Both Rutgers University basketball teams will begin their 2010-11 season tonight, on the road. The men will be in Princeton at 7pm while the women are across the country to take on California at 10pm EST.
Each team will be looking for offense this season. Women’s coach Vivian C. Stringer went through an up and down season last year, finishing 19-15 and 9-7 in the Big East. Stringer’s team now must replace leading scorer Epiphanny Prince.
The success of the Lady Knights will surround the guards. For Rutgers to be a balanced team, the point guards will especially need to play well. Khadijah Rushdan will do a lot of the point guard duties this season. It will be her job to get everyone involved. She must use a drive and dish mentality this season.
Nikki Speed (Guard) and April Sykes (Forward) need to step up as well. Speed is an excellent ball handler but will need to put the ball in the hoop a lot more this year. Sykes could be a big key to the team this year. Sykes was a one time No. 2 recruit in the country but has not reached her potential since arriving at Rutgers.
Stringer will start four juniors and a sophomore in tonight’s opener. Stringer, always known for the tough defense her teams play, knows she must push this years club to be aggressive on the offensive end of the floor as well. Last season, Rutgers averaged just 57.8 points per game.
This is a young team (no seniors on the roster) that is very talented. The question is, can they reach their potential quickly?
The Lady Knights have some big time games scheduled this year. Stringer has never been shy about playing the big teams.
Rutgers men’s coach Mike Rice takes over for Fred Hill and does not have much of a roster. Seven players from last seasons opening night roster have graduated or transferred. Rice and Rutgers made big headlines for their top recruiting class. That class does not arrive until next season however.
This season could be ugly if Rutgers does not have some players step up. Sophomore, Dane Miller is a great talent but he can not do it alone. With leading scorer Mike Rosario no longer with the team, Miller will be the go-to guy.
Senior point guard James Beatty is a player to watch. A player that can score from the point was not something that shined in Hill’s offense. In the new system, Beatty has been much improved and will fit in better.
Rice will start freshman Gilvydas Biruta at center. The 6’8 big man has the skills to be a building block for this season as well as the future at Rutgers. He can play defense, block shots, and run the floor. Another freshman, Mike Poole, will help out as well.
Nobody is expecting much from Rutgers this season, it’s next year everyone seems to be looking forward to. Will this allow Rutgers to sneak up on a few teams? It’s possible. One thing we know for sure, Mike Rice will not let his players give up. This will be a team that fits until the final whistle.
There is a new enthusiasm surrounding Rutgers men’s basketball. Everyone knows the Big East schedule is brutal, but Rutgers also has a tough Non-Conference trek including North Carolina, St. Josephs, Miami, and Fairfield.