Tonight's Rutgers game ends a long season for the Red Storm, and a long season for the Scarlet Knights. Both teams show the inconsistencies of basketball youth, winning games that surprise observers, and losing games that make their fans cringe.
If you've watched the Scarlet Knights, you know that both the team and head coach Mike Rice are trying to find their way. To delve deeper into the Knights, Dave from On the Banks has responded to a few questions about the team. I did answers for him as well, and will link here when they are posted.
For comments on Rutgers' youth, their big man impact, the unsettled guard situation and more, read below.
1 - Rutgers has wins over an impressive list of Big East teams, including likely tournament participants Cincinnati, Florida, Notre Dame, and Seton Hall. And they have 16 losses. what's the source of Rutgers' inconsistency this year? Is it the turnovers/ turnover-dependency of the team? An inability to score? What else?
It's youth. Basically, that's what it comes down to. They haven't learned how to battle through the things that happen in a game. Sometimes the offense goes away for a five minute stretch.
Can you bear down on defense and get the stops and get some easy baskets to get back in the flow? When a team goes on a run, how do you stop it? Can you get to the free throw line? Freshman stuff. There are no seniors on this team.
Until they go through the Big East battle at least once, they're going to be inconsistent. When the team has won, they have figured out answers to the questions above. When they've lost, they haven't. They've just folded.
2 - Which of the newcomers has become most pivotal to Rutgers' success? Which of the returning players has?
Dane Miller, junior, is the player that makes the team go. When the team is at it's best, he's taking over the offense and getting easy baskets. When the team has floundered, he's kind of disappeared. Meanwhile, the trio of freshman guards have gotten on fire. Eli Carter has been the most consistent scorer, but both Myles Mack and Jerome Seagears have played important roles in RU wins this year.
3 - What's the thing Rutgers has to do to be successful in a game?
Run the offense. They have to pass the ball, not play street ball and take smart shots. They switch defenses, and use their speed to create turnovers.
4 - How has the big man rotation come along? Can they abuse a small front line, like, say, St. John's?
Rutgers is starting to learn to feed their big men. Gilvydas Biruta is finding his feet again after a strange season. Kadeem Jack is starting to come back strong and play solid defense and Derrick Randall is showing flashes of the potential to be a really solid Big East Big man.
5 - Is the guard situation settled, with Jerome Segears as the lead guard and Eli Carter as the two, Myles Mack backing up off the bench?
No. Myles Mack has found his way back into the starting line-up. Rutgers is trying to find offense, especially at the beginnings of games. So the three guard line-up is now a go.
6 - Your impressions of Mike Poole and Dane Miller, please.
I only do impressions on video. (Okay, that was really lame.) Dane Miller got profiled above. He's finding consistency and starting to really become a leader. Mike Poole has to get a bit bigger, but he's a solid defender and is finding a knack for the mid range floater. He wants to be the hero, and sometimes that forces him into bad shots, but he's really improved since last year. A solid role player.
7 - How has Mike Rice done with his young charges? What changes next year, and what has to happen for Rutgers to contend for an NCAA spot?
Rice, like the young players, has had his ups and downs this year. He's toned down the anger and is much, much calmer on the sidelines. Apparently this is because he felt the freshmen were tuning him out. Next year, the biggest change is Wally Judge becomes eligible next year. He's a solid player, former McDonald's All American. If he can come in and play well, that changes the entire team. That and a year of maturity could push RU over the hump. More likely, though, is an NIT appearance.