15 March 2010

Better Know an Opponent: University of Rhode Island

On Wednesday March 17 #7 seed Northwestern (20-13, 7-11 Big Ten) travels to Kingston to take on the #2 seed University of Rhode Island (23-9, 9-7 Atlantic 10). Television coverage will be provided on ESPNU. WGN-AM 720 and wgnradio.com will have the radio coverage.

URI Quick Facts:
Location: Kingston, RI
Arena: Ryan Center (they have their own version of Pat Ryan -- read on)
Official Nickname: Rams
Coach: Jim Baron (9th season)
Team Colors: Light Blue, Dark Blue and White
Mascot: Rhody the Ram (created in 1974 after the last live ram died in "the accident")
Conference: Atlantic 10 (A-10)
Student Population: 19K
Famous Alums: Several NBA alums headlined by Lamar Odom, a couple of golfers, John King, Christiane Amanpour, Thomas Ryan (CVS CEO, namesake of new arena).

One would expect URI to have a long and rich history given its location in the original 13 colonies, right? Certainly they have more history than some school that is located in the former northwest territory, no? Errr, try again. URI was charted in 1888 as an agricultural school and was originally known as the Rhode Island College oF Agriculture and Mechanic Arts. The school was eventually renamed to the University of Rhode Island in 1951.

The school is proud of its engineering and nursing programs as well as its graduate program in oceanography. Why are there no famous oceanographers or nurses hailing from Kingston? It would be cool to see a Clara Barton or a Jacques Cousteau show up on the notable alumni list would it not?

Projected Starting Five:

G Marquis Jones 6'1" 200 #5 Jr.
G Keith Cothran 6'4" 195 #22 Sr.
G Lamonte Ulmer 6'6" 215 #15 Sr.
F Delroy James 6'8" 220 #21 Sr.
C Will Martell 7'0" 245 #32 Jr.

The Rams go eight deep with the likes of Steve Mejia (5'9" Soph guard), Akeem Richmond (6'1" Fresh guard), and Orion Outerbridge (6'9" Soph forward) each playing over 1/3rd of available minutes.

Only Akeem Richmond is particularly efficient from distance (39%). Lamonte Ulmer and Will Martell take many high percentage shots from "close in". Keith Cothran is the steady senior leader who is most involved in the offense but protects the ball. Delroy James is also a fixture on offense and a stat sheet stuffer ala Drew Crawford.

These Rams are unlike any animal that NU played this year. On offense, they resemble Illinois in terms of efficiency, tempo, and point distribution. They do manage to rebound the offensive glass better than the Illini. On defense they are most similar to Michigan, though they are a poor man's version at that. They are significantly less efficient than the Wolverines but are similar in terms of turnover percentage, offensive rebounding defense, and their overall softness inside.

The key to this game will be NU's ability to exploit the Rams' weakness on the interior defense, protect the ball, and control the pace of play. On offense, we will need to safely navigate the organized chaos that the Rams throw at their opponents. Juice Thompson -- we're looking at you!

Once the ball is brought safely into the front court, NU will need to pound the ball down low to Luka Mirkovic and John Shurna. Some good interior passing between the two would be a great way to neutralize Will Martell's shot blocking ability. Finally, NU will want to play a base matchup zone most of the game as URI is not adept at running its half court offense. There's no use in going heavy on 1-3-1 against a team that is good at protecting the ball. We suggest sprinkling in the 1-3-1 as a change up as well as a three quarter court press if it appears URI is getting comfortable against the base matchup zone.

What to expect? NU was 2-1 against NIT teams including a victory at NC State. Although we expect Vegas to make NU about a 5 point dog we still like NU's chances.