Rutgers Basketball: What’s Next?

Rutgers+Basketball%3A+What%27s+Next%3F

By Michael Joyce, Staff Writer

After finishing 2-0 to end the regular season, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights Basketball team SHOULD have locked up their first bid into the NCAA tournament since 1991. The 29-year stretch of horrible seasons, new coaches, and disappointing results is finally over. Rutgers fans and New Jersey sports fans can now root for their state school on a bigger stage than ever before.

Rutgers was picked to be a little bit better this year in the Big Ten. At the start of the season they were predicted to finish 12th out of 14 teams. Finishing 12th would have been an accomplishment as they have finished last every season since joining this conference. But now that the regular season is over, they beat all predictions and have tied for 5th place. Nobody (except me) saw this coming. 

Not only did they finish the season better than expected, they made a ton of history for the program and broke a ton of records in Piscataway. 

 

  • In Big Ten play Rutgers finished 2nd in defensive efficiency.
  • First winning season in 14 years
  • First 20 win season since 1982-1983 season
  • Nations best home record at 18-1
  • First national ranking in 41 years
  • Four ranked wins by double digits
  • Most ranked wins for a Rutgers team in 18 years
  • Sweeped two Big Ten teams for the first time since joining the conference.

 

Now these accomplishments may not seem like much, but if you were a Rutgers fan you would appreciate this more than anything. This team has put the work in and earned every single minute of success they are getting. 

Going into the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis, Rutgers sits at a 20-11 overall record and an 11-9 conference record. The Big Ten Tournament will begin on Wednesday, March 11th starting with the first round games. This will be the first year that Rutgers does not play in the first round and has received a bye to the second. The game will be on Thursday at 12:00PM EST, Rutgers (8) will take on Michigan (9). The winner will play the following day also at 12:00PM EST against Wisconsin (1).

Rutgers has played Michigan twice already this season and lost both games by close margins. Despite the fact that Rutgers should have made the tournament already, there’s still no guarantee that the bracketologists will put Rutgers in the field of 68. The Scarlet Knights resume looks very good, and the selection committee has no reasons to not include them.

At this point, Rutgers is playing for a tournament seeding. They can be loose. They can play under less pressure. They can beat Michigan. 

“I feel really good, like we can play in any tournament against any team,” Head Coach Steve Pikiell stated after the season finished up. This shows the confidence this team has. A coach with confidence is dangerous. A coach with confidence also allows the players to be confident and loose as well.

Rutgers at the moment is projected to be in the 8-10 seed range in the tournament. Perhaps they go on a run in the Big Ten Tournament, that seeding could be much higher. However, whatever seed they get they have exceeded all expectations this season by getting in this situation to begin with.

Captain and point guard, Geo Baker has been on point for the Scarlet Knights. He is one of the most clutch players in the country. Multiple times this season he won games for Rutgers within the last minute of games. If the clock is running out and they need to score, the ball is in Geo’s hands. His leadership skills are really glowing as well during timeouts and stopage of plays. You can see him control the entire team verbally and they listen to him. If he continues to shine, this Rutgers team can do things that no other team at Rutgers ever accomplished.

Selection Sunday is on March 15th. That is when the Scarlet Knights will find out what the road to the Final Four looks like. The players are confident, the fans are confident, and the coach is confident. If this team plays how everyone knows they can, do not be surprised if you see them taking the court in early April. The road has just begun.