The athletic department tried, and the fans showed up in force, but it was all for naught as the men's basketball team fell to UConn. As much as I truly want Fred Hill to be successful at Rutgers, it's that much more important to be realistic about the state of the basketball program. Progress and selling out the RAC is great, but it's still difficult to envision a tournament run next year, and that's the only criteria that truly matters. Any comparisons to Greg Schiano don't work, because Schiano showed significant progress in year three, and Fred Hill was channeling Craig Littlepage.
While Rutgers did have a young team this year, there are several looming holes on the roster which negate that as a cause for optimism in the future. Hamady N'Diaye is departing as a senior, and even if Johnson, Okam, and incoming signee Gil Biruta live up to expectations, the men's team will still need another body up front following Echenique's transfer. They're awful on the boards as is, which was again the achilles heel on Saturday. While the loss is by no means a resounding death knell for Hill, it did highlight that a year's worth of issues don't suddenly go away after one hot streak.
It's telling that Tom Luicci specifically mentioned Maurice Walker. As of several months back Walker really wanted to go to Pitt. Maybe he will develop down the road, but how exactly is a raw player who needs to lose weight going to help next year? Oh, and Rutgers still doesn't have a point guard of the future on the roster, although Tyrone Johnson from Plainfield was at the Georgetown game. Even if Rosario and Miller stick around, those two will need help, which is far from a given. FHJ's supposing calling card is supposed to be his recruiting, complaints about the RAC be damned. There's more than enough talent on the roster to win, but there shouldn't be those kinds of gaping depth chart holes in year four and beyond of Hill's tenure.
Fred Hill Jr. and his team has made progress, but it's not enough. All pop culture references aside, it probably won't ever be enough. Not when you're playing in the Big East. I've always believed that athletic director Tim Pernetti would try to retain Hill for a fifth year if at all possible. Now there's a very real chance of that happening (barring further indignity, like a loss to DePaul on 50% free throw shooting). There aren't any good options available, but Rutgers isn't going to make the NCAA tournament next year, and standing pat will just delay the inevitable rebuilding process. Sorry to sound resigned to near term failure, but unfortunately that remains the most likely endgame.
In the meantime, it's onward to Seton Hall, and Gonzo's customary backhanded insults. Can't wait.
Update: And for what it's worth, Adam Zagoria has a new article where Walker doesn't even mention Rutgers.