Eddie Jordan, as has been chronicled on this website, has gotten off to a rough start at Rutgers. Losses to Fairleigh Dickinson and William and Mary to go along with an under .500 Out of Conference start have soured the excitement Jordan cultivated in the off-season.
The conference schedule hasn't started yet, but this is looking more and more like a lost season.
However, it is too early to completely give up on Jordan yet. There is talent on this team, and who knows--Jordan is apparently trying to send some messages about attitude--maybe they gel and build some optimism. It's a new system, and maybe the team figures it out. Maybe they hustle just a hair more and close out on some threes. They they corral some long rebounds. That would change things very quickly around here.
That said, until that change happens, one can look toward the future, as Eddie turns over the roster. How is Eddie Jordan going to turn Rutgers into an NCAA team a few years down the road? Can he do it?
Here's what it appears he wants:
--Athleticism, Length, and Speed: Jordan appears to want his team to press and trap. With the team we see this year, they press has been ineffective. After the inbound pass, the trap does not have enough length to make the second pass difficult. And once that second pass is made--whether back to the inbounder or another guard--the team does not have enough speed to recover. This leads to easy baskets and open threes. However, with Bishop Daniels, DJ Foreman, Leroy Butts, Greg Whittington and Austin Burnette on the horizon, length will not be a problem. With luck, they are all (and Mike Williams) fast and will recover if they can't force a turnover on the trap. Length can also make it difficult to shoot over and speed will allow a team to recover to that open 3 point shooter.
--Interchangeable Parts: Right now, everyone on this team has one role. Myles Mack, Jerome Seagears and D'Von Campbelll mostly play point guard (they do switch off to shooting guard out of need). Kadeem Jack is a forward. Wally Judge is a forward. J.J. Moore shines as a wing--though Jordan wants him to learn had to play shooting guard. This team has very clear roles. But looking-again-at how Jordan recruits, he wants players that can play multiple positions. Foreman, Whittington, Burnette and Butts can all play wing/guard and forward. As can Junior Etou. Mike Williams is an athletic outside shooter. At 6'2", they'll probably allow him to play both guard positions. Daniels can be a wing and/or a guard. This will allow Jordan to mix and match line-ups and give teams different looks. He can ride the hot hand.
-The Princeton Offense: Jordan wants to install more and more Princeton aspects to his offense, while keeping the fast break too. Think an uptempo Georgetown (which is why Whittington fits so well). From the videos of these recruits, it appears they can pass (a key for a big man in Jordan's offense) and they can run the floor. Meanwhile, Mike Williams is a dead eye shooter. Look for Jordan to try and land a few more of those (which is why he's recruiting Matt Ryan--a J.J. Reddick type). There are more shooters out there, and he likes players who can step out... he's trying to turn Junior Etou into that. If all the players on the floor can step out and shoot, it makes backdoor cuts that much easier, because the defense has to over play everyone. Bounce pass and a lay-up, everytime. A good comparison might be John Beilein's West Virginia offense. Everyone can shoot, and then a bunch of people can get to the hoop too.
-The Game Changer: Everytime a coach has turned a program around, they've brought in a game changer. Sometimes it's been a transfer (Mike Gansey at the aforementioned WVU or Cody Zeller at Indiana) and sometimes it's been a recruit (Kyle Lowry landing at Villanova turned the tide as those first highly ranked kids grew up). And sometimes, it's just been a team learning the system and growing (Pitt under Howland, Mick Cronin at Cincy while still having talent). Jordan has the transfer in Whittington who has the potential to be a gamechanger (if he keeps his head on straight). He's hot after Isaiah Briscoe--a very, very talented NJ high school player, but if the past is any indication, he'll go to a big time school. So, a team needs to learn the system. If Whittington is a gamechanger, this program can be turned around by next year, assuming the rest of the team buys in. If not, this is a 4-5 year program. Rutgers is going to have 6-7 scholarships to fill in 2015 (Butts and Burnette taking up two), which basically means an entire new team learning a system. That's going to take some time. Look at what's happening now.
It appears Jordan has a clear plan, in terms of recruiting. And it's his eye--not the ranking system--that is driving his recruiting. He wants players to fit his system.
What is worrisome is Jordan isn't adjusting his coaching style right now. This team is talented and should be better than 6-7. But his style does not fit the parts on this team. Is he hoping that the longer he teaches the system (to Etou, Greg Lewis and Kerwin Okoro, players who will be here for 3 or more years), it will make the adjustment for new players easier? If so, it'll be interesting to watch the games this season. Etou has already made his way into a starting role. Others seem to need to be motivated by Jordan, and he might get through soon.
But Jordan needs some marquee wins this conference season. He needs to show recruits his system can work. They play Temple on January 1st. New year, new era.
And plenty of time to get things done.
*Note: This is, of course, speculation.