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January 12, 2013

An insider's take on URI

A team's record only defines how many wins and losses they have accumulated throughout the season. When comparing the Charlotte 49ers and Rhode Island Rams on paper at first glimpse, many would probably assume that this will be an easy victory for the 49ers.

However, that's why the play the games. In his first year with the Rams, new head coach Dan Hurley has his team prepared every game. They are much improved and have almost matched last season's win total thru 14 games.

This will prove to be a big test for the 49ers. To get an idea of what improvements the Rams have shown on the court, NinerReport spoke with Cox Sports Atlantic 10 Insider Chris DiSano. DiSano lives in Rhode Island and used to live around the Charlotte area. He possesses a great deal of knowledge about college basketball, especially the Atlantic 10 and Rhode Island.

DiSano gave us an exclusive look into today's matchup between the 49ers and Rams.

NinerReport: What has been the biggest difference for Rhode Island this year with Dan Hurley as head coach?

Chris DiSano: Without question, the biggest difference is their defensive effort, intensity and energy. They might not always execute everything they'd like to in terms of rotation...but you can never ever question their effort. They play incredibly hard all game long and their defensive numbers have proven that. Last season they allowed teams to score more than 70 points in 22 [out of 31] games and more than 80 points in 11. This year in their first 14 games a team has cracked 70 against them once.

NR: As far as their offensive threats it seems like Xavier Munford is the go to guy on this team. Where could he pose problems for Charlotte defensively?

DiSano: Xavier Munford poses problems everywhere. He is an excellent, excellent player. He played for Dan Hurley in high school at Saint Benedict's. He would have gone to a solid Division One school if he had the academic profile but he didn't coming out so he went to Iowa Western Junior College. He was a First Team Division One Junior College All American last year. He essentially was one of the top five to seven junior college players in the country. He can score in multiple ways. He's the second leading scorer in the Atlantic 10. He can score off the bounce, he's extremely athletic, he can shoot the pull-up, he can shoot from long range. The biggest Achilles heel that Xavier Munford has right now is that he's really the only consistent threat on Rhode Island and everyone knows that. If there's a particular game where Nikola Malesevic or Andre Malone are shooting well then Munford is going to earn his points a little bit easier. But most games Rhode Island doesn't have any other consistent scoring threat so defensively you just want to make Munford work as much as you possibly can and take your chances on everyone else because they haven't proven consistently that they can beat you.

NR: Defensively, what would you expect Rhode Island to do against Charlotte?

DiSano: Normally Dan Hurley is much more of a man-to-man defensive coach. I would say Rhode Island plays man-to-man 85 to 90 percent of the time. But, Dan Hurley is also not foolish, the one thing that Rhode Island is not is they're not a very deep team. They only play about eight to nine guys. They only have nine scholarship players available. I would think that he might [give] a little bit more of a zone look at times. They'll probably switch it up. I can see them playing some 2-3 and kind of mixing that in.

NR: In their Atlantic 10 opener the Rams trailed Richmond by 10 at the half but wound up losing by three. In your view, what adjustments did they make to cut the deficit and make it a close game?

DiSano: If defense is the first difference under Rhode Island, and it is, the other major difference under Dan Hurley is the team does not fold. They do not quit. They were down 10 at the half but they actually fell behind by 16 with about seven minutes left. They were down 12 at the under four timeout, but they just continued to be relentless, they continued to defend and they do not throw the towel in. They were down 56-44 and Xavier Munford made two straight three's on back-to-back trips and the next thing you know they're down six and they actually cut it to one, 60-59, with under a minute to play. They actually had a chance to tie it late in the game. Munford elevated for a shot, he seemed to get fouled but it wasn't called. It could've gone either way. They didn't get the foul call and then Richmond was able to make a couple of free throws and kind of salt it away. They're relentless. They just continue to play hard. They'll continue to dig in defensively. They don't really turn teams over a ton, they just play very stout defense. They defend the three-point line well. They don't quit. I don't necessarily know that it was a ton of adjustments, I just think they made a few shots finally. They played a little better floor game in the second half. They didn't help Richmond out as much. I think they initiated their offense a little bit better.

NR: What problems do the 49ers potentially pose for the Rams?

DiSano: Basically Rhode Island has three interior players. They have Ryan Brooks, who is the senior. He's essentially in there for defense and doesn't do anything offensively. Mike Aaman, who is a freshman, [he plays well] in certain matchups, against Richmond he had 13 points and 12 rebounds in 20 minutes. There are other games where he'll have three points and four boards. He plays very hard. He's got a feel for the game. Jordan Hare is going to be a very good player in the Atlantic 10 but he's just too thin right now at 6-foot-10 [and] about 200 pounds. He's a good shot blocker but he obviously gets pushed on the blocks very easily. I don't think he's learned yet, because he's just a freshman, how to really use his quickness to his advantage against players that are bigger and more physical than he is. I think [if you're Charlotte] you go at the offensive glass incredibly hard because URI is not a good defensive rebounding team. They're the fourth poorest defensive rebounding team in the Atlantic 10 because they are so thin down low. They have a tough time ending possessions of other teams and they get a lot of second chance points against them and that's what I suspect Charlotte will do.

NR: What are your thoughts about Charlotte coming into this game and on what they've accomplished so far?

DiSano: I didn't think Charlotte would win the game against La Salle. I'm not saying I didn't think they could win it because they certainly were capable of winning it. But I certainly didn't think they'd win it in that fashion building a 16 point lead at the half. I think if you're a Charlotte fan you should be extremely proud of where they are. Yeah, their schedule is No. 215 in the country, but you can only beat who's on your schedule and to their credit they've taken care of business against just about every team on there and it's a really good start for them from an Atlantic 10 play perspective. I'd be really happy if I were a Charlotte fan. I still think that they're probably a year away from really starting to gain serious traction and they haven't been tested a ton. But, you got to like where they're at. They've got 13 wins and they had 13 wins the entire season last year. That ain't too bad.

NinerReport would like to thank Mr. DiSano for taking the time to chat with us.

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