By Jon Rothstein
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There is no tangible proof that Rhode Island will live up to the palpable hype they’ve received heading into next season —but the Ramscertainly look like a team that has all the requisites to compete with anyone in the Atlantic 10. Danny Hurley has done a tremendous job upgrading the Rhode Island roster, and now has a legitimate 10-man rotation that will attempt to turn around the second Division One program Hurley has coached in his career. Hurley took over Wagner in 2010 after the Seahawks won just six games, and led them to a 25 win season two years later before leaving for his current post.
2. BLUE CHIP
After watching E.C. Matthews in person, you can see why he was courted by so many BCS schools before ultimately choosing Rhode Island. The 6-5 lefty is a big time talent that can score at the rim or from behind the three-point line. Look for Matthews to have the same type of impact as a freshman that Semaj Christon had last season for Xavier. Pencil this southpaw in for 10-13 PPG — he’s that good.
3. BIRUTA’S BALANCE
Gilvydas Biruta is no longer just a bruiser who likes to mix it up in the paint. The Rutgers transfer has refined his outside shot while red shirting last season, and has all the makings of a legitimate inside-outside threat at power forward. Don’t be shocked if Biruta makes in excess of 25 three-pointers during the upcoming year.
4. BIGGIE CAN BALL
Every winning team needs a glue guy, and that’s what the Rams have with DeShon “Biggie” Minnis. The 6-3, 185 pound point guard sat out last season after transferring from Texas Tech, and should immediately impact Rhode Island with his intangibles. The most underrated thing about Minnis? His defensive upside. The broad shouldered Philadelphia native could turn into a lethal on-ball defender.
5. THREE-HEADED MONSTER
The biggest X-Factor to Rhode Island’s 2013-14 season? The type of production they get from the center position. Hurley will likely rotate three different players — Jordan Hare, Mike Aaman, and Ifeanyi Onyekaba at the “5” spot with Hare likely getting the starting nod due to his experience. The broad shouldered Onyekaba could be an interesting piece to watch. At 6-8 and 240 pounds, the Nigerian native has the makings of a valuable piece due to his overall girth.
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