Voted last in the American Athletic Conference at last week's media day in Memphis, Tenn., Rutgers has no plans of finishing that low in Eddie Jordan's first year as head coach.
"I definitely see the hunger and the fight," said senior forward J.J. Moore. "After the rankings came out, we actually got together as a team. We told each other we have to have that fire in our eyes. We have to. After the talk, we had practice. In practice we actually had that fire in our eyes. The last few practices we had that fire."
Rutgers placed the poll inside its locker room after a team meeting, and looks to it daily before taking the court for practice.
"We're going out in practice and we're just going to keep going out there and practicing," said Moore, who was a No. 1 seed at Pittsburgh during his freshman year. "We have the rankings up in our locker room, and we look at it every day. We know what goals we have to do on the court."
Jordan has been around enough basketball to avoid citing specific goals and expectations this early. But finishing last in the conference is not a part of his agenda.
"I want success starting Sunday," Jordan said. "I want success every time we step on the floor, whether it's improving in practice or winning games. As I said before, winning is always in the equation."
Associate head coach David Cox, who twice served as interim head coach, returns after an offseason of change, and sees enough talent to exceed national expectations.
"We have a full roster with good talent," Cox said. "I don't want to overstate this at all but we were picked 10th in the league. Without making any bold or rash predictions, but I would like to assure you that we aren't a 10th place team. We have enough talent and enough depth, and we have an outstanding coach with a vision and a plan for this team."
Rutgers begins its season Sunday with a scrimmage against St. Peter's College, and battles Nov. 1 against Caldwell in an exhibition.
After a grueling offseason, Rutgers returns to real basketball action at the RAC Nov. 8 at Florida A&M.
"To be honest, this offseason was way too long and we need to play a game," said sophomore guard Logan Kelley, who earned a scholarship this summer. "So much has happened, so much change, that playing a basketball game in less than a month is the best thing in the world."