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Rutgers’ jump on the competition may actually pay off

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Maybe there is hope for Rutgers basketball.

The school that hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament since 1991 and hasn’t won at the Big Dance since 1983 made strides in its first year under coach Mike Rice. The offense showed signs of life and the defense had its moments.

Still, the bottom-line wasn’t much different than the Fred Hill era. Rutgers was 15-17 overall and won just five Big East games.

So why might 2011-12 be any different? The heralded incoming class is getting a head start.

Six of Rutgers’ incoming recruits – Myles Mack, Jerome Seagears, Eli Carter, Greg Lewis, Derrick Randall and Malick Kone – are playing together in the Jersey Shore Basketball League. Also on the team are junior Austin Johnson, sophomore Austin Carroll and transfer Wally Judge, which means the Knights have nine guys learning each other’s strengths, weaknesses and styles months before most teams usually see the court.

(NCAA rules limit two players from the same team on the same summer team roster, but that doesn’t apply to freshmen.)

It’s all recapped here by Newark Star-Ledger reporter Brendan Prunty, who writes that despite the team’s non-winning ways (insert Rutgers joke here), the guys are loving every minute of the summer. Same with Rice.

“It was a no-brainer,” Rice told Prunty. “You don’t usually get this. To get all of them together and play against older guys and guys who have played Division 1 or overseas and know how to play. I knew they were going to take their bumps — especially in this league.”

The only downside is that incoming power forward Kadeem Jack, along with likely starters Dane Miller and Gilvydas Biruta aren’t with the group.

It’s probably too much to expect a significant bump in 2011-12. The next season seems more likely when guys like Mack, Jack and Seagears can make that sophomore leap and Miller will be the lone senior. Then we’ll see if Rutgers basketball can ever win again.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

AP POLL: Villanova climbs to No. 1 in the country.

Jay Wright
(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
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Like the Coaches Poll, Villanova found themselves No. 1 in the AP Poll during the regular season for the first time in the history of the program.

And like the Coaches Poll, there isn’t much in the way of a consensus when it comes to who is the No. 1 team, as there are six teams that received No. 1 votes in the poll this week.

[NEW PODCAST]

[LATEST BRACKETOLOGY]

The biggest shock to me?

The No. 1 team in the NBC Sports Top 25, Iowa, received just 11 first place votes and is ranked fourth in the AP Poll.

They were ranked fifth in the Coaches Poll.

Can we get Fran McCaffery the love they deserve?

Here is the rest of the AP Poll:

1. Villanova (20-3, 32 first-place votes)
2. Maryland (21-3, 13)
3. Oklahoma (19-3, 7)
4. Iowa (19-4, 11)
5. Xavier (21-2)
6. Kansas (19-4, 1)
7. Virginia (19-4, 1)
8. Michigan State (20-4)
9. North Carolina (19-4)
10. West Virginia (19-4)
11. Oregon (18-4)
12. Miami (FL) (18-4)
13. Louisville (19-4)
14. Iowa State (17-6)
15. Texas A&M (18-5)
16. SMU (20-2)
17. Arizona (19-5)
18. Purdue (19-5)
19. Dayton (19-3)
20. Providence (18-6)
21. Baylor (17-6)
22. Kentucky (17-6)
23. USC (18-5)
24. Texas (16-7)
25. Wichita State (17-6)

DROPPED OUT: No. 22 Indiana, No. 25 South Carolina
NEW ADDITIONS: No. 23 USC, No. 24 Texas

COACHES POLL: Villanova is the new No. 1 team in the country

Josh Hart, Jordan Pric
(AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)
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Just as we expected, there is absolutely no consensus when it comes to the No. 1 team in college basketball.

In the new Coaches Poll released today, Villanova slots in as No. 1 overall, but Maryland received the same number of first place votes as the Wildcats and seven teams — seven! — received at least one first place vote, including No. 8 North Carolina and No. 9 Michigan State.

[NEW PODCAST]

[LATEST BRACKETOLOGY]

The biggest shock to me?

The No. 1 team in the NBC Sports Top 25, Iowa, received just three first place votes and is ranked fifth by the coaches.

I think the coaches need to pay better attention.

Or they hate Fran McCaffery.

One or the other.

Anyway, here’s the full poll:

1. Villanova (20-3, 11 first-place votes)
2. Maryland (21-3, 11)
3. Oklahoma (19-3, 3)
4. Xavier (21-2)
5. Iowa (19-4, 3)
6. Kansas (19-4, 2)
7. Virginia (19-4)
8. North Carolina (19-4, 1)
9. Michigan State (20-4, 1)
10. West Virginia (19-4)
11. Miami (FL) (18-4)
12. Oregon (20-4)
13. Texas A&M (18-5)
14. Arizona (19-5)
15. Iowa State (17-6)
16. Purdue (19-5)
17. Dayton (19-3)
17. Providence (18-6)
19. Baylor (17-6)
20. South Carolina (20-3)
21. Kentucky (17-6)
22. Indiana (19-5)
23. USC (18-5)
24. Wichita State (17-6)
25. Texas (16-7)

DROPPED OUT: No. 18 Louisville, No. 25 Saint Mary’s
NEW ADDITIONS: No. 23 USC, No. 25 Texas