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Tag: Rutgers

NCAA Tournament Prep Sheet: Volume I

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

Sooner rather than later, you’re going to fill out your NCAA Tournament brackets. So listen up: If ever there was a season to be a contrarian, this is it. Consider the weekend that was and the season that is.

file photo Neil Miller/The New York extra

San Diego State remains the only undefeated team in the nation. Michigan State, the preseason No.1, dropped out of the Top 25.

Penn State is tied with Illinois for second in the Big Ten (18-5 overall, 8-4 in the league). The Nittany Lions have qualified for the NCAA Tournament twice this century. North Carolina (10-13, 3-9), assuming it doesn’t win the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, will miss the NCAA Tournament for the second time in 17 years.

No.1 Baylor is historically a bad NCAA Tournament bet. But the Bears won their 20th straight, a 78-70 win over Oklahoma State, so what’s to worry?

Baylor was a dismal 20-of-33 (60.6 percent) from the foul line. They are 206th in the nation with a 69.7-percentage in free throw shooting. Do you want them in a close first-round game that gets decided at the line?

Remember John Calipari’s 2007-08 team? Terrible all year from the line. Derrick Rose missed 1-of-2 free throws with 10 seconds left in regulation of the NCAA  title game. Mario Chalmers hit a 3 to force OT. Kansas won, 75-68. The Tigers were 12-of-19 (63.2 percent) from the game from the line. The Jayhawks were 14-of-15 (93.3).

MARCH WITH POINT GUARDS: Yes, I’m a firm believer of point guard play translating into tournament success. Dayton has a legit player of the year candidate in PF Obi Toppin. But in a 71-65 win over St. Louis, Toppin wasn’t his usual dominant self. Point guard Jalen Crutcher came to the rescue by making 8-of-8 free throws. He’s an 84.7-percent shooter from the line.

Which brings us to Duke, fresh off its stunning 98-96 OT win at North Carolina. The Blue Devils erased a 13-point deficit in the final four and one-half minutes and a five-point deficit in OT. Guard Tre Jones had 28 points, six assists and five rebounds, which is about as good as it gets, but not as good as LSU’s…

Skylar Mays, who had 30 points (10-for-10 from the line), eight assists, seven rebounds and just one turnover in 42 minutes of a 91-90 loss at Auburn. Auburn (21-2, 802) leads the SEC largely because the Tigers have the green light to shoot 3’s from anywhere on The Plains.

 Before you but Auburn consider its 31.6-percent shooting on 3’s, tied for 275th in the nation. If Auburn is hot in the tourney, War Eagle! But one off game and it’s time for spring football. Just ask Iowa, which….

Got dusted 104-66 at Purdue. The Hawkeyes have the nation’s most consistent inside player in center Luke Garza, who is one-tenth of a point away from averaging a points-rebounds double-double. Whoever faces Iowa in the tourney will have to drop down try to keep the ball out of Garza’s hands, which means open 3’s should be there.

 HOLD IT LIKE AN EGG: San Diego State is the nation’s last unbeaten team (24-0). The Aztecs are 13-0 in the Mountain West, the best start in conference history. In the Aztecs 89-74 win over Air Force, they committed a season-low six turnovers, one in the final 31 minutes and none in the final 21. The Aztecs are 8th in assist/turnover.  

STREAKS, OVER: Seton Hall has a northeast guard in Myles Powell who can flat out take over a game. But the best thing about these Pirates is the way they play. They are a throwback Big East team in terms of mental and physical toughness. Their 70-64 win at Villanova snapped a 17-game road losing streak to the Wildcats. Elite Eight, not so sleeper.

Kentucky has won 9-of-11 since losing two straight including W’s against Texas Tech and Louisville. The Wildcats won at Tennessee for the first time since Rick Barnes took over as head coach. Kentucky is tied for 6th in the nation in free throw shooting at 78.7-percent.

WELL DONE: The following coaches have done a great job.

Mick Cronin, UCLA – the Bruins will never dominate college hoops as they once did but Cronin, who re-established Cincinnati as a national power, is off to a 12-10 start (5-4 in the Pac 12) in his first season. With Arizona shaken by scandal, look for the Bruins to quickly return to the top of the league.

Joe Mihalich, Hofstra – Basketball fans in the Northeast know Mihalich’s Niagara teams were a bitch to play against. So are his Hofstra teams. The Pride (18-7) is in first place in the Colonial Athletic Association, playing the same fundamentally sound ball the Purple Eagles played. Mihalich is 133-91 in his seventh season on Long Island, 45-15 over the last two seasons.

Chris Mack, Louisville – It shouldn’t be hard to win at Louisville but if you don’t succeed there is a one-way ticket to a mid-major program and a lot less money. Big East fans know what a solid person, father, coach Mack is. He took over Louisville which was a mess and won 20 games last season. Mack has the Cardinals atop the ACC with a 12-1 record (21-3 overall)

Steve Pikiell, Rutgers – It’s been impossible to win at Rutgers. Pikiell and the Scarlet Knights found themselves in an unfamiliar position Sunday night in the RAC. They trailed Northwestern by 18. It was arguably one of the first time Rutgers, as a heavy favorite, didn’t take an opponent seriously.

The Scarlet Knights rallied in the second half to eke out a 77-74 OT win and remain undefeated at home and just 1.5 games back for the Big Ten lead. Pikiell has instilled a true team culture. One of his first big recruits, Gio Baker, now comes off the bench. He scored 23 of his 25 in the second half to lead the comeback.

SHADES PLEASE: Which was harder to look at? Oregon State’s upset of No.14 Oregon was secured by holding the Ducks without a field goal for nearly nine minutes in the second half. Oregon shot 22-of-55 from the field (40 percent) which isn’t horrendous. Going to the line just four times (and only making two) is. Or…

UCLA held No.23 Arizona to its worst shooting game in the McKale Center’s 47-year history. The Wildcats shot 15-of-59 from the floor (25.4-percent). They missed all 12 of the second half 3’s. Or…

West Virginia missed 20-of-31 layups in a 69-59 loss at Oklahoma. The Mountaineers were 24-of-76 from the field (31.6-percent).

“Seems impossible, but we missed 22 shots within two feet of the basket,” said WVA coach Bob Huggins.

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Penny Wise, Schiano Foolish: Time For Rutgers to Invest in its Future

By Lenn Robbins

If you’re not familiar with how big-time college football works – and man, is it big business – Greg Schiano’s “list of demands” to return to coach Rutgers reads like a portrait in greed:

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A reported $25.2 million guarantee? The unlimited use of a private jet?

What is this, a new reality show, “Desperate Football Coaches of New Jersey?”

Not at all. This is the cost of doing business in a Power 5 conference, such as the Big 10.

In fact, if Rutgers had agreed to these “demands” about a week ago, it would have gotten Schiano on the cheap. His eight-year, $32 million deal would have put Schiano in the bottom third of Big Ten coach’s salaries. Rutgers drew a line in the sand at six years, $24 million – keep that $8 million in mind.

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That’s right, bottom third.

But AD Patrick Hobbs, who already screwed up his search for a men’s basketball coach, but was fortunate to find former Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiell, has been publicly and privately taking a flamethrower to the Schiano negotiation. Hobbs’ hiring of former coach Chris Ash (8-32), who was fired earlier this season, had failure written all over it from Day 1. He MUST make a great hire now.

Some might know that I’ve known Schiano for some 20 years and have a close, respectful relationship. I’ve had had no contact of any kind with Schiano, his family and his representatives since Sept. 30th.

As a long-time college football reporter, it’s been awful not having a successful big-time program in the metropolitan area. Despite Syracuse’s bogus claim of being New York’s college team, it still requires a four-hour drive, often with the help of a snow plow. Not very metropolitan.

There’s no better place to watch college football, and no program more steeped in tradition than Army. But the days of Army playing for a national title are over, and there’s no shame in that. Army has always had a higher calling.

Rutgers (2-9), which plays its final game of the season tomorrow at Penn State (9-2), joined the ranks of the Big Ten in 2014. It joined in name only.

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Its facilities are worse than some FCS programs. Its stadium, something named SHI Stadium, is not even on the list of the 50 best venues in America, according to Bleacher Report and anyone with eyes.

Penn State’s Beaver Stadium (106,572) is ranked No.1 Ohio State’s Ohio Stadium (102,821) is ranked third and Michigan Stadium (107,601), aka, The Big House, is ranked sixth. From Northwestern to Nebraska, Maryland to Michigan, Big Ten football, as its advertising campaign states, is life on the big stage.

Rutgers has tried to survive in the Big Ten on the cheap. Ash won three conference games in three-plus seasons. It’s not all his fault. It’s almost impossible to out-recruit schools with lesser facilities, not to mention far less tradition.

Michigan and Ohio State have set up satellite practice camps in New Jersey for the explicit reason of luring The Garden State’s top recruits. The only coach that has ever won his share of New Jersey recruits is Schiano.

There’s a reason for this: He’s a Jersey Guy. He understands the ethos of the state; how North Jersey and South Jersey have always had an uneasy relationship. The last thing the Rutgers coach can do is alienate either. Schiano did a great job of embracing both.

With Schiano, Rutgers reached its highest ranking ever in 2006 at No.7. It took him six years to build the program. And that was when Rutgers played in the Big East.

The next Rutgers coach will have an even more daunting challenge in the Big Ten. Jim Harbaugh, maybe the closest comparison we can make to Schiano, returned to his alma mater in 2015 with great fanfare. By 2017, after the Wolverines posted an 8-4 record, there were some screaming for change.

Most didn’t realize how drastically Michigan had fallen behind Ohio State, or been caught by programs such as Wisconsin and Iowa. Harbaugh, who is paid $7.5 million, will try to beat Ohio State tomorrow for the first time in his tenure. If he fails, no doubt there were will be ignorant calls for his firing.

While Ohio State was building its program with an influx of recruits and an increase in fundraising under the consistency of six coaches from 1951-2019, Michigan is on its fifth coach since 1989.

 Michigan’s administration has made what could prove to be brilliant decision. It believes Harbaugh is the man for the program and it’s providing him with the support and patience he needs to catch Ohio State. Michigan recently opened the $168-million Performance Center with a $100 million gift from Stephen Ross.

$100 million.

Rutgers balked at the $8 million difference between its offer and Schiano’s “demand.” Perks such as private planes (Wyoming has one, Wyoming!) and golf course membership is standard at Power 5 programs. It helps in recruiting and fundraising. It’s the cost of doing business in the Big Ten.

Over the last couple of days there have been reports that Rutgers and Schiano have re-engaged in talks. If Rutgers ever wants its best chance at becoming a winning big-time program, it will bring The Jersey Guy home. If not, Rutgers should withdraw from the Big Ten and call Mike Aresco at the American Athletic Conference.

The moment has come for Rutgers to state its intentions: Big Ten or Big Bust.