The real test, however, begins tonight in the season opener when Rutgers hosts St. Peter's at the Louis Brown Athletic Center. Rutgers has not made it to the postseason since Quincy Douby led the team to the NIT in 2006.
What are realistic goals for this season and what are the biggest contributors? ScarletReport.com takes a deeper look before the season gets underway.
Team Strength — Guard Experience. Rutgers had three freshman guards carry the offense last year. As Rice likes to say, "they didn't even know what they didn't know." A full college year for Myles Mack, Elijah Carter and Jerome Seagears is huge for Rutgers. The trio carried Rutgers as freshmen last season and now have a degree of knowledge and maturity to go along with it.
Expect increased consistency and more mature play from all three this season. An experienced point guard is the first step toward meaningful March basketball.
Team Concern — Post Presence. Gilvydas Biruta, the top paint player last season, transferred. Sophomore Kadeem Jack has minimal experience because of injury and Greg Lewis is already set for a medical redshirt.
Junior Wally Judge, transfer from Kansas State and McDonald's All-American, has a lot of pressure to perform immediately. Rutgers needs a dynamic defender in the post and someone that can knock down more than just the easy shots inside. Judge is the cornerstone of the post this year and needs to break out for Rutgers to break out.
Star Watch — Elijah Carter. Carter shot the lights out at times last year, but scored less and less as teams saw more tape. Carter stole the show in an upset win over Florida last year with 31 points, but consistency kept him to just 13.8 points per game on the season.
Breakout Candidate — Mike Poole. Poole is the most consistent mid-range shooter in the program and is now a team captain. Look for Poole to step up as more of a go-to scorer this year.
Key Games — Nov. 16 – at Princeton – The first true test of the season, the Tigers represent an NCAA tournament quality roster and a measurement of progress. Rice began his Rutgers career with a loss at Jadwin Gym
Dec. 28 – Rider – Rutgers needs momentum in its final game before Big East play. Any more than two losses in the preseason is a bad sign.
Feb. 9 – Georgetown – These are the types of games Rutgers must win to take the next step. Beat the teams the Scarlet Knights are supposed to beat and pull off a few upsets in February and March.
Feb. 12 – Seton Hall – Rutgers vs. Seton Hall. Enough said.
The Bottom Line - Rutgers is older at every position and finally has a roster filled with "Mike Rice recruits." Do not expect a dramatic leap forward from last season but being out of NCAA tournament talk by the end of January should be considered a tremendous disappointment.
The Scarlet Knights have the athletes and the experience to reach a postseason tournament. Anything less makes 2012-13 a bad season.