The college football season is over, but the college basketball season is about ready to heat up. Conference play begins for most teams this week, and the Rhode Island Rams will start jockeying for position in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. The quest for Brooklyn begins on the road, and Rhody is going to have their work cut out for them in another solid year for a lot of A-10 teams. So who’s first up on the docket?
University of Richmond
Location: Richmond, Virginia
Conference: Atlantic 10
2012-13 Record: 10-5
The Spiders are off to a solid start, although they have stumbled as of late, losing three straight before defeating Air Force in their most recent game. Their non-conference schedule has been moderately difficult, but it seems like every time they’ve faced a halfway decent opponent, they’ve lost. Richmond has fallen to Minnesota, Ohio, Kansas, George Mason, and Davidson. Some of their key wins have come against Wake Forest, Old Dominion, and James Madison. Also of note: the Spiders crushed the Rams when they met last year, winning 70-53.
Projected Starting Lineups
G: Mike Powell, So, #1, 5’11″, 175
G: Xavier Munford, Jr, #5, 6’2″, 180
G: Andre Malone, Sr, #12, 6’6″, 210
F: Nikola Malesevic, Sr, #23, 6’7″, 200
C: Ryan Brooks, Sr, #33, 6’8″, 220
G: Kendall Anthony, So, #0, 5’8″, 140
G: Cedrick Lindsay, Jr, #2, 6’0″, 190
G: Darien Brothers, Sr, #3, 6’3″, 200
F: Greg Robbins, Sr, #22, 6’5″, 220
F: Alonzo Nelson-Ododa, Fr, #33, 6’9″, 210
First, some good news for Rhody: Richmond forward and former A-10 Player of the Week Derrick Williams will be missing tomorrow night’s game due to a sprained ankle. Williams leads the Spiders in rebounds with 6.8 per game… and he’s seemingly the ONLY Richmond player who can grab a board. Richmond is averaging just 29.9 rebounds per game, good for 328th in the country. By contrast, URI averages 33.2 boards per game, 254th in the nation. For those that have asked “Could there be a worse rebounding team than the Rams?!?!”, the answer is yes. And with Williams out, it only exacerbates the issues for the Spiders. With the Rams coming off a solid rebounding effort against Brown, they have to capitalize on Richmond’s weakness if they want to get the W.
So if they can’t rebound, how has Richmond won 10 games? The answer is simple: LIGHTS OUT shooting. The Spiders are 84th in the country in points-per-game (72.5) and 64th in field goal percentage (46%). And it all starts with Darien Brothers. The senior guard leads his team in scoring at 15.7 points per game, and he pretty much doesn’t miss shots. Brothers averages 50.7% from the field and 55.0% (!) from three. In Richmond’s last game, Brothers dropped 25 on Air Force on 7-11 shooting, including 6-9 from three. Oh, and he was also the game’s high scorer last year against Rhody when he poured in 19 points. To say that URI needs to get a hand in his face is the understatement of the season. Brothers is extremely dangerous from essentially anywhere and everyone on the court.
But it’s not just Brothers – another of Richmond’s sharp-shooting guards, Kendall Anthony, is just as dangerous. Even at 5’8″, the sophomore can create good looks for himself from anywhere, especially from long range. The point guard is second on the team in scoring at a 13.7 points-per-game clip, shooting 44.1% from the field and 45.2% from three. And as good as Brothers was against Air Force, Anthony was better. He led all scorers with 31 points last time out, going 8-11 from the field and 7-9 from three. He came off the bench last year against the Rams, but was still able to tack on 13 points, including three 3-pointers. What the Spiders lack down low they clearly make up for in guard play.
It’s the first A-10 match-up for URI, but it already looks like it could be one of the more interesting games of the season. The Rams have shown they can defend guard play extremely well, but they haven’t faced a shooting tandem this staunch all season. Can Powell, Buchanan, Munford, and Malone slow down Richmond’s scorers? With a clear advantage, can Rhody mount any sort of offensive attack in the post? If this game were in Kingston, we’d be set to give URI a slight advantage in this one. But the Spiders are 8-1 at home and the Rams have struggled on the road (1-3), so this could go either way. The “Brooklyn or Bust” campaign gets set to kick off tomorrow – fasten your seat belts.