Rutgers and Maryland enter the Big Ten fray after playing last season in the AAC and the ACC, respectively. While college basketball fans probably know something about Maryland from their time as an ACC heavyweight, those outside of the New York/New Jersey area that follow the B1G might not know quite as much about the Scarlet Knights. Personally, when I think Rutgers basketball, I think of this. It probably isn’t a good thing for someone as basketball-obsessed as me to think about a Saturday Night Live sketch when thinking about that program. That said, it’s a new season in a new league for the former members of the Big East and the AAC. Here’s some quick information about the program to get Big Ten fans ready for the newcomers.
Eddie Jordan is in charge of trying to get Rutgers basketball back on solid ground after the Mike Rice tenure. (USATSI)
Last Season: The Scarlet Knights went 12-21 overall and 5-13 in the AAC. They were 6-7 in the non-conference portion of their schedule, losing to William & Mary and Farleigh Dickinson at home — for some context, Iowa beat Farleigh Dickinson 92-59. They started out 4-7 in conference play with their most impressive win coming when they beat Houston 93-70. They won a game in the AAC Tournament before bowing out to Louisville 92-31. They averaged 105.7 points per 100 possessions, which ranked 145th in the country. Only Illinois and Northwestern had worse per possession offensive numbers among Big Ten teams. They struggled even more on the defensive end, where they gave up 106.3 points per 100 possessions. That mark would have been dead last in the B1G, as only Iowa at 102.7 was in the same ballpark.
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Last Thursday afternoon, five-star small forward Justise Winslow announced his intention to play for Coach K and the Blue Devils. The 6’5” Winslow is currently rated as the No. 10 prospect in the country and No. 4 small forward in the class of 2014. With the commitment, Duke wrapped up an extraordinarily successful seven-day period which started out when the Blue Devils received commitments from the top player in the country in center Jahlil Okafor as well as the No. 2 ranked point guard in Tyus Jones. Winslow is set to join a talented team next year that will have numerous options on the perimeter in juniors Rodney Hood, Rasheed Sulaimon and Alex Murphy along with sophomores Matt Jones and Semi Ojeleye. Playing with talented wing players is nothing new for Winslow who played AAU ball the past two years with two other top 10 talents in Kansas commitment Kelly Oubre and North Carolina commitment Justin Jackson. Just like AAU play, Winslow brings a different skill set to the table when compared to his wing counterparts.
On the offensive end, the Houston native can do a variety of things. With his chiseled frame, he uses his notable strength advantage to crash the glass, score down low and finish with contact. He is tough to guard off the dribble and can often finish with a powerful dunk. Winslow is also fairly adept at handling the ball and using his passing ability to find cutters or shooters on the perimeter. On the defensive end, Winslow can guard numerous positions. He is quick enough to stay in front of most guards and strong enough to battle most big men in the post. This past spring and summer, Winslow’s versatility was on full display as he averaged 14.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and a couple steals per game. The main weakness in his game right now revolves around his outside shooting. Although still a work in progress, he shot just 31 percent from the three-point line in AAU play. Winslow’s weakness will be offset by the numerous Duke players who can already shoot from the outside and his versatility will be used elsewhere. This past summer Winslow played on the U-19 USA World championship team and was one of only two high school players to make the team (along with Okafor). He averaged almost 10 points per game there and the time he spent playing against older players proved that he will be more than ready to contribute next year in Durham.