Editor's Note: The BIG EAST will be previewing both the men's and women's team from each BIG EAST member each weekday from October 22 to November 9 in advance of the 2012-13 season. Use hashtag #BECountdown to join the conversation on Twitter.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights Men's Basketball
The Big Picture:
Last year, coach Mike Rice had a roster that included seven freshmen and no seniors on scholarship. There were a couple of breakthroughs with top-10 wins against Florida and Connecticut, but there were also plenty of times when the inexperience hurt, especially in BIG EAST play. With that large group of freshmen becoming sophomores, the Scarlet Knights want the “breakthroughs” to increase in 2012-13. The core of the backcourt should be three second-year players. The frontcourt has more experience, which should help Rice to keep the Scarlet Knights moving in the right direction in the league standings. Last year, RU was 6-12 in the BIG EAST and 14-18 overall.
The guard trio of Eli Carter, Myles Mack and Jerome Seagears got their feet wet right away and showed plenty of promise. Carter and Mack were the team’s top two scorers, averaging 13.8 and 9.8 points, respectively. Carter played big in the big games. He averaged 16.8 ppg against nationally ranked teams. Carter ranked fourth in scoring among BIG EAST freshmen. Mack is more of a point guard. He started 14 games, but was third in minutes played (26.6). Seagears started 25 games and averaged 7.7 points. Dane Miller, a 6-foot-6 senior, has been a versatile performer on the wing. Last season, he averaged 7.9 points, a team-leading 6.6 rebounds and was a surprising fourth in the BIG EAST in blocked shots with a 1.6 average. Junior Mike Poole averaged 6.5 points coming off the bench mostly behind Miller. Six-foot-5 Malick Kone (3.3) was slowed by a knee injury. The Scarlet Knights have high hopes for Kadeem Jack (1.2, 1.6), a mobile 6-9 sophomore who missed the first 13 games of last season with an injury. As a freshman, 6-foot-8 Derrick Randall (2.5, 2.4) helped showed some promise around the basket. Six-foot-8 senior Austin Johnson (4.1, 2.1) has been a veteran role player in the frontcourt. Six-foot-9 sophomore Greg Lewis is also available.
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Forward Gilvydas Biruta, who averaged 9.7 points and 5.3 rebounds, transferred. He was only RU player to start every game last season.
Rice has high hopes for forward Wally Judge to offer immediate help. A transfer from Kansas State, the 6-9, 250-pound forward is a former McDonald’s All-America prep player. He averaged 5.5 points and 3.8 rebounds while playing 15.2 minutes per game two seasons ago at Kansas State. Another newcomer, 6-5 wing Vincent Garrett, is a junior college transfer who is considered a strong rebounder and scorer. Despite its still-young roster, Rutgers returns 10 of its top 12 players from a year ago. The Scarlet Knights appear to have an improving team that wants to make headline-grabbing victories more than an occasional occurrence.