It is now October and the college basketball season is finally here!!! Dave White and I will be previewing the upcoming season for the next six weeks, leading up to the first game on November 13th against Rutgers-Newark. With practice for the men's team starting tomorrow, here are ten things to know:
Eddie Jordan made staff changes back in early July as the recruiting live period started. While we covered those changes here, it wasn't formally announced until this week. Mike O'Koren moves to a senior adviser role and will focus on player development and game strategy. Dalip Bhatia becomes the third assistant coach, along with Van Macon and Greg "Shoes" Vetrone. This gives Eddie a better recruiting core of assistants, as Bhatia is energetic and has experience. The move also puts O'Koren in a role that highlights his strengths while remaining as Eddie's consigliere.
Shot Clock Change
The NCAA announced back in June that the men's shot clock would be reduced from 35 seconds to 30 seconds for this season. I covered the change in detail here. It will be interesting to see how the change impacts the college game this season. As for Rutgers, it should be an added benefit to playing an up tempo, free flowing style while also extending pressure on defense.
New Offensive System
Eddie announced that the team has changed their offensive system moving forward. Instead of the "Princeton offense" that Eddie is well-schooled in and implemented his first two seasons, he decided to switch based on the current roster. Hoops master Jerry Carino talked to Eddie and from his article, he said "We like to say the offense consists of three perimeter players and two bigs. Last year we played with one center and everybody else had to be perimeter-skilled. This year you can play with two centers. It gives us a lot of versatility." In terms of playing at a faster pace, Jordan said, "If we defend well, we can do that. If we don’t turn the ball over playing at that pace. Youth shows up in those areas."
Over Half the Active Roster are New Faces
Rutgers has twelve scholarship players this season with the thirteenth spot open. Nigel Johnson transferred from Kansas State and will have to sit out games this season but can practice with the team. So that leaves eleven active scholarship players, five returnees and six new faces. While Ibrahima Diallo and Justin Goode are not new to the program, they redshirted last year, it will be their first season on the active roster. JUCO transfer Deshawn Freeman, graduate transfer Omari Grier and incoming freshmen Jonathan Laurent and Corey Sanders round out the newcomers. There are also walk-ons Jake Dadika and Jalen Hyde to help with depth. The exciting part is this roster is made up entirely of players Eddie has brought in, with the exception of senior captain Greg Lewis, the only holdover from the Mike Rice era. As Dave White wrote, this team needs to make progress in Eddie's third season in executing his vision.
Rutgers has one open scholarship this season and has three seniors with Lewis, Grier and Bishop Daniels. That gives Eddie and staff four open scholarships to fill with the recruiting class of 2016. 4-star guard Kwe Parker is the only commit at the moment, but this staff has been relentless on the recruiting trail for the past year. Any progress Rutgers can make on the court this season will help in their pitch to recruits. There is a ton of talent they have offered for both the 2016 class and 2017 class. Who Eddie and staff fill the three remaining scholarships with, will be fascinating to watch.
DJ Foreman to play at the Wing postion at times
A major depth issue on the current roster is at the wing position, with Laurent as the only natural wing player on the team. Eddie and staff have worked with sophomore DJ Foreman and expect him to play some at the wing this season. His versatility is key. Tom Luicci talked in detail this week with coach Jordan, who is excited about his potential. "D.J. has been our best player in the spring workouts, in the summer workouts and during the pre-practice workouts," Jordan said. "He’s been aggressive. He’s improved by just being in attack mode. He has always been that way but he has more opportunity now. He is in attack mode all the time and I like that. I want guys to be in attack mode. I want him to attack the basket, get to the free throw line and give us more scoring. He can play one of the two big spots or he can play as a perimeter man."
Preseason Publication Predictions
Every major publication including the Sporting News, Athlon and Lindy's has picked Rutgers to finish last in the Big Ten. It should not be a surprise and expect all the online projections to be the same. If this team can exceed expectations, it will be all the more fun proving everyone wrong!
No News on Practice Facility
In June, new facility plans were announced for many Rutgers athletic teams, including a plan for a practice facility for the men's basketball team. However, there has not been much discussion since. As Carino points out here, the RAC was supposed to get new air conditioning this past year, but it still has not happened. Not good. Rutgers recently lost out on 4-star wing De'Riante Jenkins to VCU. There was a comment made in a previous post asking why a recruit would pick VCU over Rutgers. While I believe it wasn't the main factor, it didn't help that VCU is opening a state of the art practice facility this month. It's time for the Athletic Department to show progress on new facilities aside from renderings. Eddie and staff need all the help they can get with recruiting.
Radio Booth Change
Loyal son Dick Lloyd, recently inducted into the Rutgers Athletics Hall of Fame, has stepped down from his radio analyst spot. He will be missed after covering Rutgers basketball games for the past 23 years. His replacement is an old friend of the program, former assistant coach Joe Boylan. He was the associate head coach during the high mark of Rutgers basketball in the seventies and eighties, as well as the radio analyst in the late eighties and early nineties. He should pair well with Chris Carlin, the Rutgers play by play announcer for both football and basketball.
Mark your calendars for December 5th as Seton Hall will travel to the RAC for a high noon tip-off against Rutgers. Dave White and I will have a detailed breakdown of the schedule later this week.
There will be plenty more to come regarding everything Rutgers men's basketball. For now I will leave you with this....