New Faces, Same Old Rutgers
Nineteen-ninety-one is a long time ago. George Bush was president. And Rutgers made it to the NCAA tourney. Since then Rutgers has experienced a comedy of errors and missteps.
Bob Wenzel could not recruit or produce the energy which he brought to the RAC when he was first named head coach.
A Midwestern guy, Gary Waters, was named head coach and he was a fish out of water in Piscataway. He always wanted the Michigan job and almost got it once, yet ended up in New Jersey. He brought with him, out of loyalty, some assistant coaches who simply did not know the demographic of New Jersey. Kevin Heck was the main culprit. Waters brought his team to an NIT Final in 2004, ironically against Michigan, then coached by Tommy Amaker, but did not have the talent to beat the Wolverines.
After a few bad seasons, in came assistant Fred Hill, Jr. His dad was the longtime baseball coach and Hill could recruit. Unfortunately, he did not have the same acumen on the bench. Hill did not last long after being unable to produce a winning season.
In came a new athletic director, Tim Pernetti, and in came Robert Morris coach Mike Rice. This time Rutgers appears to have finally gotten it right. Rice has energy and a top notch staff led by associate head coach David Cox, once of Georgetown. Last season Rutgers was 14-18 and had a few big wins, especially against UConn at home. This year Rice brings back the guts of that team, especially in the backcourt with Eli Carter and Mike Poole and a talented transfer in 6-9 Wally Judge.
The schedule is not difficult outside of the Big East with Princeton and Mississippi on the road and Iona at The Garden as the toughest games. The Big East is down and only has three top flight teams in Louisville, Syracuse and Notre Dame. Traditional programs like UConn, Pittsburgh and Villanova are very beatable this year. Look for Rutgers to sniff an NCAA bid but end up in the NIT.