A Post-Deadline Look at the Big East: Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Last year Rutgers hired Robert Morris Coach Mike Rice. Rice took over a team that finished with a 5-13 record in the Big East and managed to lead this year's team to a 5-13 record. So, year one wasn't much of an improvement over the Fred Hill era. In fact, the team finished with identical 15-17 overall records both years. Obviously it's far too early to make any judgments on Mike Rice; Rutgers fans will hope that their youth movement can make a difference and help them emerge from the cellar of the the Big East.

What can the Scarlet Knights expect in year two of Mike Rice?

Key Loses:

Graduating: Jonathan Mitchell (14.4pts, 5.6rbds), James Beatty (8.8pts, 3.1asts, 2.9rbds), Mike Coburn (8.8pts, 4.0asts,1.9rbds), Robert Lumpkins (3.5pts, 1.5rbds)

Early Entry: None

Transferring: None

Injury: Tyree Graham (Sat out last year with ACL injury. This offseason tore his Achillies will most likely miss season again)

Key Returns:

Seniors: None

Juniors: Dane Miller (9.1pts, 6.1rbds, 2.6asts), Austin Johnson (4.5pts, 2.4rbds)

Sophomores:  Gilvydas Biruta (9.6pts, 5.6rbds), Mike Poole (5.6pts, 3.3rbds), Austin Carroll (2.7pts, 0.7rbds)

Incoming Recruits

Myles Mack 5'10" PG 82 Scout, 112 Rivals, 62 ESPN

Kadeem Jack 6'8" PF Post Grad so NR but a 4 star recruit

Jerome Seagers 6'2" PG  89 Scout, 101 Rivals, NR ESPN

Elijah Carter 6'2" PG NR Scout, 114 Rivals, NR ESPN

Derick Randall 6'8" PF NR

Greg Lewis 6'8" C NR Scout, 139 Rivals, NR ESPN

Malick Kone 6'6" SF NR

 

Rutgers loses quite a bit off of last year's team. They lose their leading scorer and team leader in Jonathan Mitchell. They also lose their two leading assist men who were their 4th and 5th leading scorers as well. Overall Rutgers will be missing:

  • 55.3 percent of their scoring
  • 40.2 percent of their rebounding
  • 57.9 percent of their assists
  • 52.5 percent of their steals
  • 37.5 percent of their blocks

Only two starters remain in Biruta and Miller. Biruta was a surprisingly productive freshman. He's an extremely solid big man with nice post moves. Miller is a well rounded SF who the team will look to for veteran leadership. The Scarlet Knights also return guard Austin Carroll, small forward Mike Poole and center Austin Johnson. Those three will likely still come off the bench as Mike Rice is expected to fill out the starting line up with his big freshman class.

When it first began to get pieced together this class was universally praised. Since then, it has lost a bit of it's luster. It's certainly a good class by Rutgers standards, but it's rated 6th in the Big East by most sites and doesn't contain a single top 50 players and only two top 100 prospects, and that's only according to Scout. Fred Hill's 2008 class was much better with two top 50 players in Mike Rosario and Greg Echinique (who both transferred out of the program). That all being said, there are a lot of nice pieces in this class which Rutgers desperately needs to be productive as they only return 5 productive players from last years squad.

  • Myles Mack an improving point guard. He's generously listed at 5'10 but he sure can shoot. His size will be a problem in the rough and tumble Big East. He's still more of a shooter than a distributor. Game wise would be better off as a two, but barely has the size to play point guard let alone shooting guard. Still his shooting talent is undeniable so he's sure to get time for the Knights and very well may start. 
  • Kadeem Jack is athletic and physically gifted. However the major knock against Jack is his lack of motor. Is a good shot blocker, but is not the rebounder he should be with his physical assets. Basically he should be more productive than he is. More of a face up four man than a back to the basket player. Could slide in nicely next to Biruta.
  • Elijah Carter: Another non-true point guard. Carter at least has the benefit of a couple inches allowing him to possibly slide over and play the two. Needs to work on his decision making to become a better point guard. On the other hand he's not near the shooter that Mack is. He's a good athlete and does best with the ball in his hands and attacking the rim
  • Jerome Seagers is the third point guard in this clas and like the other two the main knock against him is the need to develop better decision making skills. He's athletic and a good shooter with a tight handle. Might be the best point guard out of the three. I expect him and Mack to get the nod at the one and two perhaps with Mack playing off the ball on offense but covering the opposing point on defense. 
  • Derrick Randall is a grinder he loves to rebound in traffic and finish with dunks, but he doesn't currently posses a refined offensive game with his back to the basket or in the mid-range. Right now provides post defense and five fouls
  • Greg Lewis is a long post player. He's mostly a project with a high upside. He currently poses a decent back to the basket game but is a bit stiff and needs to add strength in order to compete in the post in the Big East.
  • Malick Kone is a solid athlete and a good defender. He lacks perimeter skills offensively, but he is a solid hustle and glue guy.

Rutgers fans are extremely optimistic about Rice and this recruiting class. I think it would be wise for them to temper expectations for both of them. I am by no means saying that this class or Rice can't succeed at Rutgers simply that it will not happen over night. Rutgers needs to consistently finish in the middle of the pack of the Big East before it can start talking about becoming a force in the Big East. With the coaching staff and the majority of the players on the team being unknowns, it's hard to predict anything but more of the same for Rutgers until they prove differently. Rutgers will be extremely young next year and will be lacking in upperclassmen leadership. Rutgers will finish some where between 11th and 14th in the Big East next year, but I do not expect a real step forward from Rutgers. There's too much inexperience on this roster and unless the coaching staff or the recruiting class prove to be exceptional there's just not enough talent to rise too far up in the Big East.

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