After a week off, Rhody is back at it in search of their first Atlantic 10 victory. The Rhode Island Rams head on the road to take on one of the better teams in the A-10 tomorrow night. And if URI is going to position themselves to get to Brooklyn, they’re going to have to start eking out a few of these games. The Atlantic 10 is stacked this year, and be assured none of these games will be easy. But the Rams still should be able to hang with every team they’ll face from here on out with the help of their stellar defense. So what else do they need to do to capture that first W? Let’s start with tomorrow’s opponent:
Saint Louis University
Location: St. Louis, Missouri
Conference: Atlantic 10
2012-13 Record: 12-4 (1-1)
It’s been a few games since we’ve seen an 2011-12 NCAA Tournament team come across the schedule, but with four A-10 teams (five if you count VCU) making it to the Big Dance last season, it was only a matter of time. The Billikens advanced to the Round of 32 a year ago, knocking off Memphis in the first round before being upended by 1-seeded Michigan State in a close game. St. Louis is well on their way to another great season this year, with a win over then-20th ranked New Mexico and a near-upset loss to then-12th ranked Kansas. The Bills have also recorded wins against Texas A&M, Valparaiso, and UMass. Their other three losses have come at the hands of Santa Clara, Washington, and Temple. Also, lest we forget, Rhody knocked off St. Louis last year in a 64-62 heart-stopping win at the Ryan Center.
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: Mike Aaman, Fr, #34, 6’8″, 210
C: Ryan Brooks, Sr, #33, 6’8″, 220
G: Kwamain Mitchell, Sr, #3, 5’10″, 175
G: Mike McCall Jr., Jr, #11, 6’0″, 180
F: Dwayne Evans, Jr, #21, 6’5″, 230
F: Cory Remekun, Sr, #32, 6’8″, 220
F: Rob Loe, Jr, #51, 6’11″, 245
SLU, under first-year interim head coach Jim Crews, have a deep squad, with 11 players seeing 7+ minutes per game this season. Mike McCall, Jr., the Billikens leader in minutes, also leads the team in scoring with 11.6 points per game. McCall also shoots with supreme accuracy for a guard, averaging 46 percent from the field and 47.5 percent from three. He posted seven straight double-digit scoring performances before being shut down last time out versus Temple, scoring just six points on 1-9 shooting. Besides being their scoring leader, The junior is third on the Bills in assists and second in steals, averaging 3.1 and 1.3, respectively. The Rams handled Richmond’s sharp-shooting guards extremely well, and they’ll have to do the same with McCall tomorrow night.
St. Louis only has two other players besides McCall that average double figures: Dwayne Evans and Cody Ellis, the latter coming off the bench to post 10.3 points per game. But Evans appears to be the more dangerous player as far as the Rams are concerned. Aside from his 10.5 points per game and 47.4 shooting percentage, Evans leads the Billikens squad in rebounding, with 6.8 per game. The struggles that URI has encountered rebounding the basketball have been well documented, and getting a body on Ellis has to be a priority for the Rams in this one. Coming off a game in which they were out-rebounded by 20, Rhody is looking to bounce back following a poor effort.
That said, the Rams just might have the rebounding edge in this one. Aside from Ellis, St. Louis does not have a rebounder averaging more than 3.9 board per game. And that includes 6’11″ Rob Loe, who pulls down only 3.2 rebounds per game. The Bills as a team average 31.8 boards per contest, almost two full rebounds less than Rhody (33.5). Once again, Mike Aaman, Ryan Brooks, Jordan Hare, and Nik Malesevic will need to control the glass if URI is going to have a chance to win this one.
This one could be another low-scoring rock fight, with both teams playing tough defense and going through offensive slumps at times. It’s not a terrible match-up for the Rams, as they generally defend guard play well, and certainly shouldn’t have trouble sticking with the Billikens for 40 minutes. The rebounding battle will be key, as well as getting some timely buckets from Munford and others. Can Rhody pull off an upset two years in a row? We’ll know a lot more tomorrow night.