Rutgers picked up its first commitment for the incredibly important 2018 class today, when 4-star Power Forward Mamadou Doucoure announced that he was becoming a Scarlet Knight.
Doucoure currently plays at Our Savior New American School (NY) and is listed at 6’9, 220 lbs. He also had offers from UConn, Creighton, Georgia Tech, Oregon, Pittsburgh, Seton Hall and St. John’s.
Andrew Slater broke the news earlier this morning…
This is a major addition. Doucoure had some top-tier teams interested and chose Rutgers. In his initial interview with 247 Sports, he mentioned how much love he felt from the Rutgers staff, specifically Steve Pikiell and Brandin Knight. They made sure he was a top priority throughout the process and were rewarded for their efforts.
But my favorite quote from that article comes from Doucoure’s high school coach Eric Jaklitsch, “There is no doubt in the metropolitan area that everyone has been impressed with the coaching and development going on at Rutgers.”
Wow. When was the last time we heard praise like that from a local high school coach?
The 2018 class is vitally important for RU. The current top four bigs in the rotation will all be gone (Gettys, Freeman, Sa, Doorson) so we’ll need to reload the front line. Luckily, it’s shaping up to be a really talented class, especially in the metro area. And Pike and his staff, in a very short time period, have already shown they can get it done on the recruiting trail.
There’s still more work to do, but for now, let’s just enjoy the early Christmas present.
College basketball’s Associated Press Top 25 poll was released today, and with it came some surprising news…
Apparently, Rutgers fans aren’t the only ones who have been impressed with Steve Pikiell and the Scarlet Knights this season.
The lone vote came from Scott Wolf, who covers the USC Trojans for the Los Angeles Daily News. Wolf had Rutgers ranked at #25 in his poll.
Media Day for the Rutgers men’s basketball team went on as scheduled today, although it was slightly overshadowed by the earlier groundbreaking ceremony for the new RWJBarnabas Health Athletic Performance Center.
However, when Steve Pikiell finally made it to the podium, he spoke in depth about the upcoming season, including the work ethic of his team, the style they want to play, and even how the starting lineup is shaping up. He was poised and confident as he stood in front of the media members, and seemed very upbeat about the current state of the program.
Here is the full video from the press conference:
One of the things impresses me most about Steve Pikiell is his candor. He’s not afraid to tell the players (or the media) that they were in terrible shape for college athletes. He knows that we need to shoot the ball better. It’s a work in progress, but we’re making strides.
From a player’s perspective, you know what you’re going to get. Best defender on the team? You’re starting. Best rebounder? You’re starting. Work hard and learn in practice? You’ll earn your playing time. Simply put, he’s building an identity for Rutgers basketball and creating a competitive culture that hasn’t existed around here for a long time.
With just 10 days to the start of the regular season, we’ll soon be able to get a real sense for this version of the Scarlet Knights. And after hearing the coach today, I’m excited to see how far we’ve come.
Rutgers took to the court again for a closed door scrimmage with Yale, and it was clear that they are still working out the kinks with less than two weeks to go before the start of the new season. In the end, Yale came out victorious 77-64.
Unlike the previous scrimmage against Monmouth, this one was more of a game-like atmosphere, with full statistic tracking from both sides. Adam Zagoria tweeted out the final box score…
If we dive a little deeper into the numbers, there are a few items that stand out. Some good, some bad…
- Rutgers was terrible from 3-point range – This is likely to be a problem all year. During the preseason, Issa Thiam has been touted as one of (if not the best) long-range shooter on the team, and he finished 0-4 today. The team as a whole finished 1-16 (6%). While I don’t expect it to be this bad every night, we’re just not built to score a lot of points from behind the arc.
- Deshawn Freeman had a solid day at the office – Not to make too much of a preseason scrimmage, but you can’t argue with 22 and 7. Freeman is clearly our most skilled frontcourt player, and if he can build chemistry with Corey Sanders, they have the chance to be a special duo.
- Believe it or not…rebounding might be one of our strengths – When was the last time you could say that about a Rutgers team? We finished with a 44-37 advantage on the glass overall, and a 23-7 advantage on the offensive glass. That’s a lot of extra offensive possessions, and it led to a 28-9 advantage in second-chance points.
- We’re still working on the defense – First off, Yale made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament last season (although they did lose 4 of their 5 starters). So they’re certainly not a bad team. That being said, we can’t allow a team to shoot 48% from the field. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the point that Steve Pikiell harps on the most at the next practice. It all has to start on defense.
College basketball season must be right around the corner…the new KenPom ratings are here.
In case you missed the post on the Rutgers KenPom numbers last season, you can catch up here.
Now on to the key Rutgers takeaways from this year’s first release…
- No longer the worst KenPom rating among all Power 7 schools – Rutgers was way behind the P7 pack last year, finishing at 279. However, this year, we’ve jumped one P7 team and have closed the gap significantly on the rest of the group. KenPom has RU rated at 191, while Saint Louis (lowest P7) is at 224. The second-lowest Big Ten school is Penn State at 98.
- We’re projected to improve offensively – I know what you’re thinking…how could we not? After finishing last season ranked 303 out of 351, we are expected to take some positive steps forward. According to KenPom, our Adjusted Offensive Efficiency is 99.1 (up from 96.3), which puts us at #192. Still not where we want to be, but leaps and bounds ahead of last year.
- We’re also projected to improve defensively – Last year, RU was rated 235 with an Adjusted Defensive Efficiency of 106.9. The hiring of a defensive-minded coach seems to have made an impact though, as we enter this year at 184 (and an ADE of 100.6). I personally think this is even a little too low. We’re going to surprise a lot of people with our toughness and effort on the defensive end. More importantly, we also now have the size to control the defensive glass.
- Slow and steady wins the race – One of the most eye-popping differences between this year and last year will be our pace. Last season, we were the 53rd ranked team in the country in terms of how fast we played. This season? We’re projected at 241. Again, this is a direct reflection of Steve Pikiell’s philosophy. Play in the halfcourt, limit turnovers, control the tempo, and keep the game close deep into the 2nd half. It may not be the most exhilarating thing to watch, but in our case, slower is definitely better.
To find out more details, including how other teams were rated, check out the full 2017 KenPom ratings.
Rutgers traveled to Monmouth today for a closed scrimmage to help prepare both teams for the start of the season. While there’s no official report from the game, there were some promising tweets afterwards from Rutgers players.
The first one was from Corey Sanders…
Corey followed that up with a comment about being the 253rd ranked team in college basketball, according to a list released by CBS Sports earlier this week, implying that the doubters are providing extra motivation. That tweet has since been deleted, but not before C.J. Gettys added his input…
Ken Pomeroy (KenPom) is a statistics guru who provides an “advanced analysis of college basketball.” He is widely considered to be a brilliant basketball mind and his statistical equations are often compared to the work of Bill James.
Throughout each season, KenPom’s college basketball ratings are updated to determine the best teams based on his detailed algorithm. With that in mind, I thought it would be wise to look at some advanced Rutgers statistics from the end of last season to see if there were any numbers that stood out.
Here are the key takeaways (WARNING- they’re not pretty):
- Worst KenPom rating among all Power 7 schools – This probably goes without saying after our brutal 2015-16 season, but overall, Rutgers was ranked 279th by KenPom. For some perspective, the next lowest P7 school was LaSalle at 266. In addition, there were only two other P7 schools rated 200 or below (St. John’s and Saint Louis). The next lowest Big Ten school was Minnesota at 192. That’s quite a significant gap.
- Ranked 303rd (out of 351) in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency – The Adjusted Offensive Efficiency statistic measures the points scored per 100 possessions and is calibrated based on opponents. Using this metric, Rutgers scored only 96.3 points per 100 possessions.
- Ranked 235th (out of 351) in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency – This stat measures the points allowed per 100 possessions, and is also calibrated based on opponents. Rutgers wasn’t much better on this end of the floor, giving up 106.9 points per 100 possessions.
- Luck was not on our side – KenPom even has an algorithm to determine how much “luck” a team had over the course of the season. This can often be useful to tell you whether a team actually earned their high seed in the NCAA tournament, or whether they were the beneficiary of some breaks and are primed for an upset. Last season, Rutgers ranked 271st in luck, meaning that 270 teams caught more breaks.
- League schedule was a gauntlet – As you could probably guess, as a Big Ten member, Rutgers conference schedule was not easy. In fact, they played the 66th toughest schedule in the nation. This may not seem too bad on the surface, but it takes into account their light non-conference slate as well (which was ranked 216th).
Remember, these numbers are not a reflection of this year’s team and shouldn’t be analyzed as such. With the coaching change, the incoming recruits/transfers, and the players who left the program or graduated, there has been significant roster turnover entering 2016-17.
However, it’s interesting to see exactly how we measured up to other D-1 programs, as well as some of the intangible factors like the luck rating. I expect our efficiency numbers to improve across the board under Coach Pikiell (especially on the defensive end). Hopefully, that will also translate to a few more wins.