In the first, "Part 3," of the season we're sitting down with Shawn from 'On The Banks of the Raritan' (a Rutgers Scarlet Knights blog), and exchanging Q&A's once again in advance of RU/SHU tomorrow night. In part 1, we're asking the questions to OTBR, focusing on an end of the season assessment, while looking forward to next season. Later tonight, we will post our answers to OTBR's questions, again assessing the season and looking at the future.
A big thanks to Shawn for participating in the Plank Walk twice this year. Best of luck tomorrow night, however the Pirates need this one more. How about The Scarlet Knights just lay down and let the Pirates sweep them off the floor? I kid. Kind of.
Enjoy the Q&A!
GB: Which Rutgers players deserve some consideration for end of year awards?
OTBR: Dane Miller should be a lock for All-Rookie Big East team. He won Rookie of the Week three straight weeks which should also make him the front-runner for Rookie of the Year. Miller leads rookie scorers with 12.6 ppg and tops the list for rebounds per game among rookies with 6.6 per game. He's also among the top three rookies in steals, assists, and blocks per game.
Senior Hamady Ndiaye might get the nod as the Big East's Defensive Player of the Year. He leads the league and is third nationally with 4.6 blocks per game. He's nine blocks shy of matching the school record set by Roy Hinson in the 70s. Hinson finished with 355 career blocks. Hasheem Thabeet won the defensive player of the award last year for his shot-blocking skills. Hopefully H can get the love this year. Mike Rosario is currently 11th in the league in scoring with 16.4 points per game. This could make him a longshot for 3rd team All Big East. We'll have to wait and see.
GB: What will it take for Rutgers to win more than one game in the Big East Tournament?
OTBR: They'll have to rebound and limit their turnovers. This has been the ingredient for success this season. We'll also need Ndiaye to stay out of foul trouble and either Brian Okam or Austin Johnson, both freshman, will need to log some key minutes to at least get H a breather from time to time. It will be tough for H to play 35+ minutes on consecutive days against Big East thugs. Additionally, Rosario will need to be efficient. Scoring 20+ is one thing, but more importantly, he needs to shoot well from the floor. If he comes out on fire next Tuesday, RU will have a good shot to play on Wednesday.
GB: What team other than Syracuse, Villanova, or West Virginia can you see winning the BET? Why?
OTBR: I've really been won over by Buzz Williams and his Marquette team. They put a hurting on a Louisville team that had a lot to play for Tuesday night. Marquette won its last three Big East road games, all in overtime. They have some great players on that team--Lazar Hayward and Jimmy Butler, but also some guys like Maurice Acker and Darius Johnson-Odom that can do just as much damage as Hayward and Butler. Their proclivity for the three-point ball could hurt them if they come out cold. They do seem to be peaking at the just the right time.
Hit the jump for thoughts on Rutgers' future, Fred Hill and the rematch.
GB: How good do you think Rutgers will be next year? Who will be back? What do you know about in-coming players?
OTBR: Rutgers has just one senior, albeit fan-favorite Hamady Ndiaye, that graduates this spring. We also lost sophomore center Gregory Echenique earlier this year when he decided to transfer to Creighton. That leaves a big hole to fill on the interior. Freshmen Brian Okam and Austin Johnson have played well at times, but they'll need to improve in a hurry in order for RU to have any inside presence.
Touted recruit Gilvydas Birutas from St. Benedict High School gives the team some much needed size at 6 ft. 8, but how much the team can rely on him next season is a big question mark. Rosario, Miller, and Jonathan Mitchell can score points. Mitchell is also a solid rebounder, but our perimeter guys will be easy for opposing defenses to lockdown if there is no inside game. I'm sure Fred Hill and his staff are looking to land a a big man that can hang with the Big East boys, but that is a lot easier said than done for a program like RU.
GB: What are your thoughts on Fred Hill's future at Rutgers?
OTBR: Hill has gotten a lot of attention this year. The team's 0-8 start to Big East play seemed like a nail in his coffin, but the team turned things around to win 5 of its last 8 conference games. The man deserves credit for the turnaround despite what his critics may have to say. Sure, five wins in the Big East is nothing to write home about, but it is the most wins under a Fred Hill team in four years. He also earned his biggest win at Rutgers when the team knocked off then No. 7 Georgetown.
Brian at Scarlet Report recently asked, "How do we know Hill is the wrong guy for this program?" Hill has demonstrated the ability to recruit and I think he does have the program improving. I expect he'll be back next year. The school will owe him $1.8 million if they let him go. That's a hefty price to pay for giving Hill the pink slip. Based on what he's done in the last eight Big East games, I think RU gives him another shot next season. If the team wins two at next week's tournament, Hill is a definite to return.
GB: What do you expect to see in Thursday's rematch? What must RU do in order to win even the season series with SHU?
OTBR: I think the boys will be much better this time around against the Pirates. It will be Ndiaye's final game on the banks and the rest of the players and the Rutgers' fans truly love the guy. That alone should inspire better play. The Feb. 23 game at the Prudential Center got away from the Scarlet Knights early. They can't let that happen this time around. RU turned the ball over 16 times to SHU's six. RU also shot under 40% for the game. Despite the sloppy play, RU had a chance late in the second half, but the deficit was too big. I think this one will be tough for SHU. It should be a good one.
Part 2 will be posted later tonight...