Preview: Rhode Island Rams

Addition of key transfers, freshmen have Rams hopeful success is near

Updated: September 30, 2013, 12:57 PM ET
By Jordan Brenner | ESPN Insider

Xavier Munford, Aaron Craft Bill Shettle/Icon SMIXavier Munford was one of the A-10's most prolific scorers last season, averaging 17.4 points.

2013-14 Atlantic 10 Projected Standings

1. VCU | 2. Saint Louis | 3. La Salle | 4. UMass | 5. St. Joe's | 6. Dayton | 7. George Washington | 8. Richmond | 9. Rhode Island | 10. George Mason | 11. St. Bonaventure | 12. Fordham | 13. Duquesne
Links to every conference


Rhode Island Rams

2012-13: 8-21 (3-13 A-10)
In-conference offense: 0.96 points per possession (14th)
In-conference defense: 1.08 points allowed per possession (13th)

Hopefully the rest of the Atlantic 10 enjoyed beating up on Rhode Island last season, because those days are quickly coming to an end.

Dan Hurley didn't take a long-term approach to rebuilding. With three key transfers joining the program, an impact freshman class on board and enough returnees to provide necessary continuity, year two of Hurley's tenure figures to be much brighter.

Projected starting lineup

Pos. Name Year
F
Jordan Hare
Soph.
F
Gilvydas Biruta
Jr.
G
E.C. Matthews
Fr.
G
Xavier Munford
Sr.
G
Mike Powell
Jr.

Even with all that is new, the lone senior, Xavier Munford, is still the team's key piece. In his first season at Rhode Island, the junior college transfer finished third in the conference with 17.4 points per game. A high-usage scorer, Munford was only held in single digits four times, and hit the 30-point mark twice. He can still improve, though, especially from long range: Despite taking 6.8 3-pointers per game, the 6-foot-2 guard only hit 34.3 percent of those shots.

Munford won't have to do it all alone this year, which hopefully should mean better shot selection. Gilvydas Biruta is the most significant addition. The 6-8, 245-pound forward sat out last season after transferring from Rutgers, where he averaged 9.7 PPG and 5.3 RPG as a sophomore. Now he'll be reunited with Hurley, his former coach at St. Benedict's Prep, and solidify a frontcourt that already features 6-10 Jordan Hare, who contributed 4.0 boards and 1.8 blocks per game as a freshman.

Two other transfers will help immediately. Sophomore guard Biggie Minnis arrives from Texas Tech, where he started five games as a freshman. He'll likely back up junior point guard Mike Powell, who played a team-leading 36.2 minutes per game last season. The third transfer, 6-6 Jarelle Reischel, should bolster the frontcourt, along with returning sophomore Mike Aaman.

Rhode Island fans are just as excited about a pair of freshmen. Shooting guard E.C. Matthews was a consensus top-100 recruit, and at 6-5 is built to attack the basket. Hassan Martin, a 6-7 forward, uses his length and athleticism well around the rim. Together they symbolize a program that is ready to step up in class under Hurley. That doesn't mean the Rams can handle VCU or St. Louis yet, but bank on more wins this season and again in the years to come.

Projected 2013-14 conference finish: 9th

Jordan Brenner | email

ESPN The Magazine contributing writer
Brenner writes for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN Insider. He covers the NBA and college basketball.

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