Rutgers Scarlet Knights (14-16, 5-13 Big East)
Big East Tournament Seed: No. 13; plays No. 12 Seton Hall Pirates on Tuesday (2 p.m. on ESPN2).
Head Coach: Mike Rice is in his first season guiding the Scarlet Knights. The fiery coach has found out how tough the Big East is to navigate, but looks as though he has planted the seeds to grow the program in the right direction.
Team MVP: Senior forward Jonathan Mitchell leads Rutgers in scoring at 14.2 points per game and is second in rebounding at 5.7 per game. He's also the Scarlet Knights’ best three-point shooter at 39.0-percent. In three of the five conference wins for Rutgers, Mitchell has passed the 20-point mark.
Playing For: A win or two in the Big East Tournament would send good vibes heading into next season, where Rutgers will look to become a bigger force in the league. Rutgers, which is matched up against Seton Hall and then St. John’s Red Storm, if they win Tuesday, will be playing for local pride, bragging rights and maybe a recruiting edge as well.
Breakdown: With just one double-figures scorer per game (Mitchell), Rutgers looks for a balanced offensive attack. Unfortunately, they just have too much trouble scoring -- ranked 15th in the conference in scoring (66.1 ppg). However, they get a favorable matchup against Seton Hall which is ranked 14th (67.4 ppg).
But Rutgers is a pretty good defensive team, and Mike Rice has them playing hard every night. Freshman forward Gilvydas Biruta, who averages almost 10 points per game in just 21 minutes on average, has been a nice addition to the program. In his first season in the Big East Biruta was selected to the All-Big East Rookie Team. Sophomore Dane Miller is third on the team in scoring at 9.3 ppg and is the top rebounder at 6 per game. The seeds are planted for Rutgers to become a bigger force in the league in years to come, but they’re not there yet. Except a one-and-done for Rutgers this week.
-- written by Chris Celletti.