"We have to have a winning record in the Big East," Rice said. "I put it on them — it hasn't been done here [at Rutgers]. I think we have the talent, not necessarily the experience. I'm not going to put a number on it, but if you tell me at the end of the year that we didn't, I'll be upset. No one will be more upset about it than me. If we do that, the postseason will take care of itself. That's what our goal is; I'm not going to shy away from it."
After going 5-13 in Rice's first year at Rutgers and a combined 7-29 during Fred Hill Jr.'s last two years, anything close to a .500 record in the Big East would be tremendous improvement.
With no scholarship seniors and just two juniors, the Scarlet Knights have a tall task in front of them, but a task the team believes is attainable.
"It's something I truly believe we can do," said junior forward Austin Johnson. "We have the pieces and we have tremendous talent. We just have to work and work and work. And then work some more."
Jack Begins Rehabilitation
Red-shirt freshman forward Kadeem Jack broke his foot during preseason workouts and will miss a significant portion of the season. Jack had successful surgery on his right foot and remains positive about his outlook for the season.
"I know that I'm in good hands and everything's going to work out for the best," he said.
In addition to the plan given to him by team trainers, Jack is putting in extra work to make sure he remains in shape for his highly anticipated return.
"I'm really focused," Jack said. "From doing the regular rehab stuff to extra stuff at home or extra stuff in the morning, I'm just trying to get back and stay in shape. When I get the boot off my foot, I can just start going from there. I do the cardio because when I come back, I'm not trying to be out of shape."
To compete against the rest of the conference, expect a high-tempo, fast-paced offense from Rutgers and one of the best conditioned teams in recent history.
"It's an attacking system," Rice said of the offense. "It fits my personality and aggressive style. We're going to play 10 or 11 players this year. We'll attack offensively, defensively, switching an d attacking, trying to dictate to opposing teams. We're going to swing big. We're going to swing hard at times and we're going to hit. At times it won't look as polished as it needs to with the younger guys."
Freshman All-American guard Myles Mack said he embraces the high-tempo offense he has already been a part of in team practices.
"I think for me and the rest of the point guards, we're ready to do that this year," Mack said. "Move the ball and keeping going up and down the court. We're pretty much conditioned to do that."
Rutgers has six new freshmen this year, in addition to red-shirt freshman Jack and junior Kansas State transfer Wally Judge. By all accounts, the transitions are going well with heavy criticism from Rice coming with the territory.
"He's a great guy," said freshman guard Jerome Seagears. "He's always looking for the best for you and he's really passionate about what he wants. He shows that in the intensity he brings to practice every day."
For Rice, there are a lot of ups and downs to coaching six freshmen in preseason practices.
"The fun of it is developing them," Rice said. "I'll take two freshmen, Malick Kone and Derrick Randall. I don't know if I said a nice thing to them for the first five days of practice, and yesterday all of a sudden you saw movement. They were making the same mistakes. It's a grind at times it get them to play consistently, to get them to buy into the details. But certainly overall with the talent they have, it's exciting every day to see these guys become better."