#63 Rhode Island: 2010-11 Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #63
Conference Rank: #6 Atlantic 10 Conference
2009-10: 26-10, 9-7
2009-10 postseason: NIT
Coach: Jim Baron (157-128 at Rhode Island, 362-330 overall)
The last three years Rhode Island has become painfully close to reaching the NCAA Tournament. They have settled for three consecutive NIT appearances. Coach Jim Baron has done a great job turning the Rams into a consistent force in the Atlantic 10, but they have yet to take the next step. Unfortunately, without Keith Cothran and Lamonte Ulmer, this could be another season that ends painfully in the NIT.
Key Losses: G Keith Cothran, G Steve Mejia, F Lamonte Ulmer
The Rams needed to find some depth in the backcourt and Tashawn Mabry and Daniel West should fit the bill. Mabry is a talented small forward who has the versatility to play at multiple positions. The incoming freshman may need some time to develop his game, but he is a somewhat highly regarded recruit and should be able to fill in minutes off the bench right away. Daniel West, a junior college transfer, has a little more experience and will immediately give the Rams a backup point guard. Big men Levan Shengelia and Blake Vedder will need some time to adjust to life in Division I basketball, but it would be helpful if one of them could play a dozen minutes off the bench.
Akeem Richmond and Delroy James are expected to start on the wings. Richmond was a great sixth man last season and was easily the best shooter on a bad shooting team. Richmond shot 38.8 percent from beyond the arc and connected on over two per game. The problem with Richmond is that is pretty much all he did during his sophomore campaign. At 6-1 and 180 pounds, he does not really have the strength to attack the basket, but he is quick enough to diversify his game. James is the star of the team and he will do a little bit of everything. At 6-8 he is very big for a small forward, but he plays like one thanks to his outside shooting ability. James averaged 13.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.2 blocks last year and will be asked to do even more this season. Jamal Wilson did not play much during his sophomore campaign, but he is the best fit to be a backup shooting guard and has enough size to compete with Mabry for minutes at the small forward spot.
The frontcourt has a couple big guys who have plenty of experience in power forward Orion Outerbridge and center Will Martell. Outerbridge spent last season coming in off the bench, but he will have to step into a starting role now that Ulmer is gone. If he can play closer to 30 minutes per game, Outerbridge should be able to average ten points and five rebounds a game. In the meantime, Martell will be the bigger body under the basket. Like Outerbridge, Martell will do nearly all of his scoring in the paint. The key to Martell’s game will be his rebounding. Last season Ulmer did most of the work on the glass, but now Outerbridge and Martell will have to pick up the slack. Ben Eaves and Nikola Malesevic averaged less than ten minuets per game last year, but they will need to fill Outerbridge’s former role off the bench and play closer to 15 minutes per contest.
Who to Watch:
Marquis Jones is the player that makes this team tick. The 6-1 senior point guard is not a scorer, but he is a great ball handler who dished out 4.1 assists last season and only averaged 1.6 turnovers per game. While Jones is not the quickest of point guards, which may slow down the Rams offense that likes to run, he does do a fine job finding the talented forwards who will do most of the scoring for Rhode Island this season.
It always seems like it is the lack of defense that starts the Rams inevitable late season spiral into the NIT. Losing Cothran and Ulmer will not help the defense, but having three projected starters who can block shots should make this a decent defensive team. But that did not work last year and there is little reason to believe it will make any difference in 2010-2011 either. Barring a change of mindset, this is another NIT team.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Marquis Jones, Senior, Guard, 5.7 ppg
Akeem Richmond, Sophomore, Guard, 8.7 ppg
Delroy James, Senior, Forward, 13.2 ppg
Orion Outerbridge, Junior, Forward, 5.9 ppg
Will Martell, Senior, Center, 7.5 ppg
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