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Embracing Expectations: 4 Thoughts On Bryant

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

Rutgers survived a tough game against Bryant 73-71. Here are 4 of my thoughts.

Defense: Let’s chalk it up to a lot of new players and positions trying to figure out their roles. But that was not a typical Pikiell performance. These team let Bryant players get easy cuts to the basket and open threes most of the night. There were times they played solid defense—think the last play of the game, but too often they had to be bailed out by spectacular plays, such as Geo Baker’s last block. They forced a lot of turnovers, which was helpful, but they lost their man through screens and the lane was wide open most of the evening. I expect Pikiell to tighten that up, and quickly, as it is his bread and butter.

Finishing On Offense: Bryant packed it in most of the night, so even when Rutgers got to the rim, their lay-ups were contested. However, Rutgers is a Big Ten team and needs to finish at the rim against smaller opponents. Too many finger rolls spun out, and too many putbacks missed the rim all together. And don’t get me started on the three point shooting. Rutgers never seemed to get on a roll offensively and too often thought they had put the game away when clearly they hadn’t. MAKE YOUR FREE THROWS TOO, PLEASE.

Paul Mulcahy: The much ballyhooed freshman looked the part today. He came off the bench to make smart passes, hit a three and drop in a couple of tough lay-ups. He has a quick first step and a long stride, which helps make up for his lack of overall speed. There are going to be growing pains as the season goes on, but he fit right in with the team and was an asset.

A Weird Crowd: I don’t know if it was because Rutgers fans expected this to be a walk like the team clearly did or if they were too distracted waiting for any type of Schiano news to come through, but the crowd never truly go into it until the very last possession. The RAC shouldn’t have to have some juice in games like this—it’s way too early for this kind of stressful night. But Rutgers came away for a win. The team has to get better and more cohesive—that’s on Pikiell, but there is a lot of time left. The crowds will get louder too.