PISCATAWAY – It’s a simple question with what should be just as simple an answer. Why is Rutgers so inconsistent?
Why is it that one night they beat one of the top teams in the country, the next, they’ll lose to a Big East bottom feeder?
Well, no one seems to have that answer.
“Not sure,” head coach Mike Rice said when posed with that question after Monday’s practice. “We prepare as if it’s a National Championship every game and so why sometimes they’re not as consistent as they need to, not quite sure. If I knew that, I would change that.”
The players seem as dumbfounded by the query as Rice. Though they do know their practices leading up to each game are key.
“It’s all about our preparation before each game,” Mike Poole said. “I don’t think it’s really more or less the teams we play, I think it’s just the way we come out. Against DePaul we were up 11 in the second half and then we folded.”
The problem is, their practices can be just as inconsistent as their games.
“Sometimes in practice we start off really good and then at the end we drop off in our intensity and stuff like that,” Poole said. “It’s really just how we prepare than who we’re playing against.”
But a good or bad practice doesn’t always carry over into the next game. Because of that, the second-year head coach never knows which team he is getting.
“No idea. None,” Rice said when asked if there are any indications in practice or warm-ups that let him know which team he’ll be getting. “I like our chances if our guys are engaged talking in warm-ups and not quiet, but to be honest with you, Florida they didn’t say a word to each other either and they came out and played with tremendous intensity and passion. So right now that’s what’s interesting about this team.”
And it’s maddening.
“There’s a level of frustration when you have seven freshman and no seniors anyway, but when you do see the positive, the good, and if we could just focus a bit more on some of our listening and some of our weaknesses, yeah, because there is such a positive to be had,” Rice said. “There are things that we could do that nobody thought we could do, so there is frustration.”
Sure, they’ve already done things that nobody thought they could do, like beat two top 10 teams.But their flashes of greatness have shown they could have done more, like make the NCAA Tournament.
While the first NCAA Tournament berth in two decades is a long shot at this point, it’s clear this team has the ability to beat anybody left on their schedule. As long as they play consistently.
And the team is not trying dwell on what’s already happened this season.
“Not really frustrating,” Poole said of the team’s inconsistencies. “We still have nine games left. If we could win these out, we’ll be good. Just look on to the next game. Can’t really worry about the past.”
But is the team starting to turn the corner two thirds through the season and will they be able to play up to what they're capable of on a nightly basis?
“Definitely,” Jerome Seagears said. “I think we’re learning with experience so definitely I think we’ll be able to pick it up from here.”