It seems totally appropriate that Rutgers new men's basketball season begins on Friday the 13th. Last season, really the past decade, has been a house of horrors for the program. However, I present you with hope for a better day, beginning tonight. The powers that be with the NCAA have taken some joy out of the opener, with Rutgers self-imposing a one game suspension of Corey Sanders after he played in an unsanctioned summer league game. Let the kids play, I say!!
Anyway, a long season is ahead and progress is the major goal. I am optimistic that this team will exceed expectations, partly because expectations could not be lower. In terms of outlook, this team has more talent and is more balanced than any Rutgers team in some time, and they know not many believe in them. An "us against the world" mentality could serve this team well. It all starts tonight, game 1 against Division III Newark.
What will the rotation look like?
Expect Bishop Daniels to run the point in Corey Sanders absence, with Omari Grier at the 2 and Mike Williams rotating in for both of them. It sounds like D.J. Foreman will start on the wing with Deshawn Freeman and Greg Lewis starting in the frontcourt. It should be fun to see Jonathan Laurent, Ibrahima Diallo and Justin Goode for the first time in their careers. Same goes for Freeman but he is battling a leg injury and how effective he will be is something to watch for. They only have nine active scholarship players for tonight's game, so hopefully the game is no longer in doubt early enough that the walk-on's can play and the starters can rest up for Sunday's game.
How will the offense look without Corey Sanders?
Eddie Jordan wants this team to play a fast paced, free flowing style, but Sanders is the key component to this offensive philosophy. Even without him, expect a lot of passing on the perimeter with the guards and wings looking to drive and dish out for Grier, Goode and Williams to shoot three-pointers. Look for Foreman, Laurent and Freeman to slash their way to the rim. Sanders being out will limit the fast break potential of the offense, but I am curious to see how quickly they can get into their halfcourt offense.
Will Rutgers press full court on defense?
I would expect Eddie to test the waters with fullcourt pressure tonight, as it is a low risk opponent. He has downplayed how much emphasis he has put on fullcourt pressure during practice, but it could end up being a huge weapon for this team if they can be effective with it.
How well will the team shoot from 3-point range?
Eddie and the staff obviously have confidence in their guards to shoot the three after a change in offensive philosophy this offseason. Rutgers was one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the country last season. With Grier being a proven long range shooter, Williams expected to improve from his 24% shooting last season, and Justin Goode coming in with a reputation as a knockdown shooter, they could be much better this season. It all starts tonight.
Does this game serve any purpose other than ending the 15 game losing streak?
Ending the losing streak was the main reason Rutgers scheduled a Division III game against their cousin from Newark. However, this team is so young and inexperienced, any competition will benefit them. It is disappointing that Sanders has to sit this one out, as we really won't get a true taste for how this team will look until he plays on Sunday. The biggest priorities in this game is play together, stay healthy and hopefully build a large lead so the starters can rest up for Sunday's game against Howard.
How To Watch/Listen:
7:00PM at the RAC
BTN Plus will be streaming the game live.
The Rutgers IMG Radio Network will be broadcast on WOR 710 AM and WCTC 1450 AM.