WNIT: Rutgers vs. UTEP Championship Q&A With On The Banks

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

No one knows there team better than SB Nation team blogs right? So the Rutgers SB Nation blog On The Banks gives us a look at the Scarlet Knight prospective of the WNIT Championship .

MinerRush: Talk about the season, and has this year met, exceeded, or been below pre-season expectations?

On The Banks: Not making the NCAA was disappointing; Stringer more or less was committed to get the team back to the dance. But the team is young – there are no seniors, so everyone comes back. And for that youth, there is a bit of forgiveness for some stumbles along the way.

MR: What kind of style does Rutgers like to play, and who are the main contributors in the rotation?

OTB: The big guns are Kahleah Copper, Betnijah Laney, Rachel Hollivay, Briyona Canty, Syessence Davis, and Tyler Scaife (see below). RU will go with those six deep pretty regularly in the rotation, with another four getting 7-9 minutes/game.

C. Vivian Stringer made her name with a tough, pressing defense, the “55”. They’ve held opponents (including the WNIT) to about 35% shooting. They aren’t a great shooting team, and they tend to rely on the mid-range shot for their scoring. Also, they’ve turned the ball over almost as much as their opponents on the season.

MR: With a legendary coach at the helm, What does the Women’s basketball team mean to the athletic program?

OTB: Oooh, there’s a good one. I’d say it depends on whom you talk to. C. Vivian Stringer is a Hall of Famer, and not just the Women’s Basketball HOF, but also the big one in Springfield, Mass. Her induction class included Michael Jordan, David Robinson, Jerry Sloan, and John Stockton. She’s taken Rutgers to two Final Fours, and the banners are hanging to prove it. And she has accolades coming out the bottom of the net. But…..

She also has a tendency to be a lightning rod, and speaks her mind. Stringer is the highest paid coach at the University and, by extension, the highest paid state employee. Her teams tend to stumble occasionally and haven’t come close to UConn, or Louisville, of late. So, if you talk to her defenders, she’s the best thing since sliced bread and the pop top beer can. To her detractors, she might be losing a step (or two).

MR: What was the NCAA Tournament to WNIT turning point of the season?

OTB: Going into February, they were 15-5 and reeled off five straight wins to open the month (20-5). Then coming down the stretch, they proceeded to lose three of four, including thumpings by Louisville and UConn, and a home loss (never good) to USF, the team they beat to get to the WNIT finals. Two and out in the AAC tourney and that 20-5 turns into 22-9.

MR: What has Rutgers hung their hat on during or changed during this WNIT run after losing 3 out of 4 before the WNIT?

OTB: There are a few fans who have said they thought the AAC tourney loss to UConn may have been a confidence boost – they didn’t lose as badly. Stringer has put in some different point players, with each being somewhat successful. It may be that she just changed the mindset of the team. Of the five WNIT opponents, only Delaware shot better than 37%, so the defense was on. And so was the offense: The last three games saw the Knights shoot 41.2, 44.6, and 49.6 percent from the field.

MR: Freshman Tyler Scaife earned AAC Freshman of the Year honors this season, what is your scout assessment of her?

OTB: She is the real deal. From my perspective, she is the type of player Stringer – and Rutgers – needs. She plays hard at both ends, she seems fearless and mature beyond her years, and she is the kind of player you can build around. Second leading scorer (ppg), second in steals, third best FG %, and top % FT shooter.

MR: How do you see Saturday’s game playing out?

OTB: Rutgers wins. While the Knights are 15-3 at home and only 10-4 away from the RAC, they did win the last two WNIT games on the road, including a big victory over Bowling Green (which finished 30-5, with 15 wins – and its only loss to Rutgers at home). If Rutgers stays out of foul trouble, everyone plays to their strengths and abilities, and if they can limit turnovers, I think they’re in good shape.

MR: Is there a buzz or excitement in all sports that are moving to the Big 10?

OTB: I’ve been around for a long time and seen a lot of changes, going from a small, eastern, Ivy League orientation to what we have now. To the true fan, the die hard Rutgers supporter, this is nirvana. It is what we’ve been waiting for forever. So, yes, there is a buzz. But I think it’s going to take a while to win over the average New Jersey sports fan which leans heavily to the pro sports in NYC and Philly (uh, just in case it isn’t known out in Texas, Rutgers is THE State University of New Jersey!)

Here is the link to the Q&A I did for On The Banks

Make sure to stay tuned to MinerRush for coverage of all things UTEP sports. Also, make sure to on Twitter for live updates from Saturday's tilt in the Don, and as always don't forget to like our Facebook Page. Picks Up, and Go Miners!

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