Tournament Time: Rice Teleconference

Rutgers basketball gets its wish tomorrow in a rematch with Villanova just five days after an ugly defeat at the Louis Brown Athletic Center. Before heading to Madison Square Garden for the Big East tournament, coach Mike Rice spoke with the media about his 11th seeded Scarlet Knights heading into his second conference tournament on the Banks.

Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice does not remember where he first heard it, but a saying has stuck with him since he first became a head coach. Leading the Robert Morris team that almost played spoiler to Villanova in the NCAA tournament, Rice will try to get a March win over the Wildcats tomorrow at Madison Square Garden and make some magic.

Because when it comes to college basketball, March doesn't care. Like a snow day, anything can happen.

"March doesn't care," Rice said. "March really doesn't care. This month doesn't care whether they're freshmen, whether they're seniors. They don't care if you're a poor free-throw shooting team. It doesn't matter. Everything kind of gets wiped away in this month because anything can happen."

After calling for a .500 record in the Big East fell short this year, Rice is done putting numbers on success. When it comes to the Garden this week, the second-year Rutgers head coach just wants to win.

"Is it getting past first round? Second round? It's winning," Rice said. "It's how we play and it's the way we play for one another. It's the way we respond. I'm going to have these guys for the next three years, the majority of them."

Rutgers (14-17, 6-12) concluded its season winning two out of three after a month-long losing streak. In Rice's second year, he won the most conference games since the 2005-06 season, bust still fell three games short of .500.

Losing three scholarship seniors and not adding any, Rice said, made it an extremely "challenging" season.

"This season has been the most challenging season, just because of the fact that I've had a lot of freshmen before, but with no seniors, it was challenging," Rice said. "Every day you're tinkering, you're trying new ideas to either get them more motivated, to get their confidence back up or get their confidence lower. It just was such a daily challenge to push the right buttons with this group. "

The World's Most Famous Arena

There is a reason Rice schedules a preseason game at Madison Square Garden every year. Come tournament time, he does not want his freshmen to feel shook on the grandest stage.

This year, Rutgers played Stony Brook at the Garden and, according to Rice, Iona is tentatively scheduled for next season.

"We're going to try to get into the Garden just for that purpose," Rice said. "I don't want them to look around and start shooting NBA threes. I want them to be comfortable in that setting. Having said that, there is a different energy, a different buzz when you're walking into the Big East Tournament."

Best Case Scenario

When it comes to freshman guard Elijah Carter, Rice is thrilled with what he got this season. Adding Carter as a late addition from Brewster Academy, the guard led Rutgers with 13.5 points per game and started all but four games this season. Carter led Rutgers in minutes and took over 100 more shots than anyone else on the roster.

"It's been as close to a home run as you can," Rice said on Carter. "It's a standup triple. That's for sure. What he's given us being the leading scorer, having to defend some of the best two-guards in the Big East night in and night out. Having to be the go-to guy at the end of games. We've asked a ton of him.

"For a late signee like he was, it's a hell of a get and for such a bright future. He's going to understand what's a great shot and what's a good shot. He's going to understand our system more. He's got a very bright future and we were fortunate to get him late."


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