Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell could not care less about a vote in this week's AP poll. “Just noise” in the build up to North Texas, Pikiell has way too far to go to enjoy four straight wins.
Before rankings or turkey dinners or next week's road trip to Miami, Pikiell doesn't want his players thinking anything but North Texas.
“We're playing a really dangerous team,” Pikiell said. “This is going to be a war tomorrow for 40 minutes. It will be an absolute war and it is a dangerous, dangerous basketball team.”
The war starts in the frontcourt where Rutgers is fifth in the NCAA in rebounding margin.
A team that averaged just 35 rebounds per game, Rutgers sits only behind Iowa State, Indiana, Utah and North Carolina.
Fresh off a return from knee injuries, captain DeShawn Freeman leads the way with 9.7 rebounds per game.
“He's been really good,” Pikiell said. “He's been really good health wise. He's been really good leadership wise. The other day was just a kind of fluke. Rebounders rebound, and he didn't get any rebounds the other day but I expect him to double up on his order of rebounds in this game.”
Freeman is one of six players with nine points per game or more.
“It's not little league baseball here,” Pikiell said. “Everyone doesn't get a chance. Guys have to be ready because of the season that it is and because DeShawn had injuries before. Someone's got to be ready to play. Shaq [Doorson]'s foot is one of those daily grinds. Ibrahima [Diallo] has got to be ready and Eugene [Omoruyi] has got to be ready. So does everybody else. You're always one play away from [the court].”
By the way...
On his ejection against Niagra, sophomore guard Corey Sanders said, “me and coach talked about it and that is something that just won't happen again. … I've got to be out there for my team. It won't happen again.”
Thanksgiving is about business for Rutgers basketball with its only opportunity to practice before tipoff against Hartford. Outside of a Thanksgiving meal together, Thursday is about basketball.
Rebounding is yet again the theme for Rutgers when North Texas takes the court. North Texas has just two players that average more than five rebounds per game – Rickey Bryce Jr. (6.0) and Jeremy Combs (5.3).