Rutgers is stunned by Lafayette 53-51. Four thoughts.
What a Disaster: Rutgers has been flirting with this. Overtime with Lehigh, the ugly first half with Merrimack, losing at half to NJIT and then losing to DePaul. The Scarlet Knights are playing like they want the Big Ten schedule to start and everything else doesn’t matter. It’s as if they feel like they can, yawn, turn it on at any time, escape with a win and move on. But it’s not like that. Rutgers isn’t the underdog but they have to learn they can’t take nights off when everyone is coming to give you their best shot. Lafayette was 0-4 before this game, but they gave Duke everything they could handle for a half. With a scuffling Scarlet Knights team that was going to be enough.
What a Disappointment: This was supposed to be the celebratory season. Geo Baker and Ron Harper Jr. back. A good team. A packed arena. But instead, we are getting a team that just isn’t gelling. They aren’t fun to watch right now and they look like they aren’t having fun on the court. Caleb McConnell was so bad on the offensive end, he sat the final minutes in order to allow Rutgers to try and score some baskets. They don’t run fast breaks... EVER. And I do not understand why. And Baker looked like he pulled a hamstring and that could be the kind of thing that keeps him out a while. What should have been a long celebration is starting to look like a long season.
Can’t Figure Out a Zone: Rutgers did not do anything to figure out the zone. They couldn’t shoot threes (an absolutely atrocious 4-24) and they couldn’t get to the rim, except for Ron Harper Jr. Lafayette turned the ball over 23 times and still Rutgers couldn’t win. Nothing was in sync and while I rarely criticize the offense, they did what critics often say. Tonight they just passed it around the perimeter and chucked shots. It was a classic, “Let’s get home for the holiday.” Well, now with the hard part of the schedule coming up, you’ve put yourself in a bad spot. Imagine that, a team that was supposed to be very good is in a danger zone five games into the season.
Steve Pikiell Should Know Better: I haven’t seen Pikiell’s comments after this game yet, but he spent all off season calling this his best team. That they are elite passers, play good defense and are going to rebound better. He hyped up the fan base into looking for a classic season. Well, if this is Pikiell’s best team, I’d hate to see his worst. There’s a lot of time left, but there is so much to figure out. This isn’t just Jacob Young, Myles Johnson and Montez Mathis leaving. They are talented enough to overcome that. This is a team that looked tonight like they were going through the motions. Ron Harper Jr. almost bailed them out, but if you get to the close to the fire—at some point you’re going to get burned. Steve Pikiell can coach, and he did the unthinkable here. I love him and I think he’s going to be great long term here, but he needs to get this team to figure itself out and quick.