Wednesday's Louisville vs Rutgers basketball game at the RAC made me sit back and think hard and long about what it would take for the local area teams to become fixtures in the annual NCAA tournament. Here are my thoughts on Rutgers.
Did anyone actually think Rutgers would beat Louisville? Did anyone think they would beat any of the past 7 teams they have played? I did! Thought they would beat Cincinnati and only Cincinnati. But other than that all games have gone as I expected with the exception of the 3 out of conference loses to teams they should have easily beat.
The last few loses are not as much a knock on Fred Hill or the Rutgers basketball team as much as it is a knock on a university not supplying the tools necessary for the basketball team to be successful. But I do think despite the loses, the way the RU Team competes need to be addressed by the coaching staff and others in charge. You see coaching is important in developing players, something that is lacking at RU, but coaching alone does not help kids develop heart, desire, and a sense of always competing. Honestly I thought the RU team got outright thugged by Louisville and for the most part the players showed no heart at all. They were little boys playing against men. They seemed scared to shoot. They just seemed in awe of the team they were playing. I again question the make-up of this team. Just some nice kids who have skills and play nice. No real "killers" as most college coaches call those kids that get after it all of the time despite if they are middle class or not.
The funny thing is many fans are upset with Fred Hill for the wrong reasons. The loss against Louisville had nothing to do with Fred Hill being out coached. That did not happen. What has been happening to Rutgers is they have been outclassed as a program by others and this is a university issue much more than a coaching and talent thing. Let me explain further. Louisville has players who would never attend Rutgers for reasons other than coaching. Compare the two programs and you will see how much more Louisville has to offer and will offer the great HS players they get. Great fan support, great facilities, commitment to the basketball program, great marketing, and great tradition. Plus they have a Hall of Fame Coach who is well known nationally. And those are only the things we all see! Now lets look at Rutgers. OK no need you get the picture!
Heck if you changed the coaching staffs the results would have been similar. The more I watch the more I am convinced some teams are playing with un-even hands. FHJ has limited resources compared to Pitino. Also FHJ could never get the type of top 65 player that Louisville attracts and it has nothing to do with FHJ and his staff. More to do with huge budgets and great friends of the program who make sure they have everything they need to be successful. It is similar at all the BE power programs including UConn, Syracuse, Pitt, Villanova, Marquette, etc. Those programs receive everything they ask for. EVERYTHING!
I do hate the way my guy JR Inman has developed and is playing. Fred Hill having a hand in his play and development and JR has not shown improvement this season and also has not played as loose as he should as a senior. JR needs to step it up! But even that will not make much of a difference this season. The RU team is just lacking that toughness that is necessary even with good talent to compete. RU needs a JC or two who will bring toughness and skills right away. But more than that they need a blue print for success that will have to include a new or improved arena, a practice facility, a skilled marketing team, a review of the coaching staff other than the Head Coach, a review of the strength and conditioning staff for basketball, and the creation of a true booster club identifying big donors who can help in the efforts mentioned in more ways than one. NO WAY THE RAC SHOULD NOT BE SOLD OUT FOR THE SEASON. It should be a very long waiting list! That alone could help recruiting. Nothing like a old outdated building that is 1/3 full or 2/3 empty. Recruits see that and than look at the other programs and its lights out before the recruiting game even starts.
Now regardless of all I have mentioned, RU will always operate at a disadvantage because they seem to not cheat to get players. Unfortunately I hear many others do. Some stories I hear are beyond belief, but things do happen all over the country. The exploitation of HS athletes is a huge business with alot of hands involved from street agents, to potential sponsors, to folks looking to become agents, and even those with egos looking to ride a kids coat tail to the next level. Heck I have watched some folks make great careers on the back of HS stars.
I will drive again to Bergen County NJ to watch the Teaneck vs Paramus Catholic basketball game at Paramus Catholic HS. I am getting some very interesting reports from people who have been around the game a long time. They feel I have undersold the skills of Javae Gilchrist, the 6 ft 2 PG from Teaneck. One local D1 Coach told me he did not wish to waste his time recruiting this kid in this open period because Javae is too talented for his program If he could get him to sign yesterday he would take him. But to put alot into his recruitment could be a waste of time because this kid could easily be A10 of BE quality. In fact Pitt has watched him a few times this season from what I hear and are very interested! Two more long time basketball folks feel with exposure, he could have easily been top 100 nationally. Lastly, in his last game he had 20 assists. I will write tomorrow what I think after watching him again today.
Tomorrow I will discuss Seton Hall's Program!