With the Syracuse game not until Saturday, I figured this would be a good time to look over Mike Rice's first 9 months as basketball coach. He's done a lot right so far. Let's take a look, shall we?
Early in one of the first games of the season--probably the Fairfield game--Mike Rice wasn't happy with his team's play. They were playing hard, but they weren't executing the game plan to perfection. Fed up, Mike Rice tore off his jacket and threw it toward one of the team managers.
And the crowd did something to Mike Rice they'd never done during the Fred Hill era. They rewarded Rice's intensity.
And the RAC started it's long climb back to respectability.
More after the jump...When Mike Rice took the job, the RAC--once one of the most feared arenas in the Big East--had been reduced to a sleepy high school style gym. The team rarely won, and when they did it wasn't exciting. The only solution Fred Hill could find was to take the air out of the ball and try to lull the opposition to sleep.
And the crowd.
Then came Mike Rice, and with him an exciting-in your face-defense. He also had a team that made quick, smart passes and found the open player. It's a team that isn't deep and doesn't have much talent, but they play hard and they're fun to watch.
But Rice started to bring back the RAC long before the first tip. First, he brought back the die-hard fans. The ones who follow the message boards, this blog, and others. He did it through recruiting. Before the Magnificent 7 committed, he brought top rated players in for visits and leaked the word. Then the committing started: Derrek Randall, Kadeem Jack, Myles Mack, Jerome Seagears, Malik Kone, Mike Taylor, and Greg Lewis. The die hard's eyes were opened.
Next came the win over the Miami Hurricanes. This was a team that--on paper--looked a ton better than the Scarlet Knights. But Rutgers shut them down. This raised the eye of the casual fan. The crowds got a little thicker. The numbers went up a little bit.
But the students still weren't here. Even when Rutgers was starting Big East games and was very competitive, they weren't showing up.
No, it didn't happen until school was back in session and Rice and co went out to the frats. They invited them to fill the student section.
They did, and were loud.
Then came the close loss with Pittsburgh. Then the miracle win over Villanova. And finally last week's loss to Seton Hall. Hopefully the students don't give up.
The RAC isn't all the way back yet. But it's showing signs. Mike Rice has done a great job getting the fan interested again, but he has to keep it up. Another win in the last two home games will help. Making a dent in the Big East tournament or getting into the NIT will help bring in crowds next year.
Rice has done right by the RAC, another sign the program is being built into something big.