With 14 games off the schedule, including one top ten team and the start of the Big East Schedule, it seems like a good time to really look at the team as a whole. Fans are now getting a sense of where this young team stands, and what the future is going to look like.
So, after the jump, here's a player by player look....Austin Johnson: Johnson has been the starter at center for the entire year. After getting raves for his offense in the JSBL summer league, playing with confidence and swagger, Johnson has regressed a bit back to his sophomore self. He still has a good hook shot, and is money from the free throw line, but he doesn't seem willing to demand the ball in the post--or if he is, the guards aren't feeding him as much. He's still the team's best interior post defender at the moment. Outlook: If Johnson can start getting his shot to fall--and get to the line--against the Big East's bigger players--he's going to be huge in the stretch run. He'll still be needed to play defense.
Dane Miller: Miller is supposed to be the superstar on this team. He's show flashes of brilliance, being the best player on the court against Monmouth and coming up huge against Florida. At times, however, he's disappeared taking a total of 6 shots against USF, NJIT, and Stony Brook combined. Miller's said all the right things, defends hard and has gotten in the faces of teammates when needed. He appears to be trying to grow into the role of a vocal leader, but leads best by example on the court. Outlook: You still never know what Dane you're going to get, but if he plays as well as he can, he could be all Big East. His defense is as good as it has ever been.
Gilvydas Biruta: Biruta is adjusting to his new role as a power foward. He's still aggressive on the boards, and on defense, which leads him into foul trouble in a lot of games. He has shown in the past few games that he can hit the long jumper, which has opened it up for him to get to the hoop. He's also been able to handle the ball a bit, which is a nice surprise. Defensively, he hustles and rebounds, but needs to watch the fouls. Should have drawn a key charge against USF. Outlook: Still hustles. Finds his niche and gets more consistent as the season goes on, setting up a huge junior and senior year.
Mike Poole: Poole has been Rutgers second best defender this season. He's gotten key steals, great stops, and really can amp up his level of play when the team needs a stop. Offensively, he has a desire to make the big shot and is not afraid to take it. Unfortunately, that occasionally leads to him taking a poor out-of-the-offense shot. The team's biggest vocal leader. Outlook: Poole will continue to dominate the defensive end, and learn to be more efficient on offense.
Austin Carroll: Carroll is the smartest player on offense. He is always willing to make the extra pass, and loves to run off the screen. When his shot is falling, it opens the court up for everyone else. He's missed the past 3 games due to a tweaked knee--the same one he injured last year. Outlook: If he comes back healthy, he could add another layer to this team, as his 3 point shooting will be needed.
Myles Mack: Struggled at times when he was the starter, it looked like Mack wanted to do too much. He couldn't pass and shoot on the same possession. Since he was relegated to the sixth man role, however, Mack has really picked up the slack. It appears the game has started to slow down for Mack. In the past two games, he's been hitting clutch shot after clutch shot and is the player you want the ball to go to. Outlook: Can only improve. Expect him to still have his ups and downs, but more and more he'll want the ball with the clock ticking down.
Eli Carter: It's easy to only think about the Florida and USF games, where he scored 31 pts and 23 pts respectively. He's starting to get it, and, along with Mack, is becoming the team's go to guy. Both games he's shot 50%, and is not afraid to take any shot, especially when the team needs it. An exhilarating player. Outlook: Will grow more and more into the role of being the team's offensive star. Needs to be a bit more efficient with his shots, but that'll come. There will be games where the fans remember he's a freshman.
Jerome Seagears: The team's starting point guard. He has shown an ability to hit the fade away, and can really slash in the lane. Gets to a lot of missed shots under the basket for easy lay-ins. Very quick on his feet and will likely grow into the role of being a defensive stopper. Seems to have found his role in the offense, and will grow into that role quickly. Outlook: Steady on offense, with a breakout game. Defense will continue to improve exponentially.
Derrick Randall: Originally expected to be a project, the last two games Randall's really grown into the role at center. HIs defense has been great, and he's not afraid to mix it up with the big boys of the Big East and SEC. He fights for all rebounds, and has a knack for the offensive put back. Really been the surprise of the class. Outlook: Becomes the starting center sooner, rather than later.
Greg Lewis: Hasn't played much and seems to be more a project than Randall. Outlook: Will see spot time from here on out, but will play big in a game when he's needed because of foul trouble.
Kadeem Jack: Has only played 8 minutes total this year, and look much more comfortable on defense right now. Outlook: Will slowly earn more and more minutes.
Malick Kone: A player everyone thought would be the biggest project of the class, burst on to the scene early as instant offense. Unfortunately, a knee injury benched him for 4 weeks and he's just now coming back. Outlook: Will have to earn his minutes more, now that the freshman are really starting to find their feet.
Mike Kuhn and Charlie Rigoloso: Kuhn's blog is phenomenal and a good, funny look into the program. Both players have seen time and appear to be doing a hell of a job on the scout team. Outlook: Rutgers fans want to see them on the court at the end of a lot of games this year.
Mike Rice: The season started out with a fired up Mike Rice, one who was willing to yell and scream and throw things to get his players attention. After back-to-back losses against LSU and Princeton, Rice had to re-evaluate himself, saying he wasn't connecting with the team. The result was a more laid back Rice (well, as laid back as he can be), allowing his players to play through mistakes. That strategy has seemingly sped up the growing process.
Outlook: He'll keep getting the parts of this team to gel and they'll be a force to be reckoned with by the end of February, setting up a HUGE 2012-2013.