#331 R.P.I. Rhode Island @ #172 R.P.I. Virginia Tech:
VT is a 13.5 point favorite (VT-13.5)
$-line: VT-125o, R.I.+8oo
Bet 12.5 to win 1 on VT. And bet 1 to win 8 on Rhode Island
After an all together encouraging win at home on Saturday (80-62) over East Tennessee State; Vah.Tech makes a professionally quick turnaround to host Rhode Island of Atlantic-10 conference fame on Monday night.
J.J.’s boys ran well, they defended well in man-to-man, they bombed away from the outside (40% on 3′s) and only turned the ball over 10 times in a opening game rout of ETSU. Generally I came away quite impressed; maybe even a bit surprised -to the good- with what I saw outta Coach J.J.’s boys in their very first game. Rhode Island however opened the year on the different note vs. an entirely different caliber of team.
Rhode Island is picked by most pre-season wraps as a bottom-5 team in A-10 terms most anywhere you look. Lindy’s has them pegged at 14th best in a race of 16 Atlantic-10 squads and even goes so far as to opine: “…the future is bright, but the present is kind of gray … with occasional drenching rain.”
Yah; that’s not good and neither is the fact that Rhode Island just got done by Norfolk State 67-55 on Friday night at home up in Kingston R.I. Norfolk State is nobody to sneeze at, as they did win 26 games last year including putting Missouri outta the NC2A men’s bracket. That’s not a good debut start for coach Dan Hurley And yes they are related, as Dan is the younger bro’ of former Duke nemesis G, Bobby Hurley and he is also of course the son of hall of fame High School coach Bob Hurley.
Clearly it can be said that the youngest Coach Hurley has come up in the game itself. He was a former 1,000 point scoring Pt.Guard in the mid-1990′s at Seton Hall whom some of you will remember. Dan then went on to dominate New Jersey scholastic hoops up at St.Benedict’s and then only managed to win 25 games last year at little ole Wagner. It is not very difficult to see why Rhode Island considered the hiring of Coach Hurley to be a minor coup and even if it takes a season or two as program wide upheaval goes. As this is already one of the best basketball coaches in the entire A-10, from the moment he set foot on the Rams home-court.
That said, what can we gleam from each teams opening game#1 and who does that authentically favor in game#2?
Right now the Rhode Island Rams have the look and feel of a 1-trick pony and that thoroughbreds name is Nikola Malesevic. Nikola is a 6`7“ 200 lb. senior season sharpshooter from Serbia. Nikola has a nice long-range game and he does get to the FT-line multiple times per game as well. This makes Nikola offensive weapon number-one for Coach Hurley. That is when he is out on the floor as he played part of 2011-2012 with a broken shooting hand which he suffered when he punched out a wall up at Yale. Then he also missed another part of last season due to undisclosed team violations which resulted in a suspension. On top of that he is well known for his lockeroom outburst and generally fiery demeanor. Nikola can score points in a hurry every bit as much as he can become mired in single digits. When he does heat up he does have some en fuego in his game and he can put the Rams on his back and carry them all by himself. If Nikola continues his shooting barrage (26 points) from game#1, Rhode Island suddenly becomes a much tougher out. Though do be fully awears that he was disqualified 5 times last year for a reason. Pitching in upfront (should) be two dynamic and highly thought of or VHT (very highly touted) rookie low-posts. One #4, the 6`10` 205 lb. string bean power-forward Jordan Hare (no relation to the Stadium); and fellow first-year frontcourter #34 Mike Aaman; who goes 6`8“ 210 lbs. Both guys played sparingly in the opener though both guys were likewise ranked among the elite front-court prospects nationwide just 5-6 months ago. Hare is said to be a double-double just looking for a place to happen even if he is a bit raw offensively. You have to like the fact that Hare tries to dunk everything that he can as he simply attacks the rack at all times. He can also block or alter a few shots at 6`10“ in height. Aaman was even more explosive as a scorer in high school as a lefty shooter goes. Aaman has more of an inside-out vibe to his game and he is said to have a high motor and a nose for the ball. In game#1 however it was senior 6`8“ 220 Ryan Brooks who lead the way upfront. Ryan has had some academic issues in the past, and was expected to be a valuable bench contributor this year. Ryan looks like he is about 35-38 years old and I doubt that he has been carded for beer since the sixth grade. Although Ryan did just rip down 8 boards, with 4 blocks all the while only taking one shot in game#1. Go fig’ on that?
Starting in the Rams de facto 3-Guard backcourt would be Mike Powell, X Munford, and Andre Malone, with reserves T.J. Buchanan, and Alwayne Bigby providing relief off of Coach Hurley’s bench. ‘dre Malone is a 6`6“ 210 lb. senior season 2-Guard. ‘dre was a big-time high school state champion recruit from the ATL (Atlanta), who never quite panned out at Auburn before transferring to Rhode Island. ‘dre never quite regained his eagle eye from downtown last year up in Kingston, though he is said to be a pure spot-up shooter and typically hovers in the mid 80’s as a FT% goes. ‘dre –just like Mr. Brooks up above- has battled classroom woes and has been ineligible G.P.A. wise from time-to-time. Mike Powell is a 5`10“ 180 lb. true point-guard in his second year outta the Windy City. Mike must do a better job of setting up his fellow Ram teammates this season as the Rams only shot 40% (or 3o8th best) from the floor last year in all of D-1 hoops. Mike can get you high single digits in points most games and he will drop 3-4 dimes (assists) per contest and he has just enough range on his J so that must honor his outside shot (29% on 3’s). X Munford is a 6`2“ 180 lb. two-guard trapped in a point-guards junior year body. X is a JuCo (Iowa Western) transfer outside shooter. As X was indeed a D-I all-American out in Iowa and he did ball for Coach Hurley at St.Benedicts where they achieved a #2 national ranking together. So now you know how X found his way back to Rhode Island. T.J. is a 6`3“ 190 lb. sophomore who has started off and on before at Rhode Island. T.J. is now contributing once again off the Ram bench where he is viewed as more of a hard-nosed defensive stopper as much as anything else. Alwayne Bibgy is a Toronto Canada native who goes 6`5“ 210 lbs. in what is technically his fourth year; even if he is already a proud college graduate who is now pursuing his Master’s degree in education at Rhode Island. Mr. Bibgy is also known as a shutdown defender even if he has battled injuries –mostly in the form of broken feets- throughout his collegiate career.
Sources say that this Coach Hurley favors an up-tempo game with tight or extended man-to-man defense. So that could make for an exciting and offensively friendly brand of basketball as that is basically an isomer or mirror-image of our very own coach J.J.’s pet approach. However it also posits that early foul-trouble -for either side- could be the key in this one. As neither team is especially deep should either bench be called upon to play anything beyond 6th or 7th man spot minutes.
Right now, and all things being early, if not equal, I am tempted to side with the home-court team (Vah.Tech) and leave it at that. As beyond the hot-shooting versino of Nikola, there is no one in the Rams starting-5 that I would necessarily take over their Hokie starting counterpart(s). As this is not a very size Ram starting unit as it has something of a Bantamweight feel to it. Be back with some OPT digits and a closer once I study upon the Rams just a bit more although I am inclined to pick a low double-digit Hokie win at the moment.
So, I kicked it around Monday with a couple of my basketball contacts; and nobody really expects Rhode Island to win. However, that Vegas point-spread looks a bit to wide to me. Rhody is not a great A-10 team, though they have just enough to hang-around with Virginia Tech; maybe even muck-around with Virginia Tech if they get hot or if our very own long-ball suddenly goes cold. I’ll pick Tech to win, although I’m not quite yet ready to warm-up to everything O&M in courtside terms; At least not just yet.
Virginia Tech=84, Rhode Island=68