Preview, Breakdown, Prediction of Garden State Hardwood Classic

18240_williamstealf

Junior guard Mike Williams, seen here getting a steal in Rutgers’ meeting with Seton Hall at the Rutgers Athletic Center last season, has provided depth and three-point shooting off the bench for the Scarlet Knights this season.

The Rutgers men’s basketball team travels to the Prudential Center Friday night (6:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1) to face Seton Hall to fill in the next chapter of a state rivalry with a long history stacked to the brim with close games, wild finishes and often times strange circumstances.

The Pirates (9-2) have taken each of the past three games, including the first two editions of the Garden State Hardwood Classic by an average margin of victory of 28 points. But the massive margin of victory is an anomaly, not the norm, in the series — 18 of the last 22 meetings have been decided by six points or less, or in five cases, overtime.

The Scarlet Knights (11-1) are off to an impressive start but have yet to convince skeptic’s that their record is as a result of their solid play and not the weakness of their opposition. A win over the Pirates, the defending Big East Tournament champions looking to return to the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year, would legitimize their early season success and serve as a solid book end to non-conference play.

There is a lot at stake, including postseason hopes and statewide bragging rights. I’m going to try to dissect the toughest test the Knights and first-year head coach Steve Pikiell will have faced yet.

The teams:

Seton Hall is in the midst of its best stretch as a program since its glory days in the 1990’s. The Pirates are 9-2, picking up some big wins in non-conference play, including handing No. 16 South Carolina its only loss up until this week when the Gamecocks were upset by their own bitter in-state rivals Clemson.

The Pirates responded to losing star sophomore guard Isaiah Whitehead — who bypassed his last two years of eligibility to enter the NBA Draft, where he was drafted 42nd overall by his hometown Brooklyn Nets — and graduate transfer forward Derrick Gordon with another talented transfer in Madison Jones, who leads the team in assists, and four-star freshman forward Myles Powell.

The rookie sharp-shooter is putting up a 39 percent clip from downtown, pinning him at second in the team in the category behind junior guard Khadeen Carrington, who is shooting at an unconscious 50 percent clip from three.

Carrington is part of the core of juniors the Hall leans on this season as much as it did the last, when it returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in over two decades after winning the Big East Tournament for the third time in school history.

The trio of Carrington, Angel Delgado and Desi Rodriguez have picked up the slack after losing their fourth member in Whiteside by forming the top three sources of scoring for the Pirates, with Carrington spearheading the three-headed monster with 19.2 points per game.

Rutgers is off to its best start since its greatest ever season in 1975-76, when it suffered its first setback in the Final Four after an undefeated regular season.

The Scarlet Knights are 11-1, and while some of that is due to them facing the second easiest schedule in the country according to analytics website KenPom.com’s strength of schedule calculations, the fact is they are playing much better basketball than they were a year ago.

They lead the nation in offensive rebounding percentage, according to KenPom, owning a rebounding margin of +13.4 on the season.

Aside from its only loss at Miami, a win at Depaul and a last-second win over Hartford, the Knights have defeated every opponent they’ve faced by double-digits, including a 42-point win over Central Connecticut State.

The addition of graduate transfer C.J. Gettys — who adds leadership and regularly injects emotion into the team along with his usual contributions of 9 points and 5.3 rebounds a night — the eligibility of Kansas State transfer Nigel Johnson (12.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists per game off the bench), the recovery of junior guard Deshawn Freeman (team-leading 12.7 points, 9.3 rebounds per game, six double-doubles) and the reinvigoration of junior guard Mike Williams (11.8 points on 37 percent shooting from three) have the Knights looking completely different from the team that lost by 29 points to the Pirates at the Rutgers Athletic Center last year.


Frontcourt:

Seton Hall’s Delgado, a center, and Rodriguez, a wing, are the folds of the Knights starting frontcourt of junior Deshawn Freeman and Gettys, though with more impressive numbers.

Freeman leads the Knights in both scoring and rebounds, posting up six double-doubles in 12 games this season with an average of 12.7 points and 9.3 boards a night, while Gettys contributes a solid 9 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. Their contributions are a big factor in Rutgers leading the nation in offensive rebounding percentage, according to analytics website KenPom.com.

But compare that to Rodriguez, who is second in scoring and rebounding for the Pirates with 14.5 points and 6.1 boards per game, and Delgado, who is third on the team in scoring with 14.3 points per game and first in rebounding with 11.4 boards, combine it with their lethal shooting ability from deep and it’s easy to see why the home team is favored so heavily in this game.

“They rebound the ball really well at a high level, both offensively and defensively and I think we have to match their intensity on the boards like we have all year,” Gettys said. “I think we win the battle of the boards, that gives us an advantage and it’s going to help us win the game.”

Delgado is the most talented big man Gettys has faced at this point in the season. He’s long, athletic and can run the floor to go along with the run-and-gun style Kevin Willard’s Pirates like to play from time-to-time. For as much energy as Gettys provides the team, the truth is he’s not in good enough shape to keep up with the dynamic Dominican forward.

Expect junior college transfer Candido Sa to see extended action on the floor to guard Delgado. The primary reason being because he’s living up to the reputation of being a block machine he gained in his time at San Jacinto College in Pasadena, leading the Knights in blocks a year after leading all JuCo players in the country in the category. A less positive reason is the fact Gettys is likely to get into foul trouble early while trying to stop Delgado.

And even if Gettys, Freeman and Sa manage to contain Delgado on the inside, he can pick his poison and kick it out to any of the quality shooters the Hall will have out on the perimeter. Going by the difficulties Rutgers has had in rotating on defense this season, the Pirates will have plenty of open looks from deep.

Seton Hall lost some depth in its front court over the past week, with sharp-shooting sophomore Veer Singh announcing his decision to transfer last week and classmate Myles Carter being dismissed from the team Thursday morning, but what it has is enough to overpower Rutgers.

Advantage: Seton Hall

 

Backcourt:

Rutgers isn’t completely helpless in the matchup on paper, though. What they lack in the battle of the front court, the Knights make up for in their balanced backcourt.

Expected to do everything from score to facilitate to force turnovers last season, sophomore guard Corey Sanders has thrived in a more reserved role this season. The Lakeland, Florida, native still flexes his ability to attack the rack and score, ranking fourth in the team with 10.2 points per game, but without being forced to carry that load, he’s grown in several areas.

Sanders leads the team in assists (4 apg) and steals (1.8 spg) but where he’s improved the most is in his defense, an area Pikiell and his coaching staff have emphasized heavily.

He’s found the space for the improvement thanks to two junior guards in Nigel Johnson and Mike Williams.

The latter is having a resurgence in his third year on the Banks, slowly beginning to fill the role of sharp-shooter he came with when he arrived as a recruit from Brooklyn. Thriving in his role as the sixth man, Williams leads the team in three-point shooting percentage with a 37 percent clip and ranks third in scoring with 11.8 points per night.

Playing in his first year of eligibility for the Knights after sitting out last season following his transfer to Piscataway from Kansas State, Johnson is also embracing a role as one of the first players off the bench for Pikiell. The Ashburn, Virginia, native led the team in scoring for some stretches of the season, now sitting second behind Freeman with 12.4 per game.

His ability to slow the game down, his versatility in playing both on and off the ball and his tenacious defense all give Pikiell another solid option to employ in the backcourt.

On the other end, Carrington has proved his worth in his three years in West Orange. But, as the Asbury Park Press’s Jerry Carino said in his preview, the Hall lack a true point guard, though Madison Jones isn’t a slouch. Kansas State transfer Jevon Thomas is set to make his debut after serving his suspension for his alleged involvement in an altercation in which he choked a graduate student refereeing an intramural basketball game on campus, but without having played a minute of meaningful basketball in a year and a half, what he can do in an official game is yet to be seen.

Advantage: Rutgers

 

Bench:

Two of Rutgers top three scorers come off the bench. Steve Pikiell regularly goes deep into his bench, with eight Knights averaging double-digit minutes on the season. Freshman forward Eugene Omayuri, the ninth most used Knight, is one Pikiell trusts and has praised multiple times for his defense this season.

As I mentioned above, Seton Hall has lost depth in its front court. The Pirates have seven players who average at least 20 minutes per game. The pair leaving the program ranked eighth and ninth. Of those who remain, just one averages more than five minutes per game.

“I feel like we have one of the best benches in the country,” Williams said. “Even though they’re young, they play hard.”

Advantage: Rutgers.

 

Environment:

The Prudential Center is expecting a sell-out crowd of 10,900 fans, just 2,000 of which expected to be clad in Scarlet. Seton Hall is undefeated there this season and lost just three times there last season.

The Knights only loss of the season was on the road at Miami in the toughest environment they played in front of this season.

“Friday night is going to be a tough environment,” Williams said.

Advantage: Seton Hall

 

Prediction:

On paper, most signs point towards a fourth straight win for Seton Hall in the biggest rivalry game in New Jersey college basketball.

Whether that comes to fruition on the court is a whole other story.

For now, all we could do is predict, far from an exact science.

But based on the recent past and the evidence laid out in this post, barring an improbably perfect game from Rutgers, this game is Seton Hall’s to lose.

Seton Hall 57, Rutgers 49.


Brian Fonseca is the sports editor of the Daily Targum. To reach him, shoot an email to sports@dailytargum.com or briannnf@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @briannnnf for updates on the Rutgers men’s basketball team.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Rutgers-No. 2 Ohio State Keys, Players to Watch, X-Factor, Predictions

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Rutgers football team (2-2, 0-1) is in Columbus on the first day of October as guests for No. 2 Ohio State’s (3-0, 0-0) Homecoming game. Among the former Buckeyes coming back to former stomping grounds will be a few members of the Scarlet Knights’ coaching staff, with head coach Chris Ash spearheading the bunch.

Ash was co-defensive coordinator in Columbus for the past two seasons, winning a national title in 2014 before coming to Piscataway for his first head coaching gig.

But he’s not getting caught up in the storyline.

“It’s not about me. It’s about the players,” he said. “They still have to be the ones to show up to make plays.”

Here are some predictions from our editorial staff on the plays that will be made from Ohio Stadium this Saturday.

 

 

OHIO STATE WINS IF

Brian Fonseca, Sports Editor

It doesn’t make a historic amount of errors. The Buckeyes are head and shoulders above Rutgers in terms of talent in their roster and experience on their coaching staff. The Scarlet Knights come into Columbus as 38.5 point underdogs and even that seems generous considering the fact Ohio State outscored them 105-24 in the two meetings between in the programs in the last two years.

Unless JT Barrett throws a record number of interceptions and Buckeye head coach Urban Meyer makes baffling decisions and uncharacteristic coaching mistakes as a sign of sympathy to his former defensive coordinator, Rutgers head coach Chris Ash and his team is in for a long afternoon at Ohio Stadium Saturday.

Eric Mullin, Associate Sports Editor

The Buckeyes physically show up to Ohio Stadium at noon to play football against Rutgers.

In all seriousness, Ohio State has too much talent to lose a game like this. Yes, Rutgers is coming off a very strong defensive performance in a near upset of Iowa last week. But this isn’t C.J. Beathard, Akrum Wadley and the power run game of a Hawkeyes team that was upset by North Dakota State the week prior. It’s J.T. Barrett, Mike Weber, Noah Brown, Curtis Samuel and an explosive power spread attack of the No. 4 Buckeyes. That’s a lot of weapons for a defense, which has been defined by inconsistencies this season, to account for and contain for four quarters.

And for all the talk about Ohio State’s offense, its defense has been just as good. The Buckeyes are holding opponents to 12.3 points per game, limiting Oklahoma to 21 points in their most recent outing. Points were already going to be hard to come by, but without being able to gameplan around Janarion Grant it will be tough for offensive coordinator Drew Mehringer to scheme up a way for Rutgers to consistently piece drives together and get on the scoreboard.

 

RUTGERS WINS IF

Fonseca:

It plays a perfect game. The Scarlet Knights will need to play a squeeky clean game on offense with no turnovers and take advantage of their chances whenever they are presented with them, a task far easier said than done. Ohio State has made seven interception in its first three games, scoring on three of them, and is hosting a quarterback in junior Chris Laviano whose biggest area of concern is ball security, according to himself, his offensive coordinator and Rutgers head coach Chris Ash. Laviano didn’t record a turnover against Iowa last week after turning it over at least once in each of the first three games of the season, so he’s hoping it becomes a trend rather than an anomaly.

On the defensive side of the ball, Rutgers’ linebacker corps has to play a pair of levels above their talent, Darnell Davis and Myles Nash have to play twice as well as injured Quanzell Lambert usually does and the secondary has to cover the field like a giant blanket.

Anything short of a perfect performance will see the Buckeyes bury the Knights, reaching or even exceeding their average of 56 points per game, which is good for third in the nation.

Mullin:

The Knights’ defense keeps the Buckeyes from pulling away. If Rutgers can somehow turn this into a low-scoring, defensive game (similar to its game against Iowa) it will benefit the Knights. For that to happen Rutgers’ front seven has to be flying around the field in filling the gaps on draws, gaining leverage on outside runs and getting consistent pressure in J.T. Barrett’s face when he drops back to pass. In the secondary, the Knights can’t allow Barrett’s big arm to burn them when he takes deep shots down the field to Noah Brown.

On offense Rutgers has to clean up the mistakes it made from last week. It can’t turn the ball over, especially deep in its own end of the field. And when the Knights get in the red zone they have score, whether it be a field goal or touchdown.

If the Knights have any shot of pulling off the improbable upset, they need mostly everything to go in their favor.

 

X-Factor

Fonseca:

Ohio State junior quarterback JT Barrett has never explicitly said the team he enjoys playing the most, but based on the numbers, one can’t imagine Rutgers being too far from the top of the list.

The Wichita Falls, Texas, native has torn the Knights to shreds in his two games against them, collecting 404 total yards nearly split right down the middle between his feet and his arm. Like most teams, Rutgers has struggled heavily to find an answer for the Heisman Trophy candidate in the past and it doesn’t appear likely that the third time will be the charm.

Barring a spotless game from the Knights or an untimely injury, expect Barrett to rack up another 200 yard game at the very least and a repeat performance of his season opener against Bowling Green where he accounted for a program-record seven touchdowns — six with his arm, one with his legs — at the worst.

21013_p10barrettdimitri1015f

Mullin:

Robert Martin eclipsed the 100-yard mark on the ground for the second consecutive game when he ran for 106 yards across 21 attempts against Iowa. He already played a vital role in a Rutgers offense that lacks a large number of playmakers, but Janarion Grant’s season-ending injury makes Martin even more valuable to this offense. This season the junior running back is picking up a career-best 6.2 yards per carry on upwards of 19 carries per game across his three starts. It will be interesting to see if that carry average approaches the 25-30 mark or the coaching staff decides to trot out Justin Goodwin and Josh Hicks more often.

The biggest question surrounding the Knights’ offense is how they will be able to sustain drives and score points consistently without Grant in the lineup. If Rutgers is going to give Ohio State a real run at an upset, holding an advantage in time of possession will be one of the keys. The Knights are going to need Robert Martin to keep the chains moving to control clock and keep J.T. Barrett and Co. on the sidelines as much as possible.

20854_martinf

Key Matchup

Fonseca:

Knights’ front 7 vs. Ohio State’s run attack

Playing without senior defensive end Quanzell Lambert and with a hurt Trevor Morris playing at weakside linebacker, the already thin Rutgers front 7 enters the second third of the season banged up and bruised. Presented in front of it will be the offense of the No. 2 team in the country, spearheaded by a Heisman Trophy candidate who has both the Big Ten’s all-purpose yard leader and the second best rusher in terms of yards per game in the conference alongside him.

When J.T. Barrett isn’t completing 67.1 percent of his throws — making him the most efficient passer in the Big Ten — he’s gaining 53 yards a game on the ground.

When he’s not gaining 16 yards with every reception he makes, Curtis Samuel is moving the chains eight yards per carry.

Mullin:

Ohio State’s front four vs. Rutgers’ offensive line

For Robert Martin to keep the chains moving, Rutgers is going to have to get a good push up front from its offensive line. Last week against an Iowa team that is known for being tough on both sides of the line of scrimmage, the Knights’ offensive line dominated the trenches from start to finish.That kind of performance will be key this week, because Rutgers is going to need to have the same kind of success on the ground that they had last week.

If Ohio State’s defensive front controls this battle and Rutgers is forced to become one-dimensional, it will be a long day junior quarterback Chris Laviano and the Knights.

 

Players to Watch

Fonseca:

Rutgers – Julian Pinnix Odrick.

The senior defensive end has always been a solid player but he’s grown to become among the best on the team in his final season on the Banks. One of the Knights’ four captians, JPO leads his team in tackles for loss (5) and sacks (4), ranks second in quarterback hurries (3) and third in overall tackles (21). If Rutgers hopes to stop the high-powered Ohio State offense, it’ll need Pinnix-Odrick to put even more pressure on the quarterback than he usually does with classmate Quanzell Lambert out for the game and the season.

 

Ohio State – Malik Hooker

The sophomore safety is tied with teammate Marshon Lattimore for the most interceptions in the Big Ten with three in as many games, but Hooker (16) has twice as many tackles as Lattimore (8). Nevertheless, expect both to make it a really long day for Chris Laviano if the Rutgers junior quarterback remains to be as careless with the ball as he was in the first three weeks of the season.

Mullin:

Rutgers – Jawaun Harris

Drew Mehringer noted this week that Janarion Grant’s touches and production don’t just vanish now that he’s out of the lineup due to a season-ending injury. Someone will have to account for the double-digit touches that Grant garnered through the first few games. Expect Robert Martin, along with healthy doses of Josh Hicks and Justin Goodwin, to be even worked in even more than they already were to make up for some of those touches.

But who steps up on the outside? How about two-sport athlete Jawuan Harris. In the season opener against Washington, Harris wasn’t targeted once in the limited amount of snaps he got in the game. Fast forward a month later, Harris is a top-two receiver on the Knights’ depth chart and in line for a major touch increase with the loss of Grant. On the season he has eight catches for 161 yards and two touchdowns, while mostly being used as a down-field threat. Harris doesn’t have the elusiveness of Grant, but he’s got the speed and quickness to make plays on the jet sweeps and screens that Grant made his living off of. He may not be running the wildcat or throwing touchdown passes off of reverses anytime soon, but expect to see Harris as the receiver who has his number called the most against the Buckeyes. Harris will also be absorbing Grant’s duties on punt and kick returns.

 

Prediction

Fonseca:

Ohio State 63, Rutgers 3

Mullin:

Ohio State 55, Rutgers 6

 

 

 

 

Posted in Big Ten, Football | Leave a comment

Rutgers men’s basketball coaching search: Where to now?

18317_back_threesome_dimitrif.jpg

University President Robert L. Barchi, left, and Athletic Director Patrick Hobbs, right, found their right fit for the Rutgers football team when they hired Chris Ash in December. Now, they sift through the remaining options following the reported denials of Rhode Island head coach Dan Hurley and George Washington head coach Mike Lonergan. Photo credit: Dimitri Rodriguez / The Daily Targum / December 2015

The Daily Targum sports correspondent and Rutgers men’s basketball beat writer Garrett Stepien weighs the pros and cons of each candidate reportedly left for athletic director Patrick Hobbs as the coaching search for Eddie Jordan’s replacement continues.

NEW BRUNSWICK — Following the dismissal of Eddie Jordan last Thursday after three years, Rutgers fans had to be feeling about athletic director Patrick Hobbs leading the search for the 19th head men’s basketball coach.

After all, Hobbs did land an impressive hire in Chris Ash. While the 30th head football coach at Rutgers still has much to prove, the track record and energy instilled by the former Ohio State co-defensive coordinator in his first few months on the job have shown why Barchi and Hobbs spoke so highly of their top target from the get-go.

As for the men’s hoops coaching search, well, that’s another story.

The top two targets for the vacancy each removed their names from the running when Rhode Island’s Dan Hurley and George Washington’s Mike Lonergan both reportedly dropped themselves out of the search in the past week.

Talks with the wild card candidate of the bunch, current ESPN college basketball analyst and former Duke star guard Jay Williams, broke off after the former No. 2 overall pick of the NBA Draft withdrew his name from the hat on Thursday morning.

Calling all remaining candidates potentially interested in the gig.

Don’t all raise your hands at once.

From what’s left, Hobbs has to move on and sift through the pool of what’s left for Rutgers to pursue as Jordan’s replacement. And although the list has thinned, there is a short few of reported targets in the mix.

Let’s take a look at those, while adding on a pair of coaches who should still find their way on the end of a phone call from Hobbs in some way, shape or form as Rutgers tries to wrap up its search.

Tim Cluess, Iona head coach 

Iona’s head coach for the past six seasons is at the top of Hobbs’s wish list at the moment, according to SNY’s Adam Zagoria. Despite the 13-seed Gaels’ year ending in a first round exit, Tim Cluess led Iona to its second automatic NCAA Tournament bid by surging through the MAAC Tournament and its third overall Big Dance appearance during his tenure with the inclusion of an at-large berth in 2011-12. With two NIT entrances sprinkled in between, there’s no doubt Cluess has been able to create a winning culture up in New Rochelle. But for as much firepower as his Iona teams have had — the Gaels averaged 79.6 points per game in 2015-16 — their downfall has normally come on an inability to slow down opposing offenses. Cluess is a 57-year-old who would have to lead an uphill battle of a recruiting rebuild at Rutgers, which just got done experimenting with Jordan when he returned to the Banks from the NBA at the age of 57. At the end of it all, Cluess is a guy who helped grow a local mid-major immediately and effectively on his way to success at Iona. But is he the guy Rutgers wants directing this rebranding when local coaches, like the legendary St. Anthony High School’s (Jersey City) Bob Hurley Sr., have stressed how bad the Knights need someone young, energetic and optimistic to lead that culture change?

Steve Pikiell, Stony Brook head coach

Wrapping up his 11th season at the helm with Stony Brook, Steve Pikiell led the Seawolves to their first March Madness appearance in his lengthy tenure on Long Island. The 48-year-old fits the build of a younger candidate Rutgers needs, building Stony Brook from the bottom up into a contender among mid-majors in the America East with 22 wins or more in seven of the past eight seasons and compiling a 190-155 mark overall. That all came just years after the program transitioned to Division I in 1999. Before that, he played under Jim Calhoun at UConn for four years before staying on as an assistant in 1991-92, clearly soaking in valuable knowledge of the game on his way to branching out to his next stops along the way. Pikiell isn’t exactly the A1 hire Rutgers initially looked for when it began its coaching search last week — and it didn’t help when the Seawolves dropped in the first round to Kentucky in a 28-point blowout — but his overall body of work still keeps him in the serious mix. And in this current pool of candidates, he could wind up the safest in building a respectable program run the right way.

Kevin Boyle

As much of a wild card as Kevin Boyle initially appears on the surface, it really isn’t that crazy at all when you take a closer look. Boyle, who built St. Patrick’s High School (Elizabeth) into a state powerhouse and national name, proved that his tenure in New Jersey wasn’t a fluke when he went down to Monteverde Academy (Florida). After growing the likes of Kyri Irving and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist up at St. Pat’s, Boyle recruited young athletes from all over the world to the high school academy in the suburbs of Orlando. Look no further than LSU forward and likely No. 1 overall pick of the 2016 NBA Draft Ben Simmons, whom Boyle brought in — to play high school basketball — from Melbourne, Australia. Boyle, who received an endorsement as a college coach from Simmons last week, clearly doesn’t have the experience yet at the next level. But isn’t there something to be said about what this guy has done? And it’s not like he hasn’t expressed interest in taking that next step before. On top of that, coaches of local high school powerhouses that breed the top talent in Rutgers’ home state have publicly and loudly expressed the desire for the Knights to bring Boyle home and rebuild the state’s college hoops brand.

At this point, with who’s left, it’s a dice throw predicting who Hobbs might tap as the next head men’s basketball coach at Rutgers. And it’s unclear who even wants the job. But Boyle has sought making that jump to the next level at Monmouth in 2011, and has expressed previous interest in the gig at Rutgers when he ironically spoke about how the Knights needed to mend the right relationships with New Jersey’s high school coaches and pick from the pile of local talent to build an eventual contender.

Only question is this: Is Hobbs ready to roll the dice?

For updates on the Rutgers men’s basketball team, follow @GarrettStepien and @TargumSports on Twitter.

Posted in Big Ten, Men's basketball, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Rutgers head men’s basketball coach candidates: Who’s on the short list?

18189_online_hobbs_edwinf

The Daily Targum sports correspondent and Rutgers men’s basketball beat writer Garrett Stepien evaluates the beginning of athletic director Patrick Hobbs’s coaching search for Eddie Jordan’s replacement.

INDIANAPOLIS — While the Rutgers men’s basketball team’s 2015-16 season is over, the search for its next head coach has just begun.

Less than 24 hours after their 89-72 loss to Nebraska in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, the Scarlet Knights (7-25, 1-17) returned to Piscataway to find out Eddie Jordan had been dismissed from his head coaching position after three years at the helm.

STORY: Rutgers dismisses Eddie Jordan after three years as head men’s basketball coach

As bad as Rutgers was in its three years after the Mike Rice scandal broke the program down to the bare minimum, the Knights still have a few promising pieces here and there to offer their next head coach.

The Knights return eight scholarship players, featuring 6-foot-11 center Shaquille Doorson (foot) and a former JUCO All-American in forward Deshawn Freeman (knee) after the two big men suffered season-ending injuries.

Corey Sanders transformed from a hyped ESPN Top 100 recruit into the face of the program for Rutgers after leading all Big Ten freshmen in points per game (15.9), assists per game (4.3) and steals per game (1.8).

STORY: Corey Sanders tells The Daily Targum he will return to Rutgers for sophomore year

Whoever athletic director Patrick Hobbs tabs also gets a boost from Kansas State transfer guard Nigel Johnson, whom Jordan claimed on multiple occasions was Rutgers’ best player despite sitting out for the year after NCAA transfer rules. But with that, the Knights still have a long way to go before they get legitimately build a winning program when they have a loaded Big Ten slate staring them in the face on a daily basis.

19388_sandersf

While he publicly endorsed Eddie Jordan on multiple occasions, Corey Sanders told The Daily Targum he will remain at Rutgers for his sophomore season despite having a new head coach. Sanders is a key piece for the Knights as they search for their fourth coach in 10 years.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at what Athletic Director Pat Hobbs’ list should be sizing up as.

Dan Hurley, Rhode Island head coach

The last name is synonymous with New Jersey hoops. A son of legendary St. Anthony’s High School head coach Bob Hurley Sr. and brother of Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley, turning programs around is all that Dan Hurley has done. He turned Wagner around in his second year (25-6, 15-3), falling short of an NCAA Tournament bid in the 2011-12 season before bolting for Rhode Island where he has had the Rams trending for the Big Dance. But after his team’s early exit in the second round of the Atlantic-10 Tournament and having never made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament, Dan Hurley has emerged again as a top target for the vacancy. In discussion for the Rutgers job in 2013 before the Knights hired Eddie Jordan, Danny Hurley is “at the top of the list of replacements,” according to a report from The New York Post. And, when asked by NJ Advance Media about the Rutgers vacancy on Thursday after Rhode Island’s loss to UMass, he didn’t say no.

http://video-embed.nj.com/services/player/bcpid1950981419001?bctid=4796260444001&bckey=AQ~~,AAAAPLMILBk~,Vn8u6tPOf8Us2eD8W1ez5Zw-Ss_6Anfe

It all makes the Jersey City native the ideal candidate for the job, and one that Pat Hobbs is expected to thoroughly pursue, even if it comes at the expense of a $1 million buyout of his contract with the Rams.

Steve Masiello, Manhattan head coach

The former Kentucky walk-on (1996-00) and Louisville assistant (2005-11) has done a commendable job building Manhattan into a solid mid-major program in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. In his five years at the helm, Steve Masiello is 92-70 with two NCAA Tournament appearances. Although the Jaspers ended their 2015-16 campaign at 13-17 overall and 9-11 in the MAAC for the first losing season since Masiello’s second year, Manhattan’s progression stems from his ability to target and develop local talent and build competitive rosters. Masiello nearly became South Florida’s head coach two springs ago before the Bulls’ brass rescinded the offer following a discrepancy on his resume regarding his stated graduation from Kentucky despite never completely finishing for his degree. Still, at the end of the day, Masiello clearly stands out as a promising local candidate who could flourish from the resources offered to him in building Rutgers back up under Pat Hobbs, similar to Danny Hurley.

Herb Sendek, ex-Arizona State head coach

After a year out of the business following his dismissal from Arizona State after nine years where he went 155-133 with two tickets punched to the Big Dance, Herb Sendek could be one seasoned coaching veteran whose name comes up in discussion for the open Rutgers head coaching gig. Sender built Miami (Ohio) up from 1993-96 with one NCAA Tournament appearance and a 63-26 record before making a name for himself at North Carolina State (1996-06), where he ended his tenure with the Wolfpack on five consecutive trips to the NCAAs. The 53-year-old has the resume that boasts credibility for the job, given his success at each of his stops along the way, but would he consider coming back to coaching with a program like Rutgers?

Mike Lonergan, George Washington head coach

Like Dan Hurley and Steve Masiello, Mike Lonergan is another mid-major coach more than capable of taking the next step and directing a program for the challenging rebuild process  of Rutgers in the Big Ten. Lonergan has been at George Washington since 2011, compiling a 91-69 record to date. He’s pounded the Knights in each of their past two contests over the last couple of years, handing Rutgers a 34-point rout earlier in the season in D.C.  Lonergan has the Colonials in the quarterfinals of the A-10 Tournament after their 73-65 win over Saint Louis on Thursday, and they could even sneak into the Big Dance with an at-large bid if they don’t get the conference’s automatic qualifier. Past that, he’s already based in the talent-rich D.C. area with what has become a pretty consistent winner in a competitive conference. Barring a strong push by Pat Hobbs and the Rutgers brass, Lonergan doesn’t appear that he’d be the most likely to leave GW unless it’s for a better gig.

Jay Williams, ESPN college basketball analyst

Pulling out the wild card candidate with some inspiration from the Twittersphere, Jay Williams would be an interesting hire, to say the least. The former Duke star and No. 2 overall pick of the 2002 NBA Draft, who acknowledged the Rutgers vacancy when a Twitter user mentioned the idea of him filling the position, has been working as a college basketball analyst at ESPN for the past few years.

Williams is high on Corey Sanders, going out of his way to express his admiration for the star freshman guard’s play and potential hours later.

Williams, a St. Joseph’s (Metuchen) graduate and New Jersey native of Plainfield, has roots to the state he once starred in. At the same time, he doesn’t have any coaching experience and that makes him an unlikely candidate to begin with.

But if Pat Hobbs and Rutgers are looking to make a splash, well, here it is.

For updates on the Rutgers men’s basketball team, follow @GarrettStepien and @TargumSports on Twitter.

Posted in Big Ten, Men's basketball, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Why NOT Rutgers to run Big Ten Tournament table?

Conventional wisdom tells us that No. 2 seed Ohio State is too strong, too talented and way too polished offensively to fall victim to an opening game ouster at the hands of 10-seed Rutgers in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament tonight.

The Buckeyes enter tonight’s matchup, the third between the schools after OSU won the first two, with the Big Ten’s second-best scorer Kelsey Mitchell (24.3 PPG) and No. 7 on the scoring list Ameryst Alston (19.5 PPG) powering an offense that hung 90 on the Scarlet Knights in Columbus Jan. 10.

On paper, Rutgers is an irrefutable underdog.

But to borrow a line from the great Denny Green, perhaps the Knights “are who we thought they were” before the season began: a dominant defensive team, with a starting lineup that boasts four seniors, headlined by a pair of can’t-miss future WNBA players in Kahleah Copper and Tyler Scaife.

Rutgers performance in the last two games has demonstrated that the Knights are just that after manhandling Michigan, 72-50, in the season finale and overcoming an 8-point deficit to overtake Nebraska, 66-63, in the second round of the conference tournament Thursday night.

Scaife comes into tonight’s contest averaging 17.4 PPG and Copper continues to electrify crowds with her athleticism around the rim.

Copper poured in 17 last night to go with nine rebounds, putting her a board shy of her 11th double-double of the season.

All the offense from both sides is great, but defense wins championships.

Rutgers will reveal if they have the defense capable of stifling scorers of Mitchell and Alston’s ilk and if they can produce the amount of points necessary to make the Buckeyes buckle down the stretch.

The Knights boast the Big Ten’s best scoring defense, along with leading the league in blocks and standing second in defensive field goal percentage.

Here’s why the upset will happen.

OSU finished the season with two debilitating overtime defeats.

If the Buckeyes managed to pull out a victory in either they would have finished the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, placing them on the other side of the bracket from Rutgers.

Instead the Knights get to write their own script against an Ohio State team that even Mitchell is unsure is playing to their record at season’s end.

“It’s just one of those things where we just have to turn the page,” Mitchell told OSU’s student newspaper, the Lantern. “We have to get back to the way things were.”

That will not happen tonight.

Ohio State is a lock for at least a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, with a chance to make a case for a 1-seed tonight, but after a week off I think they will be rusty.

So don’t expect a fast start.

Rutgers will keep the game in the 60s and Copper and Scaife will combine for 40-plus points, with Rachel Hollivay swatting shots from all comers in the low block.

In this scenario the Knights will march on, 68-65.

If Rutgers can send Brutus packing, believe it or not, the road to hoe actually gets a little easier from there, save for a potential matchup with No. 5 Maryland, but we’ll come back to that later.

Michigan State would likely be the opponent in the semi-finals after will likely pushing past Purdue in the game that follows RU vs. OSU.

Rutgers blew a late lead against the Spartans in their last matchup, otherwise the Knights would have walked away with their first win over a ranked opponent this season.

But the third time could be the charm, just like the opportunity to topple the Buckeyes.

Hollivay will find a way to solve Aerial Powers innate ability to score, pretty much, whenever she wants, standing fifth in the conference with 21.9 points per.

And the Knights can conceivably correct the miscues that led them to their demise at the hands of the Spartans in the last meeting, putting them against virtual lock and No.1 seed, Maryland.

Seriously, it could happen.

After Rutgers took the Terps for a ride through the first quarter Feb. 21, Maryland took control and coasted to a 73-59 win.

We can apply the “magic carpet ride theory” at this point in order to justify the Knights in upsetting the No. 5 team in the nation.

And of course there are many reasons why Rutgers could get blown out by the Buckeyes tonight, or slip against the Spartans, or of course, run out of gas against a Maryland.

But why NOT Rutgers?

The Knights have been riding the coattails of an emotional upswing set in motion by the return of their matriarch, hall of fame head coach C. Vivian Stringer to the bench.

Stringer is coaching the Big Ten Tournament at Banker’s Life Field House in the heartland of the midwest, reminiscent of her glory days in Iowa City.

And the team can sense the importance of this season’s outcome.

“We have more to offer than we have been giving,” said senior guard Briyona Canty Feb.24. I think the fans, they deserve (to see us in the NCAA Tournament) because they have been faithful to us. I think everybody on this team really deserves it. Especially the seniors. And I think we owe it to Coach Stringer. But it’s up to us. We have to set the tone and start it.”

It’s so crazy it just might work.

But Rutgers will need to set the tone tonight, if the wanting to be dancing to any tunes next week.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Rutgers-Arkansas Prediction

Kevin Xavier-Associate Sports Editor

The Rutgers women’s basketball team is hunting for a bounce back win and the timing could not be more perfect for Arkansas to visit the Louis Brown Athletic Center on Sunday afternoon.

Coming off a 69-54 loss at home to Missouri State, the Razorbacks enter the matchup at the RAC on a five-game losing streak, making the Hogs ripe for the Scarlet Knights’ picking.

Rutgers will look to recover after suffering a 65-43 drubbing at the hands of No. 13 Florida State in Tallahassee on Thursday.

The Knights came out flat against the Seminoles, falling behind 19-4 after the first period of play and the 15-point deficit proved too large to overcome, despite some spirited play in the second quarter.

Slow starts have plagued Rutgers on a few occasions in the young season, leading to losses at Seton Hall and in the home opener versus St. John’s, before falling to Florida State on Thursday night.

I don’t expect that to be the case today, especially for junior guard and Arkansas native, Tyler Scaife.

Scaife will be facing her home state’s team for the second time in her three-year career on the Banks. In last year’s matchup at Arkansas, Scaife poured in 13 points and pulled down three rebounds in the Little Rock native’s homecoming to the Natural State.

The then-No. 18 Knights took Scaife’s lead and cruised to a 64-52 victory over the then-No. 25 Hogs.

I see this year’s matchup as much of the same.

Scaife will amped up to show out against some of the players on the Razorbacks roster that she grew up playing with and competing against.

I’m expecting Rutgers junior guard to drop a minimum of 18 points and sprinkle in five or six assists. The Knights scoring presence, with Kahleah Copper complimenting Scaife, will be too much for the Hogs to handle, although Rutgers will need to keep a close eye on forward Jessica Jackson.

Jackson enters the contest averaging 17.6 points and eight rebounds per game, which will test Knights senior center Rachel Hollivay on the defensive end.

But Hollivay and company bottled up a premier center in FSU’s Atuk Bulgak in their last time out on the floor, limiting the Canadian to six points and five rebounds after entering the contest averaging 20.3 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.

Rutgers will redeem itself today.

Scaife will shine and Copper will regain the form that garnered Paradise Jam MVP honors over the Thanksgiving break, where the Philadelphia native averaged 23 points and eight rebounds over three games in St. Martin.

If the Knights start fast, they won’t look back and that could lead to a 20-point margin of victory.

 

Prediction: Rutgers 68 Arkansas 52

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Rutgers head football coach update: Who’s on the short list?

Since Rutgers fired Kyle Flood earlier in the week, University President Robert L. Barchi and his administration have hit the ground running in the search for a replacement.

One day after his hire, newly appointed Athletic Director Pat Hobbs revealed that Rutgers has hired an outside search firm in order to increase the quality of the process for finding the next head football coach on the Banks.

While the next head football coach has yet to be named, other programs have made their moves. Fellow Big Ten member Maryland hired Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin on Wednesday and Miami made a splash by bringing back former quarterback and recent ex-Georgia head coach Mark Richt later on in the day.

To this point, it’s unclear where Rutgers stands in the timeline for its coaching search. On Monday, Barchi told The Daily Targum that the process could last anywhere from five days to two weeks, projecting a new head coach to be named as soon as Friday or as late as two Sundays from now.

But even with nine FBS vacancies remaining, my proposed short list of candidates is still intact, although I’m crossing a few off the list. Here’s an updated look on where Rutgers stands with some new takes on who sounds like the top candidates for the job.

usatsi_8125155_220956_lowres

Photo: USATSI

1. Al Golden 

From the beginning, Al Golden jumped out as a clear top-two candidate and on Wednesday, he catapulted into the top spot when NJ Advance Media’s Keith Sargeant reported that Rutgers was targeting the Monmouth County native from Colts Neck. As USA Today noted, Golden also began following top New Jersey recruits and high school football programs on Twitter on Wednesday, adding fuel to the speculation surrounding a possible move to Rutgers. Golden, who has a decorated football pedigree as a four-year letter-winner at Penn State (1987-91) before serving as Virginia’s defensive coordinator (2001-05) and turning around Temple (2006-10) in his first gig as a head coach, brought in consensus top-15 recruiting classes during his up-and-down five-year tenure at the helm in Miami (2010-15). Rutgers Athletic Director Pat Hobbs went into depth on Monday about the need for the next head coach to be able to keep home-grown talent in New Jersey, and Golden’s ability as a recruiter supports that statement. While there isn’t any word on whether Rutgers has offered Golden, the progression should be watched closely as the week winds down. If Hobbs thinks he has his guy, all signs point to the idea that it could certainly be Golden.

2. Greg Schiano 

The former 11-year head coach in Piscataway appears to have interviewed every job but his old one on the Banks. Greg Schiano reportedly ended up as a finalist for Southern California on top of a strong consideration for a return to Miami, where he served as the defensive coordinator in 2000 under Butch Davis before beginning his rebuild of Rutgers (2001-11). The consensus is that the fans in scarlet all want Schiano back, but his lack of interest is obvious. Schiano, who resigned from Rutgers and bolted for the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2012-13) where he went 11-21, has been out of the game on both levels for the past two seasons despite reportedly wanting to climb back in it. He even interviewed at Central Florida before the Golden Knights named Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost their head coach on Tuesday. But with the Miami job closing, one he reportedly had strong interest in, it remains to be seen whether or not a return to Piscataway may still be in the cards for the Wyckoff native. The only other reasonable landing spot for Schiano seems to be Virginia, which could easily make a move for another Rutgers short list candidate in Al Golden. Still, with the last top head coaching spot out of the way, it narrows things down for both parties. Despite a reported lack of interest in returning, could Schiano just be testing the waters of the programs he wants to know about before ultimately deciding on the one program he already knows best?

3. Chris Ash 

Chris Ash practically came out of no where, but he’s reportedly surging up Rutgers’ short list of candidates. Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman reported on Wednesday that Ash, who withdrew from consideration for the same vacancy at Syracuse as reports surfaced of the Orange zoning in on Bowling Green head coach Dino Babers, has drawn interest from Rutgers. The 41-year-old is new to the short list here, known best for overseeing Ohio State’s defense as a co-coordinator and defensive backs coach since 2014. Before joining the Buckeyes, he served the same positions at Wisconsin (2010-12) where the Badgers had the No. 13 scoring defense (19 points per game allowed) and a Rose Bowl appearance in the 2011 season before he eventually left to join former Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema’s staff at Arkansas (2013) for a year. Given Rutgers’ defensive woes, especially with a young but promising secondary that took its lumps, Ash makes sense when it boils down to the X’s and O’s. While his recent Twitter activity is much quieter than Al Golden’s in terms of whom he’s followed recently — and ESPN’s Brett McMurphy reported that both are “high interest candidates” at Rutgers — Ash could be looked at as an underrated recruiter if it comes down to it. He’s spent plenty of time on recruiting trips with Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, who knows a thing or two on talent acquisition with the perennial power he’s revived over in Columbus. Maryland took a similar route when it hired Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin, another Meyer coaching disciple from his days at Florida who also has influences from Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh. Could Ash become hotter for Rutgers as the week continues?

4. Ed Warringer 

Similar to his defensive counterpart on the coaching staff at Ohio State, Ed Warriner reportedly gained interest from Rutgers on Wednesday as well. Cleveland.com’s Ari Wasserman, citing an anonymous source, said the Ohio State offensive coordinator has received “expressed interest” regarding the head coaching vacancy in Piscataway. Warriner has been running the Buckeyes’ offense under head coach Urban Meyer since he arrived to Columbus after two years as the offensive line coach at Notre Dame. After three years as co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at OSU, Warriner was promoted by Meyer to run the show with full reign in 2015. In each of those years, his power-spread look has kept Ohio State among the top offenses in the country with a powerful push from a physical offensive line that Warriner is credited for developing. Given Rutgers’ inconsistency on offense and poor showing down the stretch from its offensive line this past season, that could definitely serve as a plus for Warriner’s case. On top of his approach to the game schematically, Warriner is known as a prominent recruiter in New Jersey which is clearly what Rutgers hopes its next head coach provides. He has 32 years of experience coaching at the collegiate level, not to mention his oversight of the offense at Kansas when the Jayhawks weren’t the laughingstock of Power Five programs and went 12-1 with an Orange Bowl championship behind one of the top offenses in the country. Given his resume, Warriner could emerge as an under-the-radar candidate that sure makes a lot of sense at Rutgers. Oh, and the guy who he spent time with as co-offensive coordinator at Ohio State? That’s Tom Herman. Google him if you don’t already know the name and you might see that there’s a reason why he became a hot coaching commodity after leading Houston to an 11-1 record into championship weekend in his first year on the job. That last offensive coordinator under Meyer ended up doing pretty well. Could Warriner have the same impact if he were to end up at Rutgers?

5. Mario Cristobal 

Just as it did roughly four years ago when the Rutgers head coaching search for Greg Schiano’s replacement took place, Mario Cristobal’s name surfaced once again as a likely candidate on the administration’s short list earlier in the week. But the word on the consensus Recruiter of the Year has been quiet as of late. The Daily Targum’s Kevin Xavier reported that multiple sources within the donor community at Rutgers cited Cristobal as a leading candidate when the job opened up earlier in the week, but the former Florida International head coach is the one candidate on the Scarlet Knights’ short list that hasn’t gained much public traction in any subsequent reports this week. Part of that could be that from Cristobal’s current position as Alabama’s offensive line coach, with the Tide preparing for their SEC Championship game against Florida this Saturday. But Hobbs’s mention of a desire for strong recruiting ties to New Jersey still gives Cristobal, a member of the Schiano coaching tree who oversaw the tight ends and offensive line for Rutgers from 2001-03, reason to remain here on the short list. The likelihood of Cristobal to Rutgers remains to be seen, and it appears that the top two could still be set on Schiano and Al Golden, but could talks heat back up if the administration in Piscataway doesn’t make any moves over the weekend? With ‘Bama expected to make the College Football Playoff and the first round set to begin roughly a month from now on New Year’s Day, Cristobal would have plenty of time to focus on listening to what Rutgers has to say.

For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow @GarrettStepien and @TargumSports on Twitter.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment