Rutgers Visits 'Nova in Big East Opener

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Rutgers lost a 23-point decision to North Carolina last week, and now travels to No. 8 Villanova for the Big East opener today at 1 p.m. Strength is always an issue in league play for younger players, and the Scarlet Knights will play three freshmen. Are they ready for it?

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Dane Miller remembers it well. Hamady N'diaye told him what to expect against Cincinnati, and Miller listened.

He just didn't understand the magnitude of what he was being told.

So, as Rutgers opens Big East play today at Villanova (1 p.m., ESPNU), Miller has shared his stories with the Scarlet Knights' freshmen trio, but it doesn't mean they will get it.

"It' hard because you can say a lot of stuff, but it doesn't simulate what is going to happen," Miller said. "You can tell them Corey Fisher is fast and he has one of the best crossovers in the country, but no matter what we say, they'll finally see how fast it."

Rutgers center Gilvydas Biruta, guard Austin Carroll and wing Mike Poole will be making their Big East debuts against the 11th-ranked Wildcats (11-1), and it is coming five days after the Scarlet Knights (9-3) dropped a 23-point decision to North Carolina.

"Last year (N'daiye) did it, and so did Mike (Rosario), and against Cincinnati I saw it," said Miller, who is now a sophomore. "I saw Yancy Gates was 6-foot-9, 250 (pounds), and I'm trying to front him in the post. I'm a kid from Rochester, and I went from guarding a 7-footer who played like a 6-5 kid, and now I'm playing against a grown man."

The biggest issue the freshmen will face is the strength needed to play in the Big East. Neither Biruta nor Poole were involved in a weight lifting program at St. Benedict's Prep (Newark, N.J.), and the strength disparity will come into play.

"They have real (centers), so they're going to be big and strong, but there are ways to beat them," Biruta said of Villanova. "There are ways to beat them, though. You can front them and play with heart and soul. You can't out power them."

However, Biruta said the weight training program he began in the summer is starting to pay dividends, even if it is only a small step.

"I feel stronger, more explosive," Biruta said. "Sometimes I jump in the air, and say, ‘Oh, I've never been to the rim level like that before.' I can bench so much more now."

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