The Rutgers Men's Basketball team has played about half of their regular season schedule with 15 games played and 16 remaining. They have gotten off to a bad start and are worse than a season ago, when they started 9-6 and 1-1 in conference play, before ending with 15 consecutive losses. Here is a breakdown of this season so far.
Record: 6-9 overall; 0-2 B1G; 14th place
RPI: 235 (click here for full ranking detail)
KenPom Rating: 248 (click here for full ranking detail)
Best Win: Fairleigh Dickinson (RPI 225)
Toughest Loss: Tie between St. John's & Wake Forest
Second Tier Toughest Loss: Tie between Monmouth & Indiana
Best Team Performance: UMass-Lowell
Worst Team Performance: George Washington
Individual Conference Rankings
Omari Grier is 2nd in three-point percentage at 53.3%.
Mike Williams is 14th in free throw percentage at 79.6%.
DJ Foreman is 14th in rebounding at 6.3 per game.
Corey Sanders 20th in scoring at 13.4 per game, 16th in assists at 3.6 per game & 3rd in steals at 1.57 per game. He leads all Big Ten freshman in scoring and steals. He is also 2nd in assists and won Freshman of the Week honors for his performance against FDU.
Big Ten Statistical Team Rankings
Scoring: 13th in the conference at 69.1 points per game (last season's average was 59.3).
Scoring Defense: 12th in the conference at 72.7 points per game.
Rebounding: 8th in the conference at 37.6 per game.
Field Goal Percentage: 11th at 42.6%.
Three-Point Percentage: 10th at 34.4%.
Free Throw Percentage: 13th at 68.1%.
Assists: 13th at 11.7 per game.
Assist to Turnover ratio: 14th at 0.81.
Steals: 4th at 6.53 per game.
Turnovers: 13th at 14.4 per game.
Blocks: 11th at 3.93 per game.
Greg Lewis: D
Lewis is averaging only 4.4 points and 5.5 rebounds on just 20.3 minutes per game. That's not a step forward on last season's career high of 5.3 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. Lewis is also playing 3.5 minutes less a game this season. I said before the season this team needed Lewis to improve on last season's numbers and average around 8 points and 8 rebounds a game. He has scored double figures in just three games and has had 8+ rebounds in just five games. With little depth in the frontcourt, Lewis must step up his production for Rutgers to have any chance at winning games in the conference. Hopefully, he can end his career on a high note.
Bishop Daniels: C-
Daniels is another senior who has not improved much from last season. He is averaging 9 points and 3 rebounds per game and is shooting 40.7% from the field, all slight increases from last year. However, Daniels hasn't made a jump statistically in his second year that was expected and desperately needed. He can't disappear in big games, like he did in scoring just 2 points combined in losses to Wake Forest and Seton Hall. Daniels has the ability to put the team on his back at times, as he did against St. John's, but he has seemed lost on the court at times. This team needs Daniels to be a consistent contributor and leader as they progress through the conference gauntlet.
Omari Grier: B-
Grier has scored 51 points in his last three games, including shooting 10-17 from three-point range. It has been a much needed boost from the graduate transfer and something that has been missing the majority of this season. Grier only scored 41 points in the first 12 games, which was a major disappointment. It seems Grier has found his confidence and is being more assertive, something that must continue for Rutgers to be competitive in league play.
Mike Williams: B-
The sophomore has made statistical jumps in his scoring and rebounding this season, averaging 11.7 points and 4.5 boards per game, almost doubling last season's production. So why the B- grade? Simple, he continues to struggle shooting the ball so much that it's hurting the team. Williams averages only 38% from the field and 28% from the three-point line, yet leads the team in shot attempts. He is a slightly more efficient shooter than last season, but is still far below what the team averages, dragging down the team's offensive efficiency. Williams plays hard and is the team's best defender, but he won't truly blossom into a formidable starter until his shooting improves.
D.J. Foreman: B
Foreman has been solid in his sophomore season, but doesn't yet have a signature performance this season. He is averaging 7.7 points and 6.3 rebounds while shooting 47.4% from the field, all significant increases from last season. However, Foreman has not developed into the double-double machine the team needs him to become, registering only one all season. He continues to struggle from the foul line, shooting just 50% from the charity stripe on three attempts per game. With Freeman out indefinitely, Foreman needs to step up the second half of the season and be more productive.
Corey Sanders: B+
He is as good as advertised, and has shown flashes of brilliance in his rookie campaign. The former 4-star recruit has actually shot the ball better than expected, averaging 36% on 61 three-point attempts. He has been a highlight reel at times and has made some great passes, setting up his teammates for good looks at the basket. The progress is visible at times, but two games in particular, have raised come concern with his development.
Sanders was benched for long portions of the blowout loss to George Washington. He was then benched on Saturday at the start of both halves for what Eddie Jordan deemed "a bump in the road on the path to maturity." Jordan followed up today, stating "There is some humble pie he needs to taste a little bit of. We'll see where it goes." Credit Jordan for enforcing discipline and authority where he sees it's needed. Let's hope Sanders responds positively from it, because he is the team's best player and it's time for him to lead by example full time. If he doesn't, well then....no I can't do it, staying positive, next topic please.
Jonathan Laurent: B-
Laurent has displayed his athleticism and motor, bringing a ton of energy to the team in certain games. He is also wildly inconsistent, as he has scored in double figures in three of his last seven games, but has been held scoreless in three during that same stretch. That is to be expected from the freshman to a degree, but they need him to take advantage of more playing time with the frontcourt desperately needing help. Laurent has played down low admirably, and had his best game in the post against UMass-Lowell, registering 13 points and 15 rebounds. However, it will be difficult for him to have much success at the 4 spot in conference action. It's not his natural position and he is undersized for sure against the Big Ten trees. He needs to keep playing aggressive and focus on what he does best, driving the lane and attacking.
Justin Goode: C+
Goode has impressed with his poise and passing ability, averaging 15 minutes a game off the bench. With Rutgers having an urgent need for a knockdown shooter, Goode has failed to live up to his reputation so far. Part of that is Goode's comfort level, as he only averages two shot attempts per game. He needs to be more assertive when he is on the court and look for his shot. He is 4 for his last 8 shots from three-point range, but it's stretched over a six game period. If he can become more of a factor in the offense, he could finish with a solid freshman campaign.
Deshawn Freeman: Incomplete
Freeman was off to a good start the first seven games of the season, averaging over 13 points and 5 rebounds on 54.4% shooting per game. His leg injury has kept him out of action since the Wake Forest game and there is currently no timetable for his return. He is being reevaluated Wednesday and if Freeman is deemed not close to returning, he would be eligible to take a medical redshirt as he has played less than 30% of the scheduled games. Something to watch for and a potential silver lining, keeping open the possibility Freeman will still have two more seasons on the banks.
Ibrahima Diallo: Incomplete
Diallo averaged close to 4 points and 4 rebounds in 15 minutes of action through 10 games. He played rushed at times on offense but provided size that is now desperately missed. Diallo was expected to be raw and missing time has halted a chance to continue developing throughout the season. His loss has been felt on the glass and will be continued to be felt during every conference game he misses. Because Diallo played more than 30% of the season, he is not eligible for a medical redshirt. There is no timetable for his return.
Shaq Doorson: Incomplete
Shaq has been out all season and is being reevaluated on Friday. His leg fracture sidelined him midway through the preseason. His post presence has been missed on the defensive end. It's possible he will take a medical redshirt as well.
Coaching Grade: D-
The only reason for not giving Eddie an F is the injury issues that have severely depleted the frontcourt. Overall, this team turns the ball over too much, plays porous defense and falls out of the offense too frequently. There has been little improvement from the seniors. There have been puzzling game decisions, like having Sanders inbound the last play against Wake with a chance to win. Taking the ball out of your best player's hands with the game on the line is questionable at best. After having success playing zone against Monmouth in the second half, the team switched back to man to man and were promptly beat on consecutive possessions, sealing the win for the opposition. Being completely unprepared for the 1-3-1 zone defense against George Washington.
Against common opponents from last season, Rutgers has lost to Clemson and Monmouth after winning last year, and lost by even wider margins this season against Seton Hall and George Washington. After last season's upset of Wisconsin, they were blown out by them this past Saturday. They lost to Indiana by a similar margin as they did in their first meeting last season.
The goal for this season was supposed to be about progress. It hasn't happened and even worse, the program is regressing. It's beyond disappointing and it lays squarely at the feet of Eddie Jordan, who in year three is leading this program in the wrong direction. With records of 12-21, 10-22 and a 6-9 start in 2015-2016, equaling the wins of last season seem a bit daunting with only Big Ten opponents left on the schedule.
Play Twice: Michigan State (14-1; 1-1); Illinois (8-7; 0-2); Minnesota (6-8; 0-2); Ohio State (10-5; 2-0); Nebraska (8-7; 0-2)
Still to Play: Maryland (13-1; 2-0); Michigan (12-3; 2-0); Iowa (11-3; 2-0); Purdue (13-2; 1-1); Northwestern (13-2; 1-1); Penn State (9-6; 0-2)
Played: Indiana (12-3; 0-2); Wisconsin (9-6; 1-1)
Health is a major issue in the frontcourt and crippling this team. The outlook for any of the three players to return soon is bleak. We will know more after Freeman and Doorson are reevaluated this week, but positive news would still mean a couple weeks at the earliest for a return. Rutgers is being routinely beaten on the offensive glass, but don't just blame injuries, as giving up second chance points was an issue even when the team was healthy. Perimeter defense has been solid at times, but there are still far too many defensive breakdowns that allow their opponents wide open looks.
While this team is more balanced offensively and has the potential for four to five players to score in double figures every game, rarely has that happened. There haven't been many enjoyable moments to watch this season, although potential for a solid core has developed. Sanders, Williams, Foreman, Laurent, and Freeman, along with Kansas State transfer Nigel Johnson, provide this team with hope for the future. If they stick together and keep working, they could form a winning nucleus down the road. But they need help, and with no recruits committed to the class of 2016, it's fair to ask if it will ever come for this group.
Eddie Jordan said Jonathan Laurent (head) is "still not feeling well" and will be held out of practice today. Rutgers has 7 healthy players.— Jerry Carino (@NJHoopsHaven) January 4, 2016