Nov 14, 2011; Storrs, CT, USA; Wagner Seahawks head coach Dan Hurley watches from the sideline as they take on the Connecticut Huskies in the first half at Gampel Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-US PRESSWIRE

Rhode Island Rams Basketball Season Preview

The college hoops season is right around the corner, and Busting Brackets is here to whet your basketball-starved appetite. Over the next five weeks, we are publishing season previews team by team, conference by conference, to offer a glimpse into the upcoming season. Busting Brackets is giving you the lowdown on the biggest storylines, offseason changes and x-factors for each team and each league as we roll into the 2012-13 season. Our complete season preview archive can be accessed here. Buckle up, peeps.

  Rhode Island Rams

Last Season 7-24 (4-12 A-10)
Did not qualify for A-10 tournament
No postseason
Key Returning Players: Nikola Malesevic, F
Andre Malone, G
Mike Powell, G
Key Additions: Dan Hurley, Head Coach
Jordan Hare, PF (Arthur Hill HS)
Mike Aaman, F (Raritan HS)
Key Losses: Jamal Wilson, G (Dismissed from team last December)
Billy Baron, G (Transferred to Canisius)
Orion Outerbridge, F
Jonathan Holton, F (Suspended from team)
Dominique McKoy, F (Transfer)
Rayvon Harris, G (Transferred to Niagra)
Blake Vedder, C (Transfer)
Top Non-Conference Games: Nov. 12 @ Virginia Tech
Nov. 17 vs. Ohio State (Hall of Fame Tipoff Classic)
Nov. 18 vs. Seton Hall or Washington (Tipoff  Classic)
Nov. 25 @ Auburn
Nov. 28 vs. George Mason
Dec. 6 @ Providence
Dec. 27 @ Saint Mary’s
Top Conference Games: Jan. 10 @ Saint Louis
Jan. 30 vs. VCU
Feb. 2 @ Butler
Feb. 20 vs. Xavier
Mar. 9 vs. UMass
Breakout Player: Mike Powell. Powell is the closest thing to a breakout caliber player on the Rams roster. Bereft of high-end talent, URI will lean on the sophomore guard to stabilize the backcourt what with the losses of starters Billy Baron and Jamal Wilson. Powell saw an uptick in playing time as a freshman once Wilson was dismissed from the team last December. He’ll play a more prominent role in 2012-13, asked to lead Rhode Island’s backcourt in search of playmakers. The Rams point guard is an underrated talent in a conference rife with quality backcourt players. At URI, where depth is nonexistent, Powell most certainly will not get lost in the shuffle.
X-Factor: Dan Hurley. The former Wagner head coach arrives at Rhode Island with intentions of resurrecting a fallen Rams basketball program. Don’t be surprised if results come sooner than expected. Hurley has already notched commitments from Rutgers transfer Gil Biruta, Rice forward Jarelle Reischel and Texas Tech guard DeShon Minnis (all three will be eligible beginning in 2013-14). He also brings with him former Wagner pledge Mike Aaman, and has notched a commitment from covered 4-star guard E.C. Matthews, a class of 2013 gem Hurley plucked out of Michigan. There’s not enough talent on board yet for Hurley to make a substantial difference as early as next season, but expect the Rams to begin turning the corner the following year. Recruiting is the lifeblood of college basketball, and Hurley is sure to revamp the pipeline of talent ticketed for URI.
Best Case: Powell excels in a breakout sophomore season. Forward Nikola Malesevic harnesses his shot selection and becomes a more efficient perimeter threat. The addition of Hurley brings a new moxie and attitude to the Rams that changes the culture immediately. The players buy into their new head coach and make up what they lack in skill with grit, hustle and effort. Rhode Island, devoid of depth and talent, avoids the conference cellar. Upset wins at home over Xavier and UMass render the season extra special. Rhode Island celebrates a 15th place league finish—the only such team in college basketball in a position to do so.
Worst Case: It doesn’t get much worse than last place, which appears to be where URI is headed even if everything doesn’t go wrong. If Powell doesn’t adjust to an expanded role, Malesevic continues to take ill-advised shots and neither of the freshmen offer much needed contributions off the bench, the Rams will be in for a headache of a season—one not even their new head coach can assuage.
Projected Finish: 6-23 (2-14 Atlantic-10)
Lose in first round of A-10 tournament

Tags: Basketball Rhode Island Rams

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