When former Rutgers coach Mike Rice (who began his apology tour today) brought in the "Magnificent Seven" class of Myles Mack, Jerome Seagears, Kadeem Jack, Greg Lewis, Malick Kone, Eli Carter and Derrick Randall--and then followed it up with transfer and former All-American Wally Judge--this was the season he was aiming toward. But after last year's meltdown, Carter and Randall (along with stalwarts Mike Poole and the year before him Gilvydas Biruta) are gone and the Knights have a ton of new faces.
Those faces, however, are talented.
J.J. Moore is here. As is Kerwin Okoro, D'Von Campbell, Craig Brown and yet-to-be-cleared-48-hours-from-gametime freshman Junior Etou.
There is talent on this team and there is experience. At the same time, there is a new coach in Eddie Jordan and a new system with his "don't call it" Princeton Offense.
What does that mean for the season?
There are a lot of questions, but at the same time a lot of possibilities.
Best Case Scenario
The team gels and quickly. Myles Mack and Jerome Seagears are on fire from beyond the arc most of the season, J.J. Moore bring balance and basketball smarts to the team. Kadeem Jack fulfils his promise and Wally Judge is a rebounding machine. The press Jordan has installed creates turnovers, which leads to run outs and easy baskets. The offense--particularly when Mack and Seagears sit--run a ton of backdoor cuts and get easy baskets.
The RAC is the RAC again.
This team finds a way to 20 wins and is solidly on the bubble going into the AAC Tournament.
Worst Case Scenario
Eddie Jordan is closer to the coach he was with the 76ers than what he was with the Wizards. Mack's side is a hindrance, and foul calls don't go his way, keeping him from the line.
The team never gels, and is turnover prone. Junior Etou is forced to sit for the season. When the second team is in they can't find baskets. The press is torn up by savvy teams.
Rutgers finds its way to 13 wins--including only 4 in conference.
The team takes the out-of-conference session to gel. It loses a few games early that it probably shouldn't--think UAB and Drexel, missing out on getting to Madison Square Garden. But things begin to click just before the conference season begins.
Myles Mack continues his torrid paces at the free throw line, and is one of the AAC's best three point shooters. Kadeem Jack breaks out. JJ Moore is a steadying factor and makes the fast break sing. Rebounding is a problem and the press never really clicks. Junior Etou is eligible and the first big man off the bench for much of the season.
Final Prediction: 16-15 (7-11) in conference
The season opens up Friday night against Florida A&M.