2012-13 Basketball Game Preview: Virginia Tech vs. Rhode Island

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Virginia Tech will be back on the court tonight when they host Rhode Island in Cassell Coliseum.

The Rhode Island Coaches

The most famous person inside Cassell Coliseum tonight will be Rhode Island assistant Bobby Hurley, the former All-American point guard at Duke.  His brother – Dan Hurley – serves as the head coach for the Rams.

Dan Hurley was the head coach at St. Benedict’s Prep School in New Jersey, where he compiled a 223-21 record.  He left St. Benedict’s for the head coaching job at Wagner, and after winning 23 games in his second season, he accepted the Rhode Island job.

Rhode Island has suffered a dip in talent recently, and Hurley is facing a rebuilding job.  However, he certainly has the pedigree to right the ship.

First Game

Rhode Island was beaten by Norfolk State 67-55 on Friday night.  The Rams were ice cold from the field, hitting just 15-of-53 (28.3%) of their shots.  In particular, Rhode Island got poor play from their backcourt.  Take a look at these shooting numbers…

Mike Powell: 1-of-4 from the field
Xavier Munford: 3-of-19 from the field, 2-of-10 from three-point range
Andre Malone: 3-of-11 from the field, 1-of-6 from three-point range

Is that a one-game problem, or a sign that Rhode Island just isn’t very good?  It’s tough to say.  The undersized Powell was only a 35% shooter last season.  Xavier Munford was a JUCO player the last two years after playing for the Hurley brothers at St. Benedict’s.  Andre Malone is a transfer from Auburn who didn’t see much action a year ago at Rhode Island.

The only saving grace for Rhode Island was forward Nikola Malesevic, who single-handedly kept Rhode Island in the game by scoring 26 points and grabbing 9 rebounds.

Overall, it wasn’t an impressive first game for the Rams, but it’s just one game.  It’s much too early to make a final judgment on any team right now.

Rhode Island Players

Mike Powell (5-11, 175, So.): Mike Powell started as a true freshman for Rhode Island last season.  He was the first true freshman to start at point for the Rams since Tyson Wheeler did it in 1994.

Xavier Munford (6-2, 180, Jr.): Munford has played at two junior colleges following a prep career for the Hurleys at St. Benedict’s.  He had a rough first game, but he made 90 three-pointers in 33 games at the JUCO level last  year, so he has to be considered an outside threat.

Andre Malone (6-6, 210, Sr.): Malone had 13 points for Rhode Island in the season opener against Norfolk State.  He played his first two years at Auburn before transferring to Rhode Island.

Nikola Malesevic (6-7, 200, Sr.): Malesevic is the only reason Rhode Island was in the game against Norfolk State.  He also scored a season-high 23 points against Virginia Tech last season, in a 78-67 Hokie win.  He is very dangerous from the outside.

Ryan Brooks (6-8, 220, Sr.): Brooks is Rhode Island’s biggest starter, but he’s never been much of an offensive threat.  This is a battle that Cadarian Raines should win without much of a problem.

The Rams played four bench players in the loss to Norfolk State…

Alwayne Bigby (6-5, 210, r-Sr.): 0 points, 1 rebound, 10 minutes
Jordan Hare (6-10, 205, Fr.): 0 points, 0 rebounds, 6 minutes
T.J. Buchanan (6-3, 195, So.) 0 points, 1 rebound, 12 minutes
Mike Aaman (6-8, 210, Fr.): 4 points, 4 rebounds, 11 minutes

Clearly that’s not much bench production.  4 points and 6 rebounds in 39 combined minutes is not going to get it done.

Hokies Have the Advantage

Virginia Tech might not have quite as many bodies as Rhode Island, but they do have better players.  Nikola Malesevic would start for the Hokies, but I don’t see anyone else in that starting five who would be able to beat out Tech’s starters.  The Tech bench is very much unproven, though Marshall Wood, Joey van Zegeren and Will Johnston were much more productive in their first game than the Rhode Island bench.

With a home game and an advantage in talent, the Hokies are the clear favorite in this game.  Las Vegas agrees, as Tech has been established as a 13.5 point favorite.

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