Mike Rice needs to make sure Rutgers keeps its head while playing in paradise. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
After the team seemed to come together a bit the last two games, the Scarlet Knights travel to Cancun for a two day tournament. Winning this game will mean they'll likely face Illinois in the final. If the Fighting Illini or Rutgers slips up tomorrow, then Richmond will be Rutgers' opponent Wednesday night. Neither are easy games.
But what does Rutgers have to do to avoid a slip up?
Find out after the jump...1. Don't Get Caught Up in the Lights: That might not be the exact phrase I'm looking for, but the intent is right. This is a game the team has been looking forward to. They're in the sun and on the beaches of one of the most beautiful tourist spots in the world. Despite what many fans want to believe, these are still kids. It's easy to forget about basketball and think about relaxation. Mike Rice has to make sure the team is aware this is a working trip. They're there to play basketball and try to win games. The team has got to be focused, because they're too young a team to slack off and still win games.
2. Make Your Shots: Another key to the game that falls into the "obviously" department. Rutgers got a lot of open shots in the first half against Hampton, but they blew a lot of them. What's bothersome about this is the game was at home, where the team knows the rims. On the road, it becomes even more difficult. But at some point, RU is going to have to make some threes and not blow their lay-ups.
3. Dane Miller and Austin Johnson: Miller has really stepped up in the past two games, bringing a ton of energy and starting to mature as a leader. His dive into the Gatorade cooler really showed the team something--this is how you play at Rutgers. Johnson also brought it against Hampton, drawing 3 charges. Both of these players need to step up and keep everyone's head level on the road. They need to help make the key stops and any other big plays that are needed.
4. Control the Ball: Turnovers kill you in any game. This is going to be a concern all season. Rutgers needs to hold on to the ball (16 last game), and force turnovers on the defensive end. This will allow the team to control the tempo and use the fast break for easy baskets.
5. Feed Gilvydas Biruta: Biruta was dominant against Hampton with 17 points and 12 boards. If he can stay out of foul trouble, that could be the norm. Keep getting him the ball and let him work. His size should be too much for Illinois State.
The game is at 7 pm tomorrow on the CBS Sports Network.