Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Rice Says Rutgers Will Win the Big East…Eventually
PISCATAWAY, N.J. — During its short and inglorious history in the Big East Conference, the Rutgers men’s basketball team has never finished higher than fifth place.
Over the last five years, the Scarlet Knights have ended up tied for 14th, tied for 15th, 15th, 14th and 13th.
But here comes second-year coach Mike Rice guaranteeing his team will win the Big East…sometime during his tenure.
“Why would that not be my goal?” Rice told SNY.tv during Rutgers Media Day Tuesday. “If you’re in any conference and any coach, you want to win the league.”
Rice, whose team was picked 11th in the preseason coaches’ poll, declined to give a timeframe on when his team would win the ever-changing Big East, but nevertheless said it will happen.
“I didn’t say when I’m going to win the league but that has to be your goal,” said Rice, whose team went 15-17 overall, 5-13 in the league last year. “This year it’s as simple as I want to have a winning record in the Big East.”
Rice said he told his players at Robert Morris the same thing when he took over there.
The Colonials won the Northeast Conference three years running.
“Now, I had more talent and a depth of talent [at Robert Morris], but it’s one of those things where if you don’t think it you can’t be a very good leader,” Rice said.
Rutgers is loaded with a strong freshmen class paced by guards Eli Carter, Myles Mack and Jerome Seagears.
“The expectations are higher,” Carter told SNY.tv. “We got a good recruiting class. We just gotta live up to the hype.”
Asked if an 11th place finish would sit well with him and his teammates, Carter said, “Not at all. I think we’re better than that. I mean 11th is a step up for the program, but we weren’t here before so…I think we can do a lot better than that.”
History is not on Rutgers’s side.
The Scarlet Knights are 87-202 (.301) overall in Big East play. Only DePaul (.209) and South Florida (.229) have a worse winning percentage.
But Rice was not a part of that history, neither were the players he recruited.
“That’s what’s strange about Rutgers is you are taken aback by someone saying that you’re going to win the league at Rutgers at some point in time,” Rice said. “You’re going to develop the talent, you’re going to recruit the talent.
“But if you don’t think that you’re not going to be very successful.”
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.