Thanks to Jon at Bleed Scarlet for answering a quintet of questions on the Scarlet Knight game before the matchup with St. John's tomorrow evening.
Make sure to check out the pregame notes on Johnny Jungle later this evening.
1 - Obviously, Rutgers is having another tough year, and the media and fans are talking as if Coach Fred Hill is not long for the head coaching position. Is the change going to happen, in your estimation? Should it happen?
2 - What do the Scarlet Knights do well on the court? What do they do poorly? What will they do the night they get their first Big East win?
The new athletic director Tim Pernetti seemed absolutely committed to giving Hill every chance to succeed. Earlier in the season, when they were playing better, Pernetti announced ambitious new facilities upgrades to the RAC specifically to give Fred a shot in the arm. With Hill having a hefty buyout, the school absolutely didn't want to pay it if at all possible. The events of the past month have pretty much ensured that Hill's a goner though. As much money as they lose from paying the buyout, they'll lose even more by failing to act. It's a situation where there aren't any good options available.
Hill absolutely needs to be fired. He's a historically terrible coach, can't develop players, and his one strength in recruiting isn't effective any more now that he's a lame duck.
I bet you didn't expect this question to be moot before I had a chance to answer. I had pegged Notre Dame and Kyle McAlarney as completely fraudulent last year, but the win was still a surprise given how everyone has completely mailed it in in recent weeks.
Hamady N'Diaye is one of the best shot blockers in the country, freshman wing Dane Miller is one of the best kept secrets in the Big East, Miller has been steadily making progress even with the program in shambles around him, and I'm happy to see him earning a bigger role. James Beatty finally gives them a legit flood general, and Mike Rosario is a dangerous scorer when motivated. Honestly, the roster isn't half bad at all, even without Greg Echenique. The problem this year hasn't been raw talent.
It's that Fred Hill is overmatched in all facets. Rosario is sulking with the team in a slump, and feels the pressure to take too many bad shots. Hill is still in love with Mike Coburn at the point, even though he's a turnover machine. Minus Echenique, there's no depth in the frontcourt. They're absolutely toast if and when N'Diaye gets into foul trouble. Jon Mitchell is a decent 3 who's badly overmatched at the 4. Oh, and they can't make free throws to save their lives and get killed on the boards without a legit second big man. Add in sloppy play, and losing all confidence over the past month and that's how they were winless in Big East play. The schedule's hard, but not every game is against Nova or Cuse.
3 - Please give us a run down of the Scarlet Knights' best players; or if you can, a rundown of the roster by bigs, wings, and guards.
C: Hamady N'Diaye, Brian Okam. N'Diaye has finally come into his own, and could be a weapon on any team. The knock on him was always that he was so raw. I thought Okam would be the project of all projects, and while he needs work, he's an interesting shot blocker in his own right to keep an eye on.
PF: Jon Mitchell, Austin Johnson. Mitchell is a decent 3 who's playing out of position. He's a transfer from Florida who came back to the metro area for more playing time. Johnson's just a freshman who's being pressed into action early out of necessity.
SF: Dane Miller, Pat Jackson. Miller has everyone excited, because he's like a J.R. Inman who actually cares. When he was a freshman, it looked like Inman was going to be huge, but he never improved under Hill. he was always so lethargic on the court though, and that's not the case here. Jackson could/should be a decent reserve, but Hill's never handled similar players well in the past, and has again overreacted by cutting his minutes too much.
SG: Mike Rosario. Rosario is essentially a streaky volume shooter. He could absolutely be the dangerous lead scorer on a tourney team, but he's not nearly as good a shooter as Quincy Douby was. The combination of not having a true compliment like Echenique puts way too much on his shoulders, and the coaching staff has failed in trying to improve his shot selection and getting other players involved in the offense. It's ugly, ugly basketball.
PG: James Beatty, Mike Coburn. Beatty's the first real point that Hill has ever had. Can score a bit too, ala Jerome Coleman back in the day. Yet, Hill and staff continue to show favoritism towards Coburn, who's really just an undersized 2. He's an ok third guard though.
4 - So what's gone wrong with the Rutgers' program, from the Gary Waters days until now? What does the program need? Is just just a coach? Is the overhaul of the RAC needed?
The core issues go back a lot further than that. What's evident with both basketball and the football program until recent years is that Rutgers University never truly make competitive athletics a top priority, the athletic department poorly managed in nearly all facets. Anyone can make a bad hire here and there, but that kind of Sisyphean futility takes a special brand of incompetence. Pernetti's a sharp dude, on the ball with a lot of interesting stuff right now. I think everything's finally in capable of hands, and the athletic department is turning the corner in a good way.
Waters was ultimately a mediocre coach, and contrary to what J.R. Inman said, not a very good person either (which I can't really elaborate on, but I consider him worse than Bannon). He was a terrible recruiter, who only lucked into Quincy Douby because your own Mike Jarvis was a goddamned idiot. It's not that Rutgers fans were frustrated because he wouldn't sign local All Americans; Waters literally bombed with every other class, which left gaping holes on the roster. He did beat some good teams at home, but that can be attributed to Douby and the RAC's freaky powers. There were just as many baffling losses though, and he couldn't win on the road to save his life.
GW blew two real chances at a tournament bid, and if he had managed to get even one, he'd still have a job. There's no excuse for a school like Rutgers or St. John's to be satisfied with mediocrity with all the obvious available resources available to each program. Fred Hill subsequently crashing and burning in no way vindicates Waters in retrospect. He needed to go; Hill was just a bad choice as a replacement.
Rutgers needs to replace Hill ASAP, and Eddie Jordan, Fran McCaffery, Jim Baron, Jim Christian, and anyone else with ties to the metro NYC area would be a good place to start as his replacement. The facilities are absolutely an issue, and need to be addressed, but I think that only really matters on the margins. Crappy locker rooms are no excuse for getting blown out every game. Maybe you can't win the Big East at Rutgers right now, but you can do a lot better than bottom feeding. Plans are already in the works for extensive renovations, but right now fundraising is a concern. That's a specialty of the new athletic director, but it could take a while to get everything off the ground. He's done a bangup job with football though, with the football stadium expansion a big success financed entirely through a bond tied to ticket sales.
5 - And what about this whole moving to the Big Ten thing? Could that happen as well?
The finances at play pretty much force the school's hand. I hate the Big Ten and don't think it's a very good football conference, but somehow they still get as much money as the SEC does for their football package. Ultimately, football and money are what's driving everything. In a perfect world, I'd like to see the Big East split along football and non-football lines, and see Big East football thrive. The money is so staggering though that it's too overwhelming to ignore.
As despondent as everyone is about basketball right now, and determined to build a winner, Rutgers is still overwhelmingly a football school. There's a ton of fans throughout the NYC area with no ties at all to the school, who just want to win at football and don't give a damn about hoops. Big Ten basketball is a considerable downgrade (consider what a grinder the BE is, maybe not necessarily a bad thing), and a lot of the best local players probably wouldn't want to play there.
There are those, and plenty of other downsides to a jump, but they're far trumped by the money at stake here. Rutgers is an athletic department that's been perpetually troubled in that regard. With the Big Ten's wholly unwarranted cash, they'd be able to finally put those longstanding worries to rest, make it into the black for all sports, and finally do things like upgrade the RAC and even funnel some revenue into the academic side. For that reason, the administration's hands are tied. As crummy and soulless as it may be, they don't have a choice but to pursue the Big Ten. If the Big Ten cartel wants to push football in the New York City area, they'll have a willing partner.