Before we get to the important match-up that is Rutgers vs. Cincinnati today, it's time to take a look at the keys to the game for tomorrow's hoops game between Rutgers and Hampton.
Mike Rice called Hampton one of the toughest mid-majors out there, so once again the young kids will be challenged.
Find out what needs to happen after the jump...1. Dane Miller: He needs to build off the second half of Thursday's game against Sacred Heart. 3 steals and 6 points in around a minute? He completely changed the tenor of that game. If it's a sign the light's gone on for Miller, he can have a dominant year. If it was just a moment of confidence, and Miller's season is up and down all year, the Knights won't go very far. But if Miller turns out to be the next Jonathan Mitchell, watch out. (And remember, Mitchell's season didn't really get going until the Big East portion of the schedule last year.)
2. Limit Turnovers: It's going to be an ongoing theme this year, but freshman guards are going to make mistakes. That's to be expected. But against Sacred Heart, Austin Johnson had 5 turnovers. Against Miami, Mike Poole had 3. The upperclassmen can't do that. Against SHU, Myles Mack had only one turnover compared to six assists. That is phenomenal and must keep up. Hampton has a bunch of seniors, and they'll be savvy enough to turn turnovers into points
3. Ball Movement: In the first half against Sacred Heart, the Knights played scared. They forced shots, tried to do it all one on one and were down 3 at halftime. When the game turned in the second half, the ball movement was crisp and the players let the game start to come to them. The second half needs to continue. If Rutgers plays smart, makes the extra pass and takes open shots, they'll win going away.
4. Invite Contact: The freshman guards need to go strong to the hoop and get fouled. Mack, Eli Carter, and Jerome Seagears have been great at finding the seam in the defense and get open, but they haven't been getting to the hoops as much as they should. In the postgame interview on the radio, Jerome Seagears said the biggest adjustment to the college game for him, is how quickly the lane closes up. They must keep adjusting to the speed of the defense and find ways to get to the hoop and get fouled. Austin Johnson needs to go hard to the rim and not fade away. Same for Dane Miller. More trips to the FT line mean more points.
5. Close out, close out, close out: The way mid-major teams stay in the game against high major teams is through two strategies: making free throws and hitting open threes. Every team gets to the free throw line, and the way Mike Rice teams play defense, there are a lot of fouls--so free throws will be an issue. But you have to guard the 3 point line. Rutgers guards have been a step slow on defense as they adjust to the game. That needs to stop. A senior laden team is going to make you pay if you leave them open. Everyone needs to be covered.
The game is at the RAC, Sunday at noon.