable) requirements. I decided to name this the Coffee Milk Cup. A more appropriate name is perhaps the “Ocean State Championship Cup”, but that’s boring. On the other hand, Coffee Milk is delicious, and it’s pretty much unique to the state of Rhode Island. Plus, this is kind of a pun.

Before we take a look at the data, let’s set up some basic requirements to win the Cup:

    1. The team has to go undefeated against their in-state rivals (duh).
    2. The team has to have played against more than half of the other D1 teams in the State.


The rationale for the second condition is that it seems unfair for a team to claim a Statewide Championship Cup without actually having had — you know — played their rivals.

Rhode Island only has four D1 Men’s Basketball teams: Brown University, Bryant University, Providence College, and the University of Rhode Island. The following table summarizes when each program was formed:

Team Program Start Date
Brown 1900
Rhode Island 1900
Providence 1927
Bryant 2010


As a result, from 1900-1926, a Cup Winner needs to have gone undefeated against 1 rival (since only Brown and Rhode Island were basketball programs in this peiord). From 1927-2009, a Cup Winner needs to have played against 2 rivals (since condition #2 specifies more than half). From 2010-present, a Cup Winner also needs to have played against 2 rivals (2/3 = 66.7%).



Now that we’ve established the necessary conditions to win the Coffee Milk Cup, let’s look at the winners by year. I looked at Head-to-Head matchup results for all these schools from Sports Reference. This source had data dating back to the 1950 season. For 1900-1950, I scraped data from the Brown and Providence websites. (note: if you have 3 teams, you only need 2 schedules to get the results between all 3 teams). The results are given below:


Judging by the results, it looks like Brown dominated the Cup until Providence entered the scene. Then, it was really Providence’s Cup to lose. Surprisingly, Brown has won the last few Cups. This is because although Providence historically dominates Brown, after 4-year stretch from 2012-2015 when they split their yearly series 2-2, Providence stopped scheduling Brown. The two teams haven’t played since a 2017 contest when Brown took Providence to overtime despite playing on Providence’s court. Since Providence also doesn’t schedule Bryant, it is impossible for them to qualify for the Coffee Milk Cup (no matter how many times they shellac Rhode Island).

Disclaimer: I may or may not be a Brown alumnus

Overall, there have been 103 seasons since 1909. During those 103 seasons, there has been a Cup Winner for 61 of them. Providence has won 55.7% of Cups, Rhode Island has won 29.5% them, and Brown has won 14.8%.

Conclusions and more

As always, thanks for reading — don’t forget to subscribe! For those of you who are interested in the underlying data, I’m including it below. It’s actually pretty interesting stuff because the “gold standard” for Head-to-Head matchup data only goes back to 1950. This dataset supplements that with data directly scraped from documents on the Brown and Providence websites. This data is downloadable if you want to play with it yourself!

Generated by wpDataTables

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