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Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Rutgers, coach Mike Rice excited for season

By Kieran Darcy

At the Big East's annual men's basketball media day at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, almost all of the coaches sat at their respective school's table while answering questions from reporters.

But Rutgers coach Mike Rice didn't even bother to sit down.

Rice, who has a reputation for being animated and intense, was both of those things while standing and addressing the media on Wednesday. Animated, intense -- and extremely excited, despite the fact that Rutgers was picked to finish 15th in the 16-team Big East in the preseason coaches' poll.

"I'm not here claiming that Rutgers is going to be successful tomorrow, [or] the next day," Rice said. "But we will be successful."

The cupboard was indeed pretty bare when Rice took the Rutgers job in early May. On the bright side, he has already received six commitments from high school players in the Class of 2011. But this season he only has nine scholarship players to work with, and not one player taller than 6-foot-8. (Click here to read a team preview.)

So, how does he expect to compete in the Big East? By employing the same brand of basketball he did in his previous job at Robert Morris, where he won two consecutive conference championships and almost knocked off Villanova in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season.

"An intense style. An aggressive, intense style that focuses on teamwork over talent," is how Rice described it. "I think our guys right here are eager to prove people wrong."

Senior guard James Beatty, who was one of the Rutgers players in attendance on Wednesday, said the team is adapting well to their new coach's style. "I've never played for a coach with as much intensity as him," Beatty said. "He lets us know day in and day out that we're not gonna take plays off. We're gonna go as hard as we can when we're in between the lines."

That won't be enough to get Rutgers into the Big Dance this season for the first time since 1991. But it should translate into a couple of upset wins along the way.

"The intensity starts from the time we're stretching," Beatty added about his new coach. "He jumps up and down, he runs, he's screaming, he's yelling, he's doing everything."

Everything, that is, except sitting down.