Wednesday NYC Preview: Turmoil Surrounds Rutgers

January 13th, 2010

Included on Wednesday's area schedule are a pair of Big East games that the home teams can't afford to perform poorly in given the the pulse of the public. St. John's hosts Cincinnati in the first game of a doubleheader at Madison Square Garden, a game that many will watch because of the return of Brooklyn native Lance Stephenson. Stephenson had a few things to say in regards to why he chose Cincinnati instead of St. John's, but the Red Storm have more important things to worry about with their offensive efficiency being the chief concern.

D.J. Kennedy, Paris Horne and Dwight Hardy have played well on the perimeter but the issue has been the lack of a consistent interior scoring option. Justin Burrell missed time due to an ankle injury and while he's been in he hasn't scored as well as the Red Storm would like. Into his starting role steps Justin Brownlee, who's got the talent to be that guy up front. But converting talent into concrete production can be a tricky process; going up against a player the caliber of Yancy Gates will be a challenge in itself tonight. The Bearcats are talented with the likes of Stephenson, Gates and Deonta Vaughn leading the way but they can struggle offensively. Look for this to be a close, hard-fought game at the Garden. 

As for Rutgers, the natives are beyond restless in regards to the state of the basketball program. Fred Hill has come under fire over the programs' lack of success, especially when former player JR Inman implied that Hill told then-AD Bob Mulcahy that things would take off once "FIG" (Anthony Farmer, JR Inman and Jaron Griffin) was out of eligibility. Well, people are still waiting for tangible signs of improvement and finding out that Gregory Echenique left Rutgers for Creighton (via BlueJayCafe.com) certainly doesn't help. Inman had a lot more to get off of his chest via Facebook on Monday (to be fair he did clarify his statement).

You think about the building of the athletic department under AD Tim Pernetti, with additions being made to the football stadium and a massive project to improve the RAC likely undeway soon, and there's a definite need for more wins. Oh, they host Syracuse tonight in front of a sold-out crowd and the guess is that around a quarter of the fans in attendance will be cheering for the fifth-ranked Orange. A similar crowd breakdown occurred in last year's meeting at the RAC, one that took a turn for the worse for the Scarlet Knights when this play happened. But for the talent that left the SU program they've proven to be even better this year. 

Wesley Johnson has more than lived up to the preseason praise given to him by head coach Jim Boeheim and Kris Joseph has improved substantially with the increase in playing time. He's the one guy that gained the most in the departures of Eric Devendorf and Paul Harris, while Scoop Jardine used his redshirt year to get healthy and improve in both physical fitness and basketball skill. He pairs up with freshman Brandon Triche to give the Orange good play at the point. The key for Syracuse: the consistency of Arinze Onuaku. When he shows up ready to go they're among the favorites to win a national title. They're still very good when he ends up in foul trouble but a bit more beatable as a result. For Rutgers' sake they cannot allow this one to get out of hand; if so things could get downright nasty at the RAC.

The remainder of Wednesday's schedule:

7p Army at Holy Cross
The Black Knights have lost three of their last four and need a win to avoid falling too far behind in the race to host a game in March's Patriot League Tournament. The trio of Julian Simmons, Cleveland Richard and Josh Miller will have plenty of chances to score points; the Crusaders allow more than seventy-five points per game. Obviously Army won't want to get into a high-paced game but they'll have ample opportunities to put points on the board. 

9:30p Dayton vs. Fordham (at MSG)
The Rams take on Dayton in the second half of the college hoops doubleheader at the Garden. They've been competitive in both Atlantic 10 contests thus far and won't back down from the Flyers. But Brian Gregory's team has more talent, expecially when considering Chris Wright and Chris Johnson. If Fordham is to entertain any thoughts of pulling what would be a major upset Brenton Butler and Chris Gaston will have to put up big-time showings.  

Weekly Honors

America East: Stony Brook guard Bryan Dougher was named to the league's Honor Roll on Monday, scoring 26 points in the Seawolves' win over Hartford.

Big East: Seton Hall guard Jeremy Hazell was named to the league's Honor Roll due to averages of 23.0 points and 2.5 steals per game in a 1-1 week for the Pirates. 

Colonial: The CAA named Hofstra forward Halil Kanacevic Rookie of the Week on Monday due to his averages of 13.3 points and 9.0 rebounds per game in three games last week.

Ivy: The following area players were named to the Ivy League's Honor Roll on Monday: Columbia guard Norwua Agho (23.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg and 3.0 spg last week), Princeton guard Patrick Saunders (13.5 ppg last week, including 21 pts against Marist) and Yale forward Michael Sands (13.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg last week).

MAAC: Fairfield guard Derek Needham was once again named Rookie of the Week, averaging 17.3 points in a 2-1 week for the Stags. Siena's Edwin Ubiles was named Player of the Week.  

Northeast: A pair of area players were honored on Monday, with FDU's Sean Baptiste (22.0 ppg, 8.5 rpg in two games) being named Player of the Week and LIU's Kenny Onyechi (12.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.3 bpg in three games).