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A Very Big Year

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Rutgers plays Holy Family today at 1. While very rarely can anyone glean much from a pre-season game, one tends to wonder if this is the beginning of the biggest year for Mike Rice's rebuilding program.

Chris Chambers

They tip-off today at 1 pm. Holy Family comes to the RAC for a pre-season match-up, and while it'd be easy to list a bunch of things to look for if you're braving the roads and not worried about gas (Hi!), the bigger story is how big a year this is for the program.

This is the year the Scarlet Knights have to take a step forward. The past two years have been both fun and frustrating: Year 1 an undermanned squad usually battled to the final seconds until being worn down. Year 2, talent began to shine through with a super-hyped freshman class, but too often the right decisions weren't made and the team both soared to ridiculous highs and fell to crazy lows.

But now it's time. The team has to find consistency, beat the teams its supposed to beat and finish over .500. Too much relies upon this team taking a step forward, if they ever want to have success. The recruits aren't committing right now because, to be honest, there's not much obvious playing time. But, if the team wins, recruits will come.

I usually don't give too much credence to fan frustration. Too often fans go overboard early, panic at the slightest miscue. But these fans haven't been rewarded since 1991, and college fans are different. They find a way to put pressure on a coach, pressure on a program--on a coach. Right or wrong, it happens. If the team gets to the postseason, that pressure eases.

And the players. These players bought into Mike Rice's vision for the program. They now have to show it. Take a look today. Are they playing for each other? Are they making the extra pass? Taking the charge? Are the seniors leading? Are the sophomores not trying to fill the stat sheet?

A lot is on the line, and it all starts today. I'm pretty confident. Today begins a bright future for Rutgers basketball...