2011-12 Basketball Game Preview: Virginia Tech at Rhode Island

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Virginia Tech hopes to snap a two game losing streak when they take on Rhode
Island on the road on Wednesday night. The Hokies have lost back-to-back games
to Minnesota and Kansas State, despite leading both games at halftime. The Rams
have their own sad story. A normally solid program that plays in the postseason,
Rhode Island has started this season with a 1-7 record.

Rhode Island has won 20+ games for four straight seasons, and two years ago
Jim Baron’s team knocked the Hokies out of the NIT in Cassell Coliseum. The
2011-12 version of the Rams still has talent, but they are playing poor
basketball and could be on their way to the school’s worst season since 2004-05
when they went 6-22.

Rhode
Island Starting Lineup
Pos. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. PPG RPG
G Mike Powell 5-11 175 Fr. 5.9 2.8
G Jamal Wilson 6-5 195 Sr. 18.0 6.0
F Nikola Malesevic 6-7 200 Jr. 11.9 3.2
F Orion Outerbridge 6-9 210 Sr. 13.6 7.4
F Jonathan Holton 6-9 220 Fr. 10.1 7.1

Rhode Island has good height in the frontcourt, but they feature two freshmen in
the starting lineup, and the team has struggled with turnovers as a result. The
Rams have 132 turnovers through eight games, compared to just 94 assists. The
biggest culprits have been point guard Mike Powell (29 assists and 29
turnovers), shooting guard Jamal Wilson (17 assists, 28 turnovers), Orion
Outerbridge (1 assist, 10 turnovers) and Jonathan Holton (nine assists, 20
turnovers).

The Rams can’t take care of the basketball, and they have also struggled on
the defensive end at times. Opponents are shooting 49.3% against Rhode Island,
including 33.8% from three-point range, and scoring an average of 78.3 points
per game.

The Rams are also hurt by the fact that their top two players off the bench
are freshmen. T.J. Buchanan (6-3, 195, Fr.) gets a lot of time in the backcourt,
while Dominique McCoy (6-7, 205) sees action in the frontcourt. When four of
your top seven players are freshmen, and your eighth player is a sophomore (Levan
Shengelia, 6-9, 260, So.), then there are naturally going to be some struggles
early in the season.

That being said, for a program like Rhode Island, a 1-7 record is
unacceptable. The Rams have played decent competition, and they’ve had two
overtime losses to George Mason and Maine. They played Texas tough, losing
100-90 on the road. They also lost to Nebraska (83-63), Boston (70-64),
Cleveland State (67-45) and Brown (65-56). Their only win over the season came
over a 3-6 Hofstra team (85-73).

Obviously the Rams do have some guys who can score. Jamal Wilson is averaging
18 points per game, while three other players average in double figures as well.
This is a much different team than the one that played in Cassell Coliseum two
years ago. Jamal Wilson and Orion Outerbridge are the only two guys who played
in that game who are still in the program. Wilson didn’t score, while
Outerbridge had eight points in 10 minutes.

Rhode Island doesn’t have the overall talent level of Virginia Tech, and to
top it off four freshmen are playing major minutes for the Rams. The Hokies have
four freshmen in the rotation as well, but they were all highly-touted recruits.

This is a game that Virginia Tech should win. They are better than Rhode
Island in just about everything: shooting, defense, turnovers, etc. The only
spot the Rams have the advantage is on the boards. The Hokies need to keep Rhode
Island off the offensive glass and prevent second chance points. If they do
that, they should win this game without much of a problem.

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