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Rutgers 2016-2017 Preview: the Frontcourt

They got bigger, but how much better did the Rutgers Scarlet Knights big men get this season?

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

In the weeks leading up to the 2016-’17 college basketball season, BTPowerhouse will be releasing its preview series breaking down each Big Ten team. These will come in a set of series previewing the overall team, the team’s backcourt, wings, and big men, and the team’s schedule. Each post will take a look at its top in-depth and give predictions on the upcoming season.

Today’s edition of the ‘BTPowerhouse Preview Series’ will focus on the backcourt for Rutgers. The guards may be the strong point of this Scarlet Knights team, but that is not saying much.

'BTPowerhouse Preview' - Rutgers Frontcourt:

  • 2015-’16 All-Big Ten Qualifiers: None
  • Key Departures: Greg Lewis
  • Additions: C.J. Gettys, Candido Sa
  • Top Player: Corey Sanders

The 2016-2017 Rutgers Scarlet Knights will be much larger. Size will be a virtue. How that size will be used will be the real test of first year head coach Steve Pikiell.

Starting Rotation

Rutgers will be without their starting center from a the past season. Greg Lewis was a two year starter with the Scarlet Knights. The 6’9” big man took a step back in scoring during his final season but increased his total rebounds by nearly one per game. While he is a big loss, he is also replaceable.

Brought on to likely be the starting five is UNC Wilmington graduate transfer C.J. Gettys. Rutgers fans had a lot of time to watch the NCAA Tournament with an unbiased view. They may have been watching their future big man and not had any idea due to his forgettable performance. UNC Wilmington dropped their first round game to Duke in the 2016 NCAA Tournament. Gettys finished with a single point and five rebounds.

That performance was not far off from Getty’s norm. He averaged 5.3 points and 5.1 rebounds off the bench for UNC Wilmington as a senior. The 7’0” center will need to improve those numbers if he wants to maintain his expanded role. Weighing 275 pounds should help him in Steve Pikiell’s offense. He could be the lone large body able to move guys down low. His role on the team should compliment the more athletic bodies Rutgers will roll out.

Jonathan Jean Laurent saw a lot of playing time at the power forward position last season. That may change in 2017. At only 6’6”, the stretch four could see less time on the block and more on the wing. Bigger players such as Issa Thiam and Candido Sa could see the bulk of the minutes at the four and be used as versatile wing-forwards.

Bench

The bench will consist mostly of the aforementioned players. Junior transfer Candido Sa and freshman stretch four Issa Thiam are the most likely candidates to rotate in on the block. The two players both provide a great amount of length and athleticism.

Where the Scarlet Knights lack in depth is in the true center position. Should coach Pikiell opt to run a tradition style center in his offense, there is not much after Gettys. Junior big man Ibrahima Diallo will need to step up in that regard. His role in Rutgers offense during the first two seasons was almost non-existent. His minutes may increase due to the overwhelming need at the position.

Overall

The position got bigger. That is for sure. It may not be better however. The additions are big men who are relatively unproven. Their performance will be dictated largely in part by how coach Pikiell utilizes his pieces.

Best case scenario, Pikiell is able to use his replenished roster to give teams a couple different looks and competes with Big Ten teams with talented big men. Hopefully Gettys size allows him to muscle big bodies such as Caleb Swanigan and Nigel Hayes. Rutgers fared terribly in the Big Ten last season, due in part to the constant mismatches they faced.