Rhode Island Rams Basketball Preview: #134
Rhode Island Rams
Overall Rank: #134
Conference Rank: #10 Atlantic 10
2008-09: 23-11, 11-5
2008-09 postseason: NIT
Coach: Jim Baron (131-118 at Rhode Island, 337-320 overall)
Heading into the 2008-2009 season the expectations were relatively low for Rhode Island. But seniors Jimmy Baron and Kahiem Seawright stepped up their game and led the Rams to the NIT. Once again the expectations are low without those two and Coach Jim Baron will need a new class of seniors to step up and do what the younger Baron and Seawright did last season if they want to reach the postseason again.
Key Losses: G Jimmy Baron, F Kahiem Seawright
The Rams will need to find some bodies to come in off the bench and their two newcomers could be a part of that. Guard Akeem Richmond does not have the three-point shooting ability to help replace Baron, but he is a smart combo guard who can knock down the mid-range jumper and handle the point as a backup when necessary. Forward Ryan Brooks may find it more difficult to find playing time in a crowded frontcourt, but he will help this team transition from a perimeter orientated group to a frontcourt orientated group.
Without Baron knocking down three-pointers all day, this team has suddenly gone from a run and gun shoot ‘em up style to a slower tempo style of team. Baron hit 3.5 three’s a game and connected on an incredible 45.4 percent of his attempts. Keith Cothran will get more shots now after averaging 13.2 points per game last year, but Cothran is not going to hit the outside shot nearly as efficiently as Baron. The good news is Marquis Jones is back. The junior point guard dished out 4.0 assists per game and did a great job keeping the turnovers down considering how quickly this team moved up and down the floor last year.
Even without Seawright, who tallied 14.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game during his senior season, the Rams have plenty of talent in the frontcourt. Delroy James provided a spark off the bench last year and emerged as a dynamic scorer and rebounder. Lamonte Ulmer can score with his back to the basket and center Will Martell can clog the paint with the best of them. At 7-0 and 245 pounds, Martell was often left running back and forth trying to catch up to his teammates, but that should be different this year if Rhode Island does indeed slow down their tempo. Martell, who started 20 games a year ago, could be in for a huge junior campaign despite only averaging 5.3 points and 3.6 rebounds during the 2008-2009 season.
Who to Watch:
Jones and Cothran will be the most important players on the team this year. The frontcourt will be in good shape, but the Rams cannot get back to the postseason if Cothran does not score. In the meantime it will be Jones’ job to get everybody involved and slow down the tempo in situations when last year they would have pushed the ball forward and found Baron streaking down the wing and setting up for a three-pointer.
Luckily, Jones is an experienced player who should be able to make the adjustments that the coaching staff want to make. However, the loss of Baron and Seawright is huge and the A-10 will be extremely tough this year. The Rams will win some big games, but they could lose quite a few as well when they have to play a string of difficult conference games. That means the Rams will not likely win 20 or more games again in 2009-2010.
Projected Post-season Tournament: none
Projected Starting Five:
Marquis Jones, Junior, Guard, 6.1 points per game
Keith Cothran, Senior, Guard, 13.2 points per game
Lamonte Ulmer, Senior, Forward, 7.7 points per game
Delroy James, Senior, Forward, 9.9 points per game
Will Martell, Junior, Center, 5.3 points per game