NYC Weekend Preview: Can Rutgers Regroup?

January 23rd, 2010

Wednesday's loss at the hands of Villanova has to make you wonder about the direction in which Fred Hill's program is headed and not because of the result. The Wildcats aren't going to lose many this season, but to go down in the fashion that the Scarlet Knights did was embarrassing. In regards to who played hard throughout, who else can you point out besides Hamady Ndiaye and Dane Miller? Jonathan Mitchell? Before getting into the importance of Rutgers moving forward it's important to revisit Wednesday's happenings in order to determine the ultimate destination. 

Ndiaye was near tears in the locker room following the game and Miller wasn't too happy either. Just as you can tell whether or not a team is playing well, body language can tell a harsh truth in regards to how committed guys are to competing. Some players looked defeated on the floor as the game progressed, as if they saw little point in going down fighting. You can't go out like that on two levels: the Big East will bury you if you choose to lie down and simple pride as an athlete/person. With DePaul beating Marquette the Scarlet Knights are the lone team without a conference win and who can they truly point to as an opponent they should beat?

The fans aren't happy, having booed Fred Hill in pregame introductions in two straight home games, and you really can't blame them for wanting/expecting a competitive team at some point. Add to this the fundraising project that AD Tim Pernetti is starting up to get funds for renovations to the RAC and it would be safe to say that Coach Hill needs to rack up the wins and in quick fashion. Is there any way a change is made mid-season? Unlikely given how far along in the season we are but you never know. Saturday's challenge is Georgetown on the road, and with the Hoyas coming off of a huge win at Pittsburgh maybe RU can sneak up on Greg Monroe and company.

Then again, given the amount of talent that the Hoyas have and their offensive system this could get out of hand. And expect them to pay an awful lot of attention to Mike Rosario defensively as well, with head coach John Thompson III remarking during the Big East Coaches Teleconference on Thursday that you don't want to be the one that Mike snaps out of his slump against. According to the Newark Star-Ledger's Brendan Prunty, Rosario has made just twenty shots in six Big East games. Not going to get it done.

But with the improved play of Miller and Ndiaye, maybe Rutgers should take a page out of Seton Hall's playbook. Jeremy Hazell was more efficient against Louisville on Thursday...and they won with all five starters scoring in double figures. While one man's "bad shot" can be another's "good look" depending there is a difference between taking contested shots and forcing contested shots, a line that's been blurred for the sophomore seemingly since he played his first game as a Scarlet Knight. Is he the only problem? Definitely not. But the best place to start with the improvements has to be with your most talented player. The remainder of Rutgers' season depends on it.

Saturday's Schedule

Noon ESPN Villanova at St. John's
Noon CBSC Army at Navy
Noon Hofstra at Drexel 
1p Temple at Fordham
3:30p Bryant at Sacred Heart 
4p Robert Morris at Monmouth
4p Chicago St at NJIT
4:30p Wagner at St. Francis (NY)
4:30p Mount St. Mary's at LIU
7p Cornell at Columbia
7:30p Saint Francis (PA) at FDU
7:30p Loyola (MD) at Marist 

Game of the Day: Villanova at St. John's
The Red Storm are definitely going to have their hands full with the Wildcats, who boast one of the nation's best backcourts. Senior guard Scottie Reynolds leads the way for Villanova and it's his feel for the game that makes him so good. He didn't force the issue at Rutgers, attempting just seven shots while drawing the defense away from his teammates so they could make plays themselves. "When you're as talented as he is sometimes it seems like the game slows down to you," said Coach Roberts in Thursday's teleconference. If St. John's is to win they're going to have to win the battle up front. 

"They really do a great job of getting to the glass... and they do all the garbage stuff," said Coach Roberts on the four bigs that Coach Wright relies upon in Isaiah Armwood, Taylor King, Antonio Pena and Mouphtaou Yarou. Of the four King is the one they use in "pick and pop" situations while the others are expected to roll to the basket for inside looks. The Red Storm, if Justin Burrell, Justin Brownlee (Brownlee won't play today due to the death of his grandfather) and Sean Evans can make some things happen on the glass, have the ability to hang around with the Wildcats.

The question: will they be able to get a basket when needed down the stretch? In addition to Reynolds the Wildcats have Corey Fisher, Maalik Wayns and Reggie Redding, and that's just three more of the many options that Coach Wright can turn to. D.J. Kennedy, Paris Horne and Dwight Hardy will have to come through offensively in order for the upset possibility to become a reality.  

Sunday's Schedule

Noon Albany at Stony Brook
2p Pittsburgh at Seton Hall
2p Saint Peter's at Canisius
2p Siena at Manhattan
3p Goucher at Princeton
3:30p Fairfield at Iona
4p Rider at Niagara  

Game of the Day: Pittsburgh at Seton Hall

This one edges out the important MAAC matchup between Fairfield and Iona, but the Pirates will have their hands full with a very good Panther squad. Pitt relies on senior Jermaine Dixon for senior leadership and a number of players for perimeter scoring. Ashton Gibbs, who attended Seton Hall Prep, is among the best perimeter shooters in the Big East and Gilbert Brown and Brad Wanamaker can also get some things done offensively.

The key for Seton Hall: duplicate Thursday's performance in regards to their efficiency on the offensive end of the floor. The Panthers play physical defense and will make things tough for Jeremy Hazell on the perimeter. If he's patient and his teammates can get going early the game will open up for him as well. Don't be surprised if Seton Hall pulls off the upset, so long as Herb Pope stays out of foul trouble. 

Could there be an AD change at Seton Hall? According to Jerry Carino of Gannett New Jersey Joe Quinlan is on his way out at the end of the school year. Quinlan and head basketball coach Bobby Gonzalez famously butted heads at times during their tenure in South Orange, and the (reportedly) pending split could be best described as a mutual parting of ways.