Hill: NCAAs, "19 or 20'' wins part of 2010-11

Embattled Rutgers coach Fred Hill said despite the setbacks of this season, the program is on track to finish .500 or better in the Big East next season, and "that means we're going to win 19 or 20 games, and we're going to be knocking on the door to the NCAA Tournament." Hill talks about what transpired this season to make him believe next season will be a breakout one for the Scarlet Knights.

PISCATAWAY – The injury and subsequent departure of starting center Greg Echenique put Rutgers in a vulnerable spot throughout the Big East season, but coach Fred Hill said the foundation is in place for an NCAA Tournament bid next season.

Hill's assertion comes as he views what Rutgers will look like next season, and the experience it gained this year. He is pointing to the fact three of his starters – point guard James Beatty, power forward Jonathan Mitchell and wing Dane Miller – are in their first year in the program, and he expects a big junior season from guard Mike Rosario.

"We thought we could win, quite honestly, six, seven, eight, nine games in the Big East,'' Hill said in talking about the current team. "I don't think it changes anything for next year.

"If you ask me what a goal would be right now, we're going to go .500 or better (in the Big East), and that means we're going to win 19 or 20 games, and we're going to be knocking on the door to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1991 because I've seen these guys work and what they do.''

Of course, the pressing question regarding next season's Scarlet Knights is whether Hill will still be the coach of the Scarlet Knights.

Rutgers (12-12, 2-9 Big East) enters Sunday's home game against No. 7 Georgetown (4 p.m.) with a 44-72 record in Hill's tenure. The Scarlet Knights have won 10 of 63 Big East games in his four-year tenure, and the 12 overall wins this season are the most in Hill's career at Rutgers.

Hill contends the natural learning curve of his young team (Hamady Ndiaye is the only senior) will make them markedly better in 2010-11.

"History tells you it changes everything. Our history, go back and look at other programs' history,'' Hill said. "When you put those type of players on the floor …that's what we've been waiting to do, talent and experience.''

However, Hill acknowledged Rutgers needs to land a center in the late signing period or over the summer – a difficult chore given the lack of quality centers in the recruiting ranks. The Scarlet Knights are scouring the international market to find a replacement for Echenique.

"What we need to get is to get somebody who can defend and rebound because that's our weakness, and that's a result of an injury,'' Hill said. "We've done really good things with that, losing a guy that is your best rebounder, and your second-leading scorer, and your best offensive post player.

"I don't know how many teams could lose that and really make the jump we anticipated to make this year. ‘'

Hill also pointed toward the players Rutgers signed in November as key to upgrading the depth and talent for next season.

St. Benedict's of Newark (N.J.) wing Gilvydas Biruta and Brewster Academy (Wolfeboro, N.H.) shooting guard Austin Carroll will come join the team in June.

"People don't realize how good Gilvydas Biruta is,'' Hill said. "He can come in and have an impact like Dane, and like Mike did. He's a helluva player. He's been compared to(NBA player) Joe Alexander, and that's a helluva comparison.

"Austin Carroll is a really cerebral combo guard that can really shoot the ball. So, now, we've got somebody who can come in and knock it down when Mike isn't having a great night, or maybe shorten his minutes so he's more efficient.''

Defending the Hoyas
In discussing the Hoyas, Hill did not start where most coaches do.

"They're a really skilled team and they really pass the ball,'' Hill said. "They shoot it great. (Jason) Clark's been on fire, (Austin) Freeman's just a monster, (Chris) Wright never makes a mistake. Who did I leave out? Was there a guy in there I left out?''

Yup. That would be 6-foot-11, 245-pound sophomore Greg Monroe, who is averaging 15.4 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game.

"Monroe is the best big-man passer not only in the country this year,'' Hill said. "I'm not sure I've seen a guy that passes as well as he does, at his size. I haven't seen somebody on film that's jumped out at me probably in the last five years who passes the ball as well as he does from that position.''

When Georgetown (18-5, 8-4) pummeled Rutgers 88-63 last month, Monroe scored 21 points, snared 14 rebounds and had seven assists.

"We'll probably give (Ndiaye) a shot on Monroe,'' Hill said. "It was (Mitchell) last time. Tough matchup. Monroe is probably a lottery pick, so we'll give (Ndiaye) a shot and see what happens.''

Decorations for Dane?
Hill believes Miller is in contention to be the Big East's Freshman of the Year.

"When you look at what Dane's done, I don't know how you have a conversation without having him in the conversation,'' Hill said. "He's just gotten better from one day to the next, and he's worked hard.''

In conference games, the 6-foot-7 Miller is tops among freshmen in scoring(12.5 ppg) and steals (1.55 spg), tied for third in rebounding (6.0 rpg) and third in assists (2.73 apg).

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