The hardest week of the Rhode Island Rams’ season concludes tomorrow with another match up against arguably the best team in the Atlantic 10. Our theory of “Rhody can hang with any team in the conference” will surely be put to the test, but there’s no reason to believe that they’re incapable of keeping it close and perhaps pulling out a win tomorrow afternoon. Nothing in the A-10 should surprise anyone at this point. So let’s take a look at the… #9 team in the country:
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
Conference: Atlantic 10
2012-13 Record: 17-4 (4-2)
Any URI fan who watched the Butler/St. Louis game on TV last night probably thought two things: 1. The Bulldogs are very beatable. And 2. If Rhody beat St. Louis, and St. Louis beat Butler, then the Rams are a shoo-in! Eh, probably not, but the 75-58 trouncing that the Billikens laid on the Bulldogs was certainly eye-opening. But besides last night, Butler’s resume is pretty damn impressive. They’ve beaten both Indiana (who was ranked #1 at the time) and Gonzaga (#8 at the time) in dramatic fashion, and the Brad Stevens-led squad holds an impressive .850 winning percentage on the season. Besides St. Louis, Butler’s only losses have come to La Salle, Illinois, and Xavier. Also of note, none of those defeats have come at home, where the Bulldogs are 10-0 on the season.
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: Jordan Hare, Fr, #4, 6’10″, 205
G: Alex Barlow, So, #3, 5’11″, 187
G: Rotnei Clarke, Sr, #15, 6’0″, 184
F: Roosevelt Jones, So, #21, 6’4″, 227
F: Khyle Marshall, Jr, #23, 6’6″, 216
C: Andrew Smith, Sr, #44, 6’11″, 243
The Butler offense starts and ends with Rotnei (pronounced Rot-nee) Clarke, who leads the squad with 16.7 points per game. The senior guard can get off shots from anywhere against any type of defense, and with his quick release and incredible shooting touch, he doesn’t need more than an inch of room to bury a three in a defender’s face. Rhody is really going to have to lock him up as much as possible, so we could be seeing a lot of T.J. Buchanan in this game.
One thing to keep an eye on is the turnover numbers, which was clearly the biggest issue the Bulldogs encountered last night. They coughed the ball up 23 times against St. Louis, including 16 in the first half. Four Butler players, including Clarke, had four or more turnovers. The Rams will likely have to try and run if Butler can’t hang onto the ball tomorrow, and based on their fast break points against VCU, they’re more than willing.
Rhode Island’s 2012-13 schedule has been full of tests, and tomorrow is definitely another big one. The Rams have shown the ability to elevate their game when facing a quality opponent (Ohio State, VCU), and they’ll have to do so once again in order to hang with the Bulldogs. It’s always fun to watch Hurley’s squad work, and it stands to reason that tomorrow will be no different.