Rutgers Scarlet Knights
| MESSAGE BOARD
RECORD: 21 - 12
REGION: Midwest SEED: 7
COACH: C. Vivian Stringer CONFERENCE: Big Ten
Road to the Final Four ...................................................................................
|PLAYER TO WATCH|
Player to watch? Heck, it's impossible to take your eyes off Pondexter. The senior point guard is on every postseason award short list and with good reason. She averages 18 points, five rebounds and four assists a game. And that's just on offense. On defense, Pondexter is all over the court, pestering and pressuring opposing players to the tune of two steals a game plus the countless other errors she causes with her in-your-face style.
ANALYSIS BY ESPN'S STACEY DALES-SCHUMAN
There is no question that C. Vivian Stringer's Scarlet Knights have faced a tormenting strength of schedule this season. Mississippi, Texas Tech, Clemson, LSU, Tennessee, TCU ODU and Ohio State highlighted an impressive list of teams that kicked Rutgers' nonconference schedule into action in mid-November. Yikes! It's no wonder the Scarlet Knights lost four straight on the road during that time.
The injury bug made things especially tough, though. The team's second-leading scorer, junior Chelsea Newton, has missed eight full games while being sidelined indefinitely in five others due to a recurring shoulder problem. With a relatively healthy Newton in the lineup, the Scarlet Knights are a strong 12-3. Also the second-best passer on the floor, Newton is heavily relied upon for her even-keel disposition and model intensity.
Rutgers has been able to suit up 10 players just one time this season. Senior forward Shalicia Hurns -- yes, formerly of Purdue -- was injured early, as was another post threat in junior Mariota Theodoris, victim to the ACL virus. Then, Dawn McCullough went out with a knee injury in the Big East tournament. It got so bad, Rutgers dressed two of its managers -- junior Erin Boccher and sophomore Devon Groomes -- for the conference tournament.
With so many lineup changes, one can only infer that finding rhythm and consistency is extremely difficult, especially against some of basketball's best. Using a different starting lineup seemingly every third game, it's also no wonder Rutgers has only won 31 percent of its games on the road.
One positive has been improved post play, which is essential in order to free up sophomore All-American Cappie Pondexter for more opportunities to create. Pondexter truly is a special commodity with season averages of almost 18 points, five rebounds and five assists. If you want to see just how much the women's game is changing, look no further than Pondexter.
Offensively, Rutgers has the athletes to push tempo, but the Scarlet Knights often play it safe, averaging only 13 turnovers a contest, one of the best marks in the country. Defensively, Rutgers has predominantly played player-to-player this season, although it will fall into zone every so often.
If the Scarlet Knights can find more scorers, drop some hoops in transition and, most importantly, stay healthy, they can compete.