Jordan aims to improve in Big Ten
A 92-31 loss derives from more than a few mistakes.
For the Rutgers men’s basketball team, the March 13 loss against Louisville in the AAC Tournament represented a rebuilding process far from completion.
This was a season (12-21, 5-13) for first-year head coach Eddie Jordan to acclimate to the Scarlet Knights and coaching college basketball.
Unfortunately for Jordan, next year’s situation puts him in a difficult spot.
As of now, next season’s roster sports six seniors. Jordan can finally test players he recruits once they depart, but winning with such inexperience in future seasons will be difficult.
Rutgers ended its season with losses by no more than six points against two ranked teams — Connecticut and Cincinnati — and a competitive 72-68 victory in the first round of the AAC Tournament against South Florida.
Louisville halted Rutgers’ progress, giving Jordan his third defeat more lopsided than any in the Mike Rice era.
“It’s the time where you go right to the bar, forget the game, have a drink and get ready for next year,” said Louisville head coach Rick Pitino after Rutgers’ loss.
The Louisville loss revealed Jordan’s challenges in winning next year, even with a senior-laden group.
The roster will likely show little difference, depending on possible transfers, with senior forward Wally Judge and senior forward J.J. Moore the only departures.
But the coaching staff will not look the same.
Jordan fired associate head coach David Cox the day after losing to Louisville. The move reflects Jordan’s adjustment to college coaching, since Jordan’s first move upon his hiring was retaining Cox and assistant coach Van Macon.
Rutgers, meanwhile, looks at Louisville as a program it wants to resemble.
Fourth-seeded Louisville sits in its third consecutive Sweet 16. This NCAA Tournament is Louisville’s eighth straight.
“They’ve been to the top of the mountain, and we’re starting from the bottom of the mountain, and we want to get to where they are,” Jordan said. “It’s going to be a process for us, but I thought our guys showed a lot of character.”
Unfortunately for Rutgers, the Big Ten will not be easier. Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa State and Wisconsin all remain in the NCAA Tournament. All currently rank in the nation’s top 12.
The Knights bring experience, but many of those players still have kinks. One major problem comes from juniors Myles Mack and Jerome Seagears still acting as combo guards and shooting inefficiently.
Another issue will be Rutgers’ lack of size. The team will still lack a true center, with 6-foot-9 forwards Kadeem Jack and Greg Lewis the closest to that.
Jordan also cited communication issues with his roster this season, as it often failed to pick up his message.
Despite endless problems and an embarrassing loss to end the season, Jordan remains optimistic.
“We were picked 10th,” Jordan said of the preseason AAC coaches’ poll. “We ended up seventh. We won a first-round game.”