Rutgers, the greatest rival in the history of college basketball, comes to the Dome this Saturday. In theory, this is one of the "easy" remaining games on Syracuse's schedule. Then again, tell that to Villanova:
Rutgers isn't "back" by any means but they're on the right path. The steak of turmoil has been deposited directly into the trash and the Knights are just starting to cook up a fine porterhouse. A big part of that is new head coach Mike Rice. He's doing a lot of things right. So many that On The Banks needed three posts to explain it all.
The first thing you see when you watch a Rutgers basketball game is how hard they play. The team comes out and scraps hard. As Rice likes to say: "There is no fear here . . . There is no nerves here. It's just every single day, fighting, scratching, clawing to improve this program, whether it's the talent level or the individuals I have on this team. That is the one goal I have."
And this team does scratch and claw.
The next thing you need to see is how a Mike Rice basketball team plays defense. They switch off 1 through 4, sometimes 1 through 5, instead of fighting through screens. It gives the opposition a different look in the middle of the play, and creates chaos on the floor. A Mike Rice team is prepared for that chaos, and is able to hold down the opposing team.
Rutgers is near the bottom of the Big East standings this year (13-12, 4-9) but then again what does that mean this season? Basically that they're very capable of beating anyone else in the conference, it's just going to hurt a little more than if Pitt did it.
Aside from the Villanova win, the Knight's Big East wins aren't terribly impressive (Seton Hall, USF, Providence). They're also 1-5 on the road in the conference, so things at least look agreeable on those fronts. However they've played very tough recently, losing to Pitt by 3, St. John's by 2, Notre Dame by 7 and Seton Hall by 6. Expect the Orange to win Saturday but don't be surprised if the Scarlet make like NKOTB and hang tough.
And of course we need to identify the three-point shooter that's going to have a career-day against us in the first-half alone. That would likely be Jonathan Mitchell. The Villanova game hero leads the Knights in scoring 14.9 PPG and is far and away their best long-range shooter (42%). James Beatty likes to shoot the three-ball as well and he can make a few (38%). Kick either of these guys in the leg if you see them.
Good news for those attending the game AND looking to improve their golf swing. The Central New York PGA will be hosting a Play Golf America day on Saturday at the Carrier Dome before the Syracuse-Rutgers men’s basketball game.
About 10 of the section’s professionals will be on hand before the game – from 2:30 to 4 p.m. – and at halftime to offer tips and 5-minute lessons behind the bleachers, where a hitting net will be set up. The pros also will be able to give putting lessons on a putting mat.
In addition, the CNY PGA will conduct a drawing for a Syracuse University golf bag and will be offering buy-one-get-one-free discounts to several area courses.
Jim Boeheim has already entered the drawing.