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Embracing Expectations: 4 Thoughts On Niagara

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NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Indiana Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Rutgers showed up today and dominated Niagara 86-39. Four thoughts:

Geo Baker Was Geo Baker: The junior guard took over the game, scoring 22 points dished out 4 assists and had 3 rebounds. He was all over the court today. Geo always looks better when his shot is falling, but today it was particularly evident how hard he was working on the defensive end with some blocks, forcing turnovers and knowing where to be the whole time. He hit Jacob Young with an absolutely gorgeous no-look pass for a lay-up to really highlight the first half. Baker is the face of this team, and for them to succeed he needs more nights like this.

The Defense Was On Point: Rutgers defensive intensity was evident from the opening tip. The rotations were crisp and everywhere knew their spots. They stopped Niagara at every turn and closed out on most of the shooters. Rutgers forced Niagara into 17 turnovers and the Purple Eagles were no match for the Scarlet Knights.

No Jitters for the Newcomers: Paul Mulcahy is impressing every minute he is on the floor. He had 6 assists and no turnovers—which is impressive for a freshman no matter who the opponent was. Akwasi Yeboah was the second leading scorer and started to show a great shot and some crafty moves getting toward the basket. He dropped in 14 points, second most on the team. And Jacob Young looked a lot better. He passed the ball and wasn’t forcing his shot, knowing he’d get his when the time comes. Watching the new guys develop will be one of the keys to this season.

I don’t envy Greg Paulus and Niagara: Niagara is going to through one of the strangest transitions of any team in college hoops. Their first year head coach Pat Beilein stepped down just before the start of the season after installing whatever system he wanted to run. Greg Paulus, Beilein’s assistant and former Duke player, took the head job and is clearly trying to install his own system. But the players were overmatched and at times had to just rely on a regular old 2-3 zone. Power five teams are going to destroy them until they get up to speed.