PISCATAWAY, N.J. – For those needing a glimpse of what the Big East season will be, or can be, Rutgers has a chance to show it today against North Carolina.
A Rutgers home game moved to Madison Square Garden, which will be decked out with a block “R” at center court, against the Tar Heels. The ESPN2 game will tip-off at 9 p.m., and is the Scarlet Knights’ last game before beginning conference play Sunday at Villanova.
“It’s a nationally televised game, and every time you’re on national t.v. it helps recruiting, it helps pick the brand up,” Rutgers coach Mike Rice told ScarletReport.com. “I’m not really into moral victories, so if you’re successful against them, it can change a lot of people’s attitudes.”
This is the fifth straight season the teams play, with North Carolina winning by an average margin of 28.8 points in the last four. The closest Rutgers came was last season, when the Tar Heels survived a late run and won 81-67.
Rutgers (9-2) enters the game on a five-game winning streak while North Carolina (8-4) has won six of eight, with the only high-profile win of the group being a two-point win against Kentucky on Dec. 4.
“This should be a good gauge where we are as far as the Big East and where our team’s strength and weaknesses are,” Rice said. “Everybody likes watching North Carolina and their style. They’ve got eight McDonald’s all-Americans. Rutgers fans are interested in seeing what they’re team is compared to the best.”
Although Rice watched how the Scarlet Knights played against North Carolina last season, he wasn’t planning to glean much from it.
“We’re such a different team that has such a different formula, it really doesn’t matter,” he said.
Jack begins practice
Rice re-iterated what ScarletReport.com first reported two weeks ago, and that is the plan is for freshman forward Kadeem Jack to red-shirt.
Jack began practicing with the Scarlet Knights on Sunday.
“He showed signs of that potential, that athleticism,” Rice said. “But for the most part, he looked like he was a freshman who came in thinking too much and everybody else had 40 practices and 12 games under their belts. He looked a little bit lost, a little bit behind, but that’s to be expected.”
Rice added Jack was able to take part in most of the drills.
“He tries to, but he goes one or two reps …and it’s like we’re speaking a different language to him,” Rice said. “He doesn’t know the verbiage. He doesn’t know all the things we’re talking about, what the drills are about, the details of the drills. He’s kind of learning on the fly.”
Rutgers point guard James Beatty, who is from Wilmington, N.C., was stuck in North Carolina for two days because of the snow and didn’t practice Sunday or Monday. He arrived late Monday night and is in New York with the team.
Meanwhile, North Carolina experienced travel problems and didn’t arrive in New York until this morning.