No one ever said the Scarlet Knights weren't talented.
That's precisely the issue. The Rutgers roster is full of prep stars who haven't lived up to their collective expectations. Cite whatever excuses this year that you want; no Echenique, or an inexperienced roster (ranked 255th by KenPom) that's improving, it doesn't change Fred Hill being overmatched in all facets as a head coach. Was there any doubt whatsoever last night that the Knights would pack it in after a decent first half? After all, it's exactly what they did against Florida. Not to discredit last night's valiant effort, but don't let that illusion blind you with unfounded optimism. We've seen these teases far too many times over the years to put any stock in them at this point. I won't be taken for a fool any longer.
Hill's critics, myself chief among them, have to acknowledge that Rutgers is indeed far improved off last year. Hamady N'Diaye finally emerging has been a pleasant surprise, making the prospect of his graduating after the year even more disconcerting. However, the Scarlet Knights are still by no means where they should be in year four in Hill's tenure, and not quite being as pitiful as expected in one loss does not qualify as progress. They've still won only a handful of Big East games in his tenure, and time and patience is wearing thin.
Rutgers still lost to UNC, and by a considerable margin. RU lost to an awful Vermont team, and even though their record is 9-3, the rest of those victories have come against OOC dregs, even if that's better than the multiple losses of that sort last year. UNC isn't even having the best year by their standards, and the game is counterbalanced by all of the wins coming by rather thin margins. Forget UNC or the Big East; Rutgers can't even put away MEAC teams. Team fundamentals are still atrocious, no one can hit simple free throws, and the rebounding was terrible even before Ech went down. Rosario's hot at times, but needs to learn to take better shots, and the entire team has issues with ball security.
Now, if there's anything that could change my mind, it'd be Rutgers actually going against form this winter and winning a couple of Big East games besides DePaul. There's no reason why, if they're for real in some sense, they couldn't beat Cincinnati, Notre Dame, St. John's, or (gasp) Seton Hall at home, or a USF team that has somehow far leapfrogged RU to this point on the road. If they're the same old Fred Hill doormats, they'll show heart for a couple of games before packing it in once again. Until Rutgers can win a few Big East games, there's absolutely nothing to be even mildly excited about, and any lingering good will end up being all for naught.
The latter is what you still have to expect. Rutgers eventually played to form last night, and in all likelihood they will again on the court soon enough. Rosario, Ech, Miller, and co. are nice pieces, but they're still probably not going to win many games, which is why I don't particularly care what the consequences for firing Hill would be. Since Rutgers can't afford to buy him out, the misery is likely only going to continue for another season into 2011.