With highly touted transfer Wally Judge on the roster, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights seemed poised to take a step up this year. Instead they opened the season with a major setback, a stunning 56-52 loss to the the St. Peter’s Peacocks.
Still reeling from his team’s shocking loss, after the game Rutgers coach Mike Rice promised some lineup shakeups.
“This was a little shocking to be honest with you,” said Rice.
It’s not just that Rutgers opened the season with a loss to what most consider a “lesser” opponent in the Peacocks. Instead of progress, Rutgers seemed to regress.
“The negative characteristics of last year’s team resurfaced. Whether it was selfish plays, plays that we need to execute … or softness. If you need to stop something bad on the offensive end, you can’t let it change the way you defend,” said Rice.
New season, same old problems. Mired in mediocrity, the Scarlet Knights last appeared in the NCAA Tournament in 1991.
Nobody picked them to win the Big East Conference. But forget battling for best in the Big East. All of a sudden they’re trying to avoid being the worst team in New Jersey. St. Peter’s, 5-26 last year , has bragging rights over Rutgers?
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Rice said. “I’m interested to see how they respond. We’re going to probably amp up practice a bit with toughness drills and we’ll do something, but again it’s the same things I’ve talked about and probably a lack of buy-in.”
If a loss to St. Peter’s doesn’t amp this team up, it’s going to be a long season.
Merlisa covers Georgetown and Big East basketball. Follow her on Twitter: @merlisa