Thursday, January 12, 2006

Not That Anyone Cares...

It only makes sense: one year after I graduate from Rutgers, the football team heads to a bowl game and the basketball team actually looks like a basketball team. Sure, I’m an alum and can still bask in the relative success, but now I have to pay to get into games. Not only that, but I have to call around to friends down there and see who’s going and who can get me a student guest ticket ($12), because everyone under 30 should be sitting in the students section.

Last night’s overtime loss to Villanova actually has me slightly excited. This wasn’t like the close loss to Syracuse last year, where the Knights were up 18 at the half, only to see eight points shaved off that lead in 45 seconds in an eventual loss to the Orangemen. That time, Quincy Douby fired a three that would have won the game at the end, and it rimmed out. This time, Jimmy Inglis launched one from straight on, and opened some nighttime banking hours for OT. In case none of you are familiar with Inglis, he’s 6’9, 250, not your prototypical 3 shooter (I tried to find a pic, but he’s kind of an obscure player).

So they took they No. 3 team in the nation to OT in a respectable fashion. The next three for Rutgers are DePaul (8-5, 1-1), No. 11 Pitt (12-0, 1-0), and Cincinnati (13-3, 2-1). Normally, the team would be lucky to get even one win out of that sequence, but this year seems to be different. While beating Pitt will be a daunting task, DePaul is very beatable, as is Cincinnati as they have lost starting forward Armein Kirkland for the season.

Of course, the team is light years from an at-large bid, but we’ve just started conference play. If the Knights can stick out a few wins against their Big East rivals, they will be able to climb the ladder quickly. I’m not predicting an at-large bid or anything, but surely they could head back to the NIT, where they lost to Michigan in the finals in 2004 (with an assist going to home court advantage in the tourney).

Adding to my elation over the basketball team, CBS SportsLine did a nice write up about Lance Thomas, a top recruit this year who hails from New Jersey. Normally, top in-state prospects bolt for greener pastures since Rutgers basketball doesn’t have the ring to it that Duke does. But there is an outside chance Thomas could land with the Scarlet Knights.

I don’t want to get over excited here, because in all reality, it’s probably not going to happen. This is typical Rutgers: get us excited and let us down. For evidence of this, see the Insight Bowl.

The question is: why would Thomas ever pick mediocrity in Rutgers over greatness in Duke? The simple answer is that he would be the leader at Rutgers, undoubtedly the best player on the team. He’d have a year of playing alongside newly born superstar Quincy Douby, and then the team would be his.

The team is also filled with young talent. Two freshmen currently start for the Knights, guard Anthony Farmer and forward JR Inman. Jaron Griffin has shown potential, giving the Knights three viable freshmen. Add to that sophomores Ollie Bailey and Dan Waterstradt (both not getting their share of PT for reasons unbeknownst), and there is a bit of incentive for Thomas.

Of course, they’d have to recruit a few other guys in subsequent years to complement him. But that might not be as daunting as it sounds.

If Thomas chooses Rutgers, New Jersey recruitniks say four of the state's top available prospects could follow: senior point guard Eugene Harvey, junior wing Corey Stokes, sophomore center Samardo Samuels and sophomore guard Ashton Gibbs. All but Harvey are potential McDonald's All-Americans, and Thomas has played with all four of them -- Harvey, Stokes and Samuels this season at St. Benedict's, and Gibbs two years ago at Scotch Plains High.

NIT this year, the Big Dance next year? Don’t build me up Rutgers, baby, just to let me down.