After a potential trap game against Mount St. Mary's, Seton Hall hosts Rutgers four days later in what could turn out to be the second of three tough stretches on the Hall's non-league schedule. The contest is the second installment of an eight-game series that was renewed last spring, with Seton Hall taking the first 77-71 at the RAC last December.
Last year's clash was unfortunately scheduled on a Sunday night, suppressing attendance due to NFL fervor and apathetic Sunday night fans. After airing on ESPNU last season, expect Fox Sports cameras to be set up at Prudential Center for this season's Saturday battle that hasn't been assigned a time yet. However, the New Jersey Devils will host the Washington Capitals at 7 p.m. that night, so a noon tip would appear likely.
Like last year, head coach Eddie Jordan's second season at Rutgers is expected to be one focused on (re)building. The Scarlet Knights have lost a handful of contributors to graduation and transfer in Wally Judge, J.J. Moore, Jerome Seagears (UNLV), Craig Brown (Kent State), and D'Von Campbell (Campbellsville University). For the record, Campbell really did transfer to Campbellsville, an NAIA school. In all, Eddie Jordan loses 49% of his scoring from 2013-14.
Roster subtractions: J.J. Moore (11.2 ppg), Wally Judge (7.5 ppg, 6.7 rpg), Jerome Seagears (7.1 ppg, 3.2 apg), D'Von Campbell (5.4 ppg), Craig Brown (3.6 ppg, 2.5 rpg)
Returnees to watch: Myles Mack (14.9 ppg, 4.3 apg), Kadeem Jack (14.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg), Junior Etou (5.3 ppg, 4.6 rpg)
Key additions: Mike Williams (Bishop Loughlin, N.Y.), D.J. Foreman (Massanutten Military Academy, Va.), Bishop Daniels (JuCo - 18 ppg, 4.6 apg at ASA College)
While Rutgers loses quite a few bodies from Eddie Jordan's rotation last season, they retain two crucial guys in Myles Mack and Kadeem Jack. The former, a diminutive lead guard that nearly ended up at Seton Hall, will need to lock down the point guard spot for Rutgers this season with little-to-no cover off the bench. Jerome Seagears was able to play both guard spots last year, but his departure to UNLV leaves the Scarlet Knights with just one returning guard in the 5-foot-9 Mack, though junior college transfer Bishop Daniels can play point in a pinch.
As for Jack, the 6-foot-9 post forward had a breakout junior season for Eddie Jordan in 2013-14, nearly tripling his 5.7 ppg average from his sophomore campaign. Like Mack in the backcourt, Kadeem will be relied upon to anchor Rutgers' frontcourt.
Returnees Malick Kone (3.5 ppg, 2.7 rpg) and Kerwin Okoro (2.5 ppg) will look to see time along with impressive freshman Junior Etou at the three for Rutgers, unless Etou, who can stretch defenses to the perimeter, is shifted to power forward in a slightly smaller lineup. Okoro, a transfer from Iowa State who has battled injuries, incredibly poor waiver decisions from the NCAA, and the loss of his father, saw limited action last year after a brief stint at as a Cyclone.
Khadeen Carrington's backcourt teammate at Bishop Loughlin, Mike Williams, may prove to be an impact freshman for Rutgers at shooting guard this season. The sharp-shooting Williams, along with slashing junior college transfer Bishop Daniels, project to fill the role voided by Jerome Seagears at the two for the Scarlet Knights. Since their skillsets reportedly contrast, a potential Mack-Williams-Daniels (1-2-3) lineup is not out of the question for Eddie Jordan.
In the frontcourt, Kadeem Jack will require help from a trio of unknown freshman commodities in power forward D.J. Foreman and centers Ibrahima Diallo and Shaquille Doorson. A top-150 rated power forward, Foreman is the highest rated of the three, while Diallo and Doorson are high-potential projects at the five. Shaq Doorson is a 6-foot-11, 265-pound raw center from the familiar Canarias Basketball Academy that was committed to Pittsburgh prior to choosing the Scarlet Knights. The three newcomers will battle sophomore center Greg Lewis (1.5 ppg, 2 rpg) for minutes as Rutgers' number two post forward.
With so many moving parts, I would project Rutgers to finish this season similarly to their 11-21 (5-13) record and 166th/192nd KenPom and RPI numbers from 2013-14, respectively. Those numbers both may increase due to tougher competition in the Big Ten compared to the AAC, but I'm not sure how much better Rutgers will be on the court when compared to last season.
The lack of backcourt leadership and depth beyond Myles Mack is concerning and may be Rutgers' No. 1 weakness. Further, Eddie Jordan may struggle to find players that will keep opponents honest from beyond the arc early in the season if Mike Williams takes time to adjust to the college game. Outside of Mack, Rutgers' returning players combined to shoot 19-of-69 (27%) from deep in 2013-14.
I'd like to thank Dave White from Rutgers' SBNation site, On The Banks, for taking the time to provide some insight that was included in this preview. You can follow Dave on Twitter at @Dave_White for all sorts of Rutgers basketball-related news and opinions.
The previous six entries of our Preview Series can explored below:
- Mount St. Mary's visits Newark in a potential trap game prior to Rutgers
- Seton Hall hosts a depleted Mercer Bears squad on opening day to complete a 2-for-1 series
- Nevada stands in the way of a date with Clemson (or Gardner-Webb) at the Paradise Jam
- A look at both Clemson and Gardner-Webb, Seton Hall's potential round two opponents in the USVI
- Round three of the Paradise Jam: LSU, Old Dominion, Illinois State, Weber State
- The Hall plays host to George Washington after non-conference tournament