B1G Basketball Preview: Rutgers
Rutgers inaugural season in the Big Ten was very similar to their only season in the American Athletic Conference. The Scarlet Knights finished last in the Big Ten at 10-22 as their offense was one of the worst in the nation last year and struggled defensively throughout the year.
Eddie Jordan enters his third year at Rutgers with questions if Rutgers can be a competitive team in the Big Ten. Even though two highly recruited freshmen joined the Scarlet Knights, Rutgers will still be towards the bottom of the Big Ten.
Key Returning Players
Rutgers returns three players that played significant minutes last year. Senior Bishop Daniels is the leading returning scorer with 8.4 points per game.
Graduate senior Greg Lewis is the team’s leading returning rebounder at 4.5 rebounds per game. The Scarlet Knights need Lewis to get more rebounds from him in order to be successful in the conference.
Sophomore Mike Williams played well during his freshman season, scoring 6.4 points per game as the team’s sixth man. The Scarlet Knights need D.J. Foreman and Shaquille Doorson, both sophomores, to control the glass with the losses of Kadeem Jack and Junior Etou.
Myles Mack was Rutgers’ best player and the Scarlet Knights will struggle to match his production. Mack led the team in scoring and assists, with 13.4 points per game and 4.2 assists per game, respectively.
The graduation of Kadeem Jack and the surprising departure of Junior Etou leave Rutgers in a hole in terms of rebounding. Etou led the team in rebounding last year with 6.6 rebounds per game.
Jack was second on the team in both scoring and rebounding with 13 points per game and 6.4 rebounds per game. The good news for Rutgers is they have two exciting freshmen and a junior college transfer to help fill the void left by Mack, Jack and Etou.
Rutgers’ offense struggled due to the poor overall shooting last year as only 18 teams nationally had a worse field goal percentage. The Scarlet Knights also shot just 65 percent from the free throw line and 29.5 percent behind the three-point line lead to a team scoring 59 points per game.
Corey Sanders, Jonathan Laurent and Deshawn Foreman will likely be part of the starting lineup this season. All three players were highly recruited and are highly skilled offensive players with athleticism, which will help Rutgers scoring offense and rebounding.
The non-conference schedule is done well for a team that lacks college basketball experience and needs wins on their record. The Scarlet Knights leave the Tri-State area only twice, once for the Men Who Speak Up Main Event in Las Vegas and again when it travels to Washington D.C. to take on George Washington.
The biggest test for Rutgers will be its first road game against St. Johns on Nov. 19. Rutgers is a young, inexperienced team and a road game against a good St. Johns team is going to be hard to win.
The George Washington matchup on Dec. 12 will be a game Rutgers fans will want to watch. It’s the last road game before starting Big Ten play and it will be against a George Washington team that beat Rutgers by 17 points last time these two teams met. A road win could mean Rutgers is ready to compete in the Big Ten, considering they open up with No. 15 Indiana at home.
Rutgers has the toughest start of any team in the Big Ten, playing three of the top four teams in the conference to start. The Scarlet Knights only play Wisconsin and Maryland once, but both of those games are on the road.
The Nebraska game on Jan. 9 should be the game that Rutgers starts playing well as a team. After the Nebraska game, the Scarlet Knights will have a moderately hard schedule with road games against Michigan State, Ohio State and Michigan and home games against Iowa, Penn State and Minnesota
The opening three game stretch will be tough for Rutgers and I can’t envision them winning any of those games. The 0-3 record will improve slightly after they beat Nebraska, but Rutgers will ultimately finish the Big Ten at 3-15, which is good for last in the Big Ten.
Coach’s Hot Seat
Eddie Jordan inherited a program full of controversy and turmoil. Many people forget that only three years ago, Mike Rice was fired for inappropriate conduct to the players.
Jordan is an alum of Rutgers and is trying his best to make Rutgers a team to be reckoned with in the Big Ten. He inherited a bad team when he got there, so the hot seat on Jordan is only a two.
It will be interesting to see how Rutgers will perform this year with the new players on the team. If the Scarlet Knights struggle like they did last year, the hot seat will rise to a five.
Rutgers is a struggling team that lacks a true identity. The Scarlet Knights are the third best team in the state of New Jersey and that is not a good thing.
This team will start to compete more with the addition of players like Sanders, Laurent and Freeman. Unfortunately, three players do not make up an entire team and will be the reason Rutgers struggles this year. As I stated earlier, Rutgers will finish last in the Big Ten and finish with a record of 11-20, 3-15 in Big Ten.
Joseph Esquivel-Murphy is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism and Spanish. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.