After previewing the players, there's still a lot to look forward to this year. Plenty of predictions before tomorrow night's season opener. What can these freshman do? Who will step up and be the leaders? Is this finally the season Rutgers basketball turns the corner?
Find out after the jump...
First off the bench will be G Mike Poole and Derrick Randall subbing in for Carter and Johnson. Poole has challenged for a starting spot all pre-season and it was a surprise to see him on the bench for the pre-season game. If Johnson or Biruta get into foul trouble early, expect to see Randall very quickly. Mike Rice subs early and often, so seeing these players come in early isn't necessarily a sign someone is playing poorly.
Malick Kone for Biruta. I think Kone will be third off the bench and hit the front court before Greg Lewis does. Kone showed a lot both on defense and offense for Rutgers last Sunday, while Lewis looked confused on the defensive end. Kone will play a lot of power forward in the early OOC part of the schedule.
Austin Carroll will play for this team and it will be often. Expect him to come in for Miller, only to have Poole slip into the SF position. Carroll is a hard working and a favorite of Rice. If his defense is good (which I've always thought it has been) and he hits his open shots, Carroll is going to play a lot.
Jerome Seagears for Mack. This will be interchangeable. I don't even expect the starters to be consistent. Both have the potential to be All-Time Rutgers guards. Look for Rice to ride the hot hand. Also look for both to be in the backcourt at the same time if Mike Poole isn't feeling it.
Greg Lewis will play. He'll sub for whichever forward comes out second. That said, don't look to see Lewis on the floor with another freshman forward. He may pick the game up quickly, but he looked like he had the most to learn last Sunday.
TEAM LEADER: Dane Miller, easily. He turned himself into a great defender last year and by all accounts his offensive game has improved as well. Even though he was suspended, he was in the pre-season game vocally. There is potential for an All-Big East Season here. If he can do that, Rutgers will do something special this year.
BEST OUT OF CONFERENCE GAME: Florida comes to the RAC and brings Mike Rosario with him. If RU is rolling into this game--during Christmas break--expect the students to make the trip back. This has the same feeling as when Todd Billet and Virginia made the trip to RU in Waters second year. ESPN2 will be in the house and the RAC should be loud. If RU is hitting its stride, expect a close game thanks to the crowd. RU might not win, but they'll give Florida all it can handle.
BEST BIG EAST GAME: St. John's at the RAC. Seton Hall is always exciting and UConn comes to the RAC and brings Jim Calhoun back after his suspension, but this contest with the Johnnies has a lot on the line. First off, it's the last game of the year. Both teams bring a freshman laden team that should be hitting their stride. Both teams could be fighting for postseason births, and Big East Tournament seeding. At the same time, after last year Tournament battle and controversial ending, the RAC faithful will be looking forward to this one. Energy, passion and exciting hoops are what Mike Rice thrives in... Throw out the records, this is going to be an important game... and RU has more depth than the Red Storm.
FINAL RECORD PREDICTION: The optimist in me thinks RU could win as many as 19 games, but realisitically you can look for a 17-14 overall record and a 7-11 Big East Record. Plenty of swing games, and depending on Kadeem Jack comes back, a lot of talent could swing this season into something special, but the lack of experience could hurt a ton. 17-14 is a big step up from last year and a sign Rice has the team headed in the right direction. Expect an NIT Berth after the Big East Tournament is over.