And so Rutgers moves into the 2nd season, they have a chance to end the 2011-2012 season on a high note. They take on Villanova--less than a week after losing to them--in the late game on the first day. Big opportunity for the Scarlet Knights. So here are the keys to the game:
1. Play Defense the Whole Game: In the game last week, Rutgers let Villanova come out and shoot nearly 70% in the first half. They had a 20 point lead. Rutgers adjusted and was able to slow the Wildcats in the 2nd half and get back in the game. Rutgers needs to play the whole game like they played the 2nd half.
2. Keep the Ball out of Malik Wayns' Hands: Wayns was able to do whatever he wanted in the first game. Against, Rutgers adjusted and started to press and force other players to catch and move the ball and it helped them get back in the game. Keep doing that.
3. Rebound: Villanova is one of, if not the best, rebounding teams in the Big East. Rutgers needs to put a body on someone and finish each defensive possession. Easier said than done. Rutgers' rebounds poorly out of the zone or when Dane Miller is out the game. There is no excuse in a game like this. They must come away with the ball when they get an initial stop.
4. Make Shots: When the Scarlet Knights make shots early, it buoys their confidence. They must get off to a hot start to stay in this game. The freshman are going to have to battle through some slumps, but turnovers and stops will help them. Get easy baskets. Push the tempo when possible.
5. Dane Miller, Dane Miller, Dane Miller: Time to grow into a senior leader.
Predictions for the rest of the Big East Tournament after the jump...
Here are some predictions that, in all likelihood, will turn out wrong:
1. Syracuse Orange Will Lose: And it will help them in the NCAA tournament. In previous years (sans last year), the team that wins the Big East Tournament is too beat up to make a run in the Big Dance. While Syracuse has the depth to survive the tournament, an early loss will only keep them fresher.
2. Someone From Day 1 Will Make a Run: There are a ton of teams that either need to make a run to cement their chances (Seton Hall Pirates and UConn Huskies) or had shockingly disappointing years and want to try to amend that (Pittsburgh Panthers and Villanova Wildcats). The guess here is Pittsburgh makes it at least to the 3rd day. Trey Woodall and Ashton Gibbs can get hot enough to make a long run, and they play solid defense.
3. A Team on the Bubble Implodes: One of the 2 teams I mentioned above is going to feel the pressure and fall apart. Most likely, Seton Hall. They have win--probably two rounds--to get into the Dance. Providence is a young team on the rise. Vincent Council is almost as experienced as Jordan Theordore and if Bryce Cotton and LaDonte Henton keep playing the way they're playing, watch out.
4. There is A Classic Game: There always is. Not sure which it'll be, but my guess is it comes Friday night.
5. West Virginia Beats Up UConn: UConn is not a bruising team. West Virginia is. They will take out Jeremy Lamb and make Shabazz Napier uncomfortable. Only if Andre Drummond has a monster game will UConn pull it out.
The silly season is starting, and I can't wait. What are some of your predictions?