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Rhode Island Rams

by Andrew Force | February 25th, 2010

The tiniest American state runs out a sizable rotation of players.  Nine guys play important minutes for the Rams even though the same five have started every game for Rhode Island head coach Jim Baron.  The greatest contributions come from the upperclassman as Baron starts his only two seniors and three juniors.

Ordinarily the offensive identity gets broken down first, but Rhode Island gets much of its offense from the defense.  Discussion is in descending order of importance.

Defensive Identity

Personality sometimes reflects the environment in which a person lives.  Such generalizations are dangerous, though intriguing.  Baron, a Northeast resident since 1973, reflects the cold, unforgiving winters of upstate New York and Rhode Island.

The winds and waves off of the Atlantic Ocean batter rocky crags with unrelenting fierceness.  Coach Baron uniquely fits the North Atlantic environs by never backing off or letting up.  He demands perfection on every play and the Rams respond.

Setting up the full-court press has become second nature to the boys in baby blue.  After every made basket or stoppage in play, the guards jettison towards the opposing baseline prepared to fervently trap the corners and double the ball-handler.

Some teams can handle the pressure, while others cannot.   Dribbling through the weeds seems impossible.  An experienced, capable backcourt is needed to break the URI press. “Our press is effective; we just have to use it,” said springy forward Lamonte Ulmer.  “Use our potential to lock people down.”

Keith Cothran (1.69 spg), who defends the PG and forward Delroy James (1.7 spg) rank in the top ten of the Atlantic Ten in steals.

The Rams, however, allowed the sixth most conference defensive rebounds a year ago and still struggle to haul in the opponent’s errant shots. A new statistic emerging amongst Sports Information Directors (SID’s) is defensive rebounding percentage.  In essence, the number reveals how often the defense (the inside, closer team) comes down with the ball.  Rhode Island rests uncomfortably close to last in the conference in the category.  Ulmer (7.3 rpg) is the only good rebounder on the squad.

Offensive Identity

The URI offense has some wrinkles, but most points come amidst a scramble of bodies following a press-generated steal.  The fourth greatest URI thief of all-time, Cothran leads the Islanders in scoring (around 15.0 ppg).

The combo guard slashes well, often drawing contact.  Cothran demonstrates impressive body control amongst the trees as do his teammates James and Ulmer.  Not only do the three lead the Rams scoring attack, they also all raised their scoring averages from a year ago.

Baron runs a hierarchical system in which seniors bear the greatest responsibilities and earn the most shots.  The two seniors, Cothran and James, account for over a third of the team’s attempts.  Early in the games they try to develop the post by feeding center Will Martell.

He is nowhere near the kind of serious threat that requires opposing defenses to collapse.  Outside shooters do not get extra seconds as they would if a beast patrolled the paint.

Much of the offense is generated by the constricting defense in the backcourt. “We try to run and gun,” explained Ulmer.

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