What has been the biggest surprise this season?
Dave: In a good way? How Jonathan Laurent and Justin Goode have been playing. Both were expected to be projects, but have shown they can compete against D-I teams, including a Power 5 team like Wake Forest.
Aaron: You know it's bad when I have been thinking about this question for a while and the best I can come up with is they haven't lost to any cupcake teams. All their losses have been to teams in the ACC, Big East and Atlantic 10. Granted every team except for George Washington was picked to finish in the bottom half of their respective league, but at least they haven't lost to a Central Arkansas or Central Connecticut State.
What has been the biggest disappointment this season?
Dave: The record and on the court performance. I hate to say it, but it's true. Rutgers should have beaten both Wake and St. John's, which would put them at 6-4 and probably given them some confidence against GW and SHU. But falling to both of those teams, and struggling in the cupcake games have been major disappointments.
Aaron: Team defense. Obviously, Rutgers is a young team and growing pains were expected. However, there are far too many extended periods of games where the offense takes a quick shot and then the team fails to get back on defense fast enough. Hit repeat. The thing about last year's team is despite not being able to score, they played together on defense and were respectable, allowing 68 points per game. This year, they are allowing 73 points a game and it will only get worse once Big Ten competition begins.
How disappointing have the seniors been?
Dave: It hasn't been good. Greg Lewis has been out-played by some quicker centers, especially when he's on defense. Bishop Daniels continues to be turnover prone, which derails the offense repeatedly.
Aaron: I'm most surprised about how little an impact graduate transfer Omari Grier has had on the team. I thought with his experience and shooting ability, he would be a key contributor this season. Hasn't happened. Tying into what Dave said about Lewis and Daniels, they have not improved from last season one bit, which is a bad reflection on the coaching staff.
As a whole, how have the freshman performed?
Dave: Both Corey Sanders and Laurent have been surprises. Sanders is the real deal and could start on any team in the country (save the top 5 teams in the nation). He has little support (especially with Deshawn Freeman out) and it's hurt his numbers, but he's been one of the best Big Ten Freshman. As for Laurent--see above--question 1.
Aaron: The freshman class has performed the best of any class on the team. Corey Sanders has lived up to the hype, although he still has a learning curve. Laurent is explosive and has a ton of potential. Goode is solid and just needs to relax for his shots to start falling. Ibrahima Diallo has the making of a reliable presence down low. He is a bit raw, especially on offense, but he has a good frame to work with and should get better with experience.
Is Sanders benching and performance against George Washington something to worry about?
Dave: I tend to think Corey is trying to do too much right now, but I didn't see the game, so I can't really comment.
Aaron: I don't think so, it's part of the process in his development. The game got out of hand quickly and he was forcing shots, so Eddie made him watch from the bench. The more concerning thing for me was the team's inability to counter GW's 1-3-1 zone. The team seemed completely unprepared for it, including Sanders.
What to make of Mike Williams?
Dave: Mike started out hot, but has slowed down of late. He really needs to find his shot. He is one of the best players on the team and a tenacious defender, but he needs to be able to make the three. Shooters are one of the things this team is lacking. Early on Mike had confidence and it looked like he was going to be a star--one of the best players on the team. Instead, he's lost his shot, and needs to find it again.
Aaron: Mike Williams was arguably the best shooter in NYC for the class of 2014. After shooting 24% from three-point range last season, Williams is only shooting 28% this season. It's not the level of improvement we hoped for or that is needed. He has the ability to carry this team for stretches, but lately he seems to be stuck in a shell. If he has lost confidence, he need to get it back as Rutgers desperately needs his production on offense.
How bad is the defense?
Dave: Er, it's not been great. Corey and Mike have been fine, but with Lewis not doing his part, the rest of the D starts to breakdown. This team lacks major confidence, and because of that the defense is falling apart.
Aaron: The frontline has been bludgeoned and opponents have slashed through the paint at will. The press has been a non-factor and there are far too many breakdowns at the end of possessions. You can't be a bad shooting team that doesn't play any defense and be successful.
Does the core four of Sanders, Laurent, Williams and Foreman provide hope for the future?
Dave: Yes. They can all be pieces of a Big Ten team going forward. But they have to focus on getting better as a core and a foundation. Right now they are just that--pieces--not a complete puzzle.
Aaron: Yes, but they will need help. As Dave said, they need to make a concerted effort to stick together on the court more. Sanders needs to focus on getting the other three involved more in the offense. Foreman has probably been the most consistent, but I worry he has hit his ceiling. They all need to keep developing individually, all while learning how to play together as a team.
How worried are you about the 2016 recruiting class?
Dave: Really worried. They have to land some players. Right now, they have nothing and major holes going toward next season. You can't get better without adding talent.
Aaron: I think they are targeting good players that can significantly help this team, but there margin for error is small. They can't just land complimentary players, they need impact players to help right away. JUCO star Niem Stevenson and Texas A&M transfer Alex Robinson are that type of player, so landing them would be huge. But the longer time passes without a commitment, the harder it will be to land impact players. They can't settle but they can't strike out either.
Will Eddie Jordan be the head coach next season?
Dave: It's too early to say for sure, but I'm leaning toward yes. But this team has to get better big time, and they have to hold the core together and add more pieces.
Aaron: Only AD Patt Hobbs knows that answer, but as of right now I would lean towards Eddie coming back next season. He has had major obstacles in his tenure and I think Hobbs will be sympathetic to that fact. However, if it's April and we have no commitments and a couple key players transfer out, Hobbs would have to take a hard look at making a change.