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Rutgers Basketball: The Injury Excuse

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All conference season, Eddie Jordan has been playing the injury card. And while that card is not something we can totally ignore, it should not the be the number one topic when evaluating Jordan's tenure.

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Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Dear Pat Hobbs,

It's Sunday morning, did you think you were going to get a breather without me setting off your Google Alerts?  Sorry to bother you, but I just wanted to check in on our Rutgers basketball program yet again.

Yesterday, and I know you saw this--you were there, Rutgers blew the doors off a Minnesota Gopher's team so decimated by scandal and injury that it could hardly field a team.  Rutgers attacked the hoop, made some threes and won by 23.  Afterward, embattled head coach Eddie Jordan defended his program, pointing out how decimated his squad has been. His press conference was a defense of his era, with one quote sticking out.

"I thought we’ve done a great service to the program for what we’ve done, being shorthanded the way we were, and we were shorthanded with big people in a big league," Jordan said. "And we gave great effort, and we were competing on a high level for us, so I’m proud of what we’ve gone through. The Ws and Ls, that doesn’t measure what we’ve done."

Let me tell you this:  Injuries are a reason Rutgers was 0-17 in conference, and they were a reason they got that 1 win.  But think about it, if this Rutgers team was completely healthy, would it have been markedly better?  The answer is very clearly no.

Rutgers was on Minnesota's level if healthy.  Probably looking at 2 or 3 conference wins and maybe one more out of conference win.  So, that puts Rutgers at 11 wins.  Is that enough in year 3?

I always say that year 3 is key for a college coach.  In order to keep the good will going from the hiring and that early recruiting bump that all coaches get (Rice with the Mack/Jack class, Jordan with the Sanders class), you have to start to win.  Or land a monster class like Tom Crean did at Indiana.

Jordan has done neither of these things.

In fact, his recruiting was a problem, as he didn't have enough depth to make up for the injuries.

And even worse, when injuries hit, Jordan did not adjust.  Most teams with good coaches adjust their style of play the moment an injury even occurs.  They will ramp up the defense, slow down their offense and try to get a good shot at the end of the shot clock.  This will limit possessions and give a team a chance to hang in.

Eddie Jordan did neither of those things.  We've documented how the team defended the three this season.  But the offense is bad too.  Rutgers leads the Big Ten in offensive tempo, according to KenPom, but they are last in the league in offensive efficiency.  That means they are rushing shots and not taking the best shots.

Pat, that is bad.  That is bad coaching.  To succeed, Jordan should be scouting the other team and looking to take away their strengths.  Pack in the middle if the best player is a big man.  Defend the three if that is the opponent's strength.  Jordan just kept keepin' on.

Look at Danny Hurley's squad (My kingdom for a Hurley.)--they have been struck with injuries as decimating as Rutgers and still are over .500 and while not as good as hoped, they are competing.  Look at Illinois, which had their front court brutalized by injuries and still managed to eek out 5 conference wins.

Rutgers injuries made this season embarrassing, but it still would have been bad, Pat.  Eddie Jordan's entire era has been bad, bordering on embarrassing.  Did the injuries hurt?  Of course.  However, how much better would this year have been when healthy?

Okay, back to your Sunday morning.

Dave White is the author of the Rutgers-set Jackson Donne series--including An Empty Hell.