Miller: "Wednesday's a big one. We need it."

Rutgers hits the road for today's game at Cincinnati (9 p.m., SNY) in search of its first three-game winning streak in Big East play in seven years. The Scarlet Knights also are looking to make a push toward their stated goal of the postseason against a Bearcats (17-3, 4-3) that has lost three of its last five games.

Even for the dreamers, it may be a crazy thought, but it is something Rutgers knows about, talks about, and thinks about.

Not just the postseason, which at this point is a realistic goal for the Scarlet Knights, but that other tournament in which Rutgers last participated in back in 1991.

"You watch every game, and we hope that the team ahead of us is going to lose, and we got out and know we have to go out and win our game," Rutgers sophomore wing Dane Miller said ahead of today's 9 p.m. tip at Cincinnati. "Then, we calculate it, do stats …Wednesday's a big one. We need it. We need it."

A win would be Rutgers' third straight conference win in a row, which it hasn't done since Jan. 2004, and its second straight on the road, which it last did in 2006.

Equally as important, it would push Rutgers (12-,7, 3-4 Big) into a tie for eighth place in the conference, and in a league in which eight or nine teams are expected to head to the NCAA Tournament …well, yeah, it is a big premature to go there.

However, the thought of the postseason, in proper context, is something Rice talks about with his team, and something the players are reminded of daily.

In the Rutgers locker room is a sign detail the top three goals:

First, improve every day.

Second, win seven Big East games.

Third, get to the postseason.

"It's one of our goals," Rice said. "It's very simple. Our third goal is postseason. As you go along, and you're 12-7 and in the Big East, you should talk about it. So, yes, we have a goal of getting to a postseason tournament."

The goal is the postseason, and given the last four seasons at Rutgers, getting an invitation to the NIT would be a monumental achievement.

But at this point the Scarlet Knights aren't going to concede the NCAA isn't within reach. "Postseason is in our minds," Rutgers power forward Jonathan Mitchell said. "Being a senior, I definitely want to make a postseason run. To say that it's not out there, I'd be lying to you. It's definitely in the back of our minds."

To get to the NCAA Tournament, Rutgers will need the best six-week stretch of its Big East existence.

However, with 11 regular season games left the Scarlet Knights could ensure a winning record coming out of the Big East tournament by going 4-7, and Rice does not hide from the opportunity the rest of the season presents.

"I tell them when they stink, I tell them when they're great, I tell them when they're mediocre," Rice said. It's not secret. They know. They see it. They talk about it. If they can't handle the pressure, then it's a bad league to come into.

"It's not what we discuss daily, but it's been brought up in a conversation as motivation."

And Mitchell said there is no reason to get too caught up in the idea, or have people believe the Scarlet Knights are thinking too highly of themselves.

"We're still 3-4 in the Big East," he said. "If we were 6-1, 6-0, then we could have that conversation."


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