Previewing Rhode Island

When UNC recorded a Top 25 win at Madison Square Garden four months ago, no one thought they'd be back in March. But the Tar Heels return to the famed NYC venue Tuesday night for the NIT semifinal against Rhode Island. The game will tip-off at approximately 9:35pm on ESPN2.

North Carolina (19-16) vs. Rhode Island (26-9)
New York, N.Y. -- Madison Square Garden,
9:15 p.m. (ET) -- ESPN2 (Ron Franklin, Fran Fraschilla, Bill Raftery)


"There's nothing else you could ask for. Of course you wish for the NCAA Tournament, but that's over now. We're still doing what we love to do. We're still playing basketball in a very, very good tournament that a lot of teams would want to be playing in. We're one of a very select group of teams still playing college basketball and that's what we live for." – Rhode Island forward Delroy James

"Never in a million years would I have thought I would get the chance to play against them. It's been such a blessing and it's just amazing. Words can't even describe it. After we beat Virginia Tech and the matchup was set, I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming… We get to play North Carolina at Madison Square Garden. I don't know which one is better. Playing them or playing at the Garden. We just get the best of both worlds." – Rhode Island freshman guard and former Tar Heel ball boy Akeem Richmond


Season to Date: Rhode Island enters Tuesday night's contest with a 26-9 (9-7 A10) record. The Rams registered several impressive nonconference wins during the regular season, topping Providence at home (86-82), Boston College on the road (80-69) and Oklahoma State (63-59) in Connecticut.

Road to the NIT Final Four: The second-seeded Rams defeated No. 7 seed Northwestern, 76-64, in first round action on Mar. 17. Head coach Jim Baron's squad then topped No. 6 seed Nevada at home, 85-83, before traveling to Blacksburg, Va. two days later to upset No. 1 seed Virginia Tech, 79-72, on Mar. 24.

Postseason Accolades: Senior guard Keith Cothran and junior forward Delroy James were named to the 2009-10 All-Atlantic 10 Third Team, while guard Akeem Richmond was selected to the conference's All-Rookie team. Junior center Will Martell was honored for his work in the classroom with a spot on the All-Academic team.

Veterans Leading the Way: Rhode Island starts five upperclassmen – two seniors and three juniors – and a trio of that group have provided a balanced attack for the Rams this season. Cothran leads the team with 15.0 points per game, and also ranks third in A-10 in steals (1.8), while James is adding 12.8 points along with 5.3 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.1 blocks per outing. Senior forward Lamonte Ulmer is also contributing 11.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per contest. James in particular has stepped up during the postseason, averaging 21.3 points per game in the NIT.

Local Flavor: Sanford, N.C. native Akeem Richmond knows the Tar Heels better than most college basketball players. The former Southern Lee High School standount served as a ball boy at the Dean E. Smith Center as a 6th-grader in 2003, but despite a senior season in which he averaged 29.2 points per game and finished as the No. 2 prep scorer in the state's history, UNC did not recruit the 6-foot-1, 180-pounder. Richmond has excelled off the bench in his first year at Rhode Island, averaging 8.9 points per game. His 81 3-pointers are a school record and makes him just the third freshman in Atlantic 10 history to connect on at least 80 treys in a single season. Richmond ranks 4th among all freshmen nationally in 3-pointers made and also stands 20th in 3-point field goal percentage among all freshmen (.399).

Strength in Turnovers (or Lack Thereof) The Rams fully understand the value of protecting the ball. Rhode Island currently ranks 5th nationally in turnover margin (+4.7), 11th in turnovers per game (10.7) and 13th in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.38:1). In the NIT second round victory over Nevada, URI committed a season-low two turnovers – the lowest single-game turnover total in program history and an achievement that has only happened 23 times nationally since the 1996-97 season. The Rams have committed fewer than 10 turnovers in 14 games this season - also the best mark in program history.

One Small Problem... Rhode Island is allowing its opponents to shoot 46.9 percent from the floor this season -- good for 318th nationally.

Last Meeting: North Carolina defeated Rhode Island, 112-67, in the second round of the 1993 NCAA Tournament East Regional in Winston-Salem, N.C. The 45-point margin of victory is the largest in UNC's 141-game NCAA Tournament history.

Series History: The Rams lead the all-time series with the Tar Heels, 2-1.

Projected Starters:
5 Marquis Jones (6-1, 200, Jr.) – 5.7 ppg, 4.0 apg
22 Keith Cothran (6-4, 195, Sr.) – 14.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg
15 Lamonte Ulmer (6-6, 215, Sr.) – 11.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg
21 Delroy James (6-8, 220, Jr.) – 13.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg
32 Will Martell (7-0, 245, Jr.) – 7.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg

Top Reserves:
10 Akeem Richmond (6-1, 180, Fr.) – 8.9 ppg
12 Orion Outerbridge (6-9, 210, So.) – 6.1 ppg, 3.0 rpg
1 Stevie Mejia (5-9, 175, So.) – 3.6 ppg, 3.6 apg

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