Team Report: Getting Inside

One of the benefits of being in the Big East is that doing well in conference play usually gives a team a good shot at an NCAA berth -- if it has done enough in nonconference play to get into position in the first place.

It would be a major upset if Rutgers was one of those teams fighting for a bid at the end of the season, but at least the Scarlet Knights enter Big East play with the chance to dream. Rutgers finished its nonconference schedule at 10-3, with victories over Temple and Kent State. It doesn't exactly make the team an RPI warrior, however. After securing a victory over in-state rival Seton Hall, the Scarlet Knights have upped their overall record to 11-3.

But unlike in previous seasons, the Knights know that a 9-7 record (8-7 from hereonin) in Big East play might just give them enough wins to earn some serious consideration from the Selection Committee. That would leave the team at 19-10, needing just one win in the conference tournament for the magical 20 wins that sometimes is just enough to put a team over the top.

Of course, that's a far-fetched scenario -- this team still has some serious holes. But hey, the football team made it to a bowl game this year, so the school justifiably believes that anything is possible in hoops as well.

The last time the team started this well was in 1982-83 when it began the year 11-2. That year Rutgers finished 23-8 and made the NCAA Tournament as a member of the Atlantic 10.

--Defense has been the rock that has kept the Scarlet Knights on the winning track in the early season. Rutgers held five of its 13 nonconference foes to fewer than 50 points.

--The Scarlet Knights have pretty much been a one-man show on offense, depending on Quincy Douby to carry the scoring load. However, forward Marquis Webb enters the Big East season coming off back-to-back games in double figures.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I said going into the season if we wound up 9-4 we did a decent job. If we were 10-3 we did a good job. If we go 11-2, it's fabulous. We could have easily been 11-2. We could have won that Charlotte game (an 85-82 home loss)." -- Coach Gary Waters, on his team's 10-3 record in non-conference play, in the Newark Star-Ledger.

The Scarlet Knights are next in action versus one of the top teams in the nation, the Villanova Wildcats, set for Wednesday, January 11.


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