The season that started with so much promise has been over for more than a month. It was highlighted by some wonderful wins (as seen in this season recap video from ScarletKnights.com) and punctuated with some bad losses. Fan favorite Gilvydas Biruta is likely off to Rhode Island to play with former coach Danny Hurley. There's speculation there'll be at least one more.
It appears Mike Rice and the Scarlet Knights are at a tipping point, very early in his tenure on the banks. So, what has to happen to push the program forward?
Find out after the jump...1. Dane Miller and Austin Johnson must play like seniors: That doesn't mean scoring 20 a night (though that would be really nice). It means playing smart, knowing when to takeover, when to pass the ball, and playing tough defense. When the team needs to bear down and get a bucket, they're the ones to look to. Miller and Johnson have to remember this is their last shot at the postseason. They need to buy in to Mike Rice's system, get the rest of the team behind them, and drive the bus.
2. The Sophomore Guards Need to Play Smart: No more of this one-on-one stuff. Yes, all three of them have the capability to take over a game when they're hot, but they have to realize when they actually are hot. Eli Carter, Jerome Seagears and Myles Mack will get their shots, but they have to play within themselves. Last year, the team was at it's best when the fast break was rolling. Once the guards started to get easy baskets, the threes came next. That has to be the norm, not the anomaly.
3. Wally Judge Needs to Be a Force: With Biruta gone, this becomes even more important. The former McDonald's All-American certainly has the body to be a Big East player. He was a dunking machine in the Summer League. Mike Rice says his improved by leaps and bounds. Can he average close to ten points and eight boards? If so, that'll go a long way toward filling the Biruta void.
4. The Big Men Have to Get Stronger: They need to be able to play physical around the basket and bully the ball. They need to be the ones getting every rebound. Kadeem Jack showed plenty of potential as he started to get his legs again. Derrick Randall showed that when he wants to, he can get every single loose ball. And Greg Lewis started to come on late. Austin Johnson can hit a hook shot. Building muscle and being able to stay in the Big East battle under the hoop will do wonders for the season.
5. Scratch that, Everyone Needs to Get Stronger: This is also part of the problem with having 7 freshman. You have 7 freshman bodies. As the team gets older, and they put in the work, strength will come. But the team has to put in the work. They have to be willing to get stronger. They can't get pushed around anymore.
6. Mike Poole, Keep Developing: When Rutgers needed a basket late in the season, Poole became that guy. He showed a tenacity for getting into the teeth of the defense and hitting a floater or a teardrop in the key. Add some more basketball IQ (basically, more experience) and a consistent 3 point shot and Poole could become a go to guy.
7. Fill the Open Scholarship(s): Mike Rice substitutes. The fans may not like it. The press may question it, but Mike Rice plays at least ten guys. And, if the past is any indication, there are going to be injuries. He needs to find a small forward who can knock down a 3 pointer. It'll be a nice substitution for Dane Miller's slashing ability, or compliment when Miller is slotted at power forward. Last year, the team lacked consistency from outside. Bringing in a player who is a 3 pt threat from the 3 will only add to RU's offense.