So we know that B1G 2020 is about previewing the football team, but we need to revisit some trauma and talk about the one of the most “WHYYY?” things that has ever happened in college sports—how Rutgers Basketball got screwed by the horrors of 2020 in not being able to go the NCAA tournament when we were definitely going after 29 years. It’s Hate Friday, and this is something that all Rutgers fans REALLY hated. To share in our hate, our pain, and our optimism, we have collaborated with Dave White of On the Banks, who is the most loyal Rutgers Basketball follower I know.
MNWildcat, to my disapproval, has coined the Rutgers fans collective noun as a “sadness of Rutgers fans,” and though I dislike and deny this... I will admit it is at least fitting for 2020 and what happened to our beloved basketball team. But I have hope that we’ll avenge 2020 and more in the next season (whenever that is). -Zuzu
Dave White is the me of Rutgers basketball except he’s classy and a better writer. - Coray
Dave: Geo Baker rose up over Stasha Stefanovic with just under a minute left in overtime. One of the most clutch players in Rutgers history nailed the long two. And seconds later, it was over, Rutgers won—notching their 20th win of the season and ending their 29 year NCAA Tournament drought.
That’s how it went right?
Well, kind of. Rutgers won and they got their twentieth victory. And, it certainly looked like the drought was over.
I mean, my son and I screamed so loudly when Evan Boudreaux couldn’t get his tying attempt off before the final buzzer that I had to apologize and explain to my neighbors what had just happened. At that point, the Coronavirus was just a story. Yes, it was in the United States and seemed to be spreading, but it wasn’t going to threaten the NCAA Tournament There was no way.
Okay, it did. You know it, I know it... I don’t have to rehash it. We got to the highest high, only to have the rug pulled out from under us once again—this time by a national pandemic. Seems like the most Rutgers way possible for things to end.
The season, the journey, though. Man, that was a ride.
Steve Pikiell, in his fourth season, recruited and developed a hard nosed bunch in Baker, Ron Harper Jr, Montez Mathis, Jacob Young, Myles Johnson and more. They defended, they rebounded, they got to the rim for buckets and they defended the hell out of their home court.
The RAC was a house of horrors for opponents and the Scarlet Knights finished the season at 18-1 there. The building, when sold out, can sound like the inside of an airplane engine. The fans, dying for a winner, finally got one and poured their heart into it.
Rutgers didn’t make the NCAA Tournament in 2020. The record books will show that. But the journey was amazing and one fans will always remember.
Basketball is back at Rutgers, and fans can be confident that when it returns on a national scale, the Scarlet Knights will be players once again.
Zuzu: We did it. We shocked the conference. We got those damn 20 wins that the non-believers said we’d need to go to the tournament that we’d never get. I played in the Rutgers Pep Band for all four of my years at Rutgers and THIS was the season, nearly 4 years after I graduated, that I finally became a Rutgers Basketball fan outside of simply, “well, it’s my school’s team, so I root for it.” This season had shocking wins, heartbreaker games, and national attention. This is what fandom for a great mainstream sports team in a legitimate conference is like. I never thought basketball would give me that feeling first. We were ON OUR WAY. And then... 2020 did its thing. Now granted, technically 2020, is simultaneously Rutgers Basketball’s greatest year in far too long, and its worst year ever given the heartbreak, but 2020, given everything else is still more awful than good.
I was looking forward to Rutgers in the tournament because of the possibilty of the team traveling to a place closer to me than New Jersey. I even remember some projections had the first game in LA. I wanted to buy a shirt that said “Rutgers Basketball, March Madness, 2020.” I wanted to see if they could continue to surprise people in the tournament. Make it to the Sweet 16 or further. I think we totally could have, but we’ll never know. Hell, I just wanted to get revenge on Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament, which was literally cancelled AS THEY WERE PRACTICING for those who don’t remember (and all of this for good reason, of course, but it doesn’t mean I don’t hate it). Then the NCAA tournament. First it was projected to be with no fans which itself was a bummer, then, it was outright cancelled on March 12. The hearts of college basketball fans everywhere were shattered, and especially Rutgers fans. And it’s honestly so cruel that the NCAA never even released brackets. The players deserved at least that much. The team still had so much left in them and I worry that it may not even be able to roll over to this next season given the stress of the world and the uncertainty of even college basketball starting on time. I absolutely think Rutgers Basketball is going to be even better this year, and continue on a clear upward trajectory. This year was not a fluke, but can we actually recreate that amazing home record? How AWESOME was that?? 18-1. Wow. And those amazing throwback jerseys? Whew. Everything went so right this season until it didn’t. Also, it’s key to mention that the Women’s Baskteball team went 22-9 and was also screwed out of post-season appreciation and I’m sad for our Lady Knights too.
The Rutgers 2019- 2020 Basketball season deserved so much more than what it got. No. The PLAYERS deserved so much more than what they got. These players are seriously so great. They’re amazing role models, leaders, and activists off the court. Just so cruel that the year these players and Rutgers Basketball was going to shut up the haters and prove people wrong, the rug was ripped out and BURNED right from under them. As a Rutgers fan it often feels like we live in a simulation that is set to, “bad things for Rutgers.”
Coray: I am a total band wagoner.
I mean, yes, I’ve always casually rooted for Rutgers Basketball, but 2020 was the year I finally fell in love with Rutgers basketball.
And how could you not?
This wasn’t a bunch of Steph Curry wannabes chucking 3’s from half court or letting their natural ability carry them through lesser foes. This was a group of scrappy, defense-loving, team-playing, hustle-play-making Jersey boys who lit up the best conference in all of basketball.
I knew I liked this team when they got rolling in the early season, but then this play happened and I realized that the RU ‘20 basketball team was a special combination of grit, talent and something else.
And the RAC...THE RAC?
I knew someday I would get really excited about the Rutgers Basketball team...but getting this excited about a building? The Trapezoid of Terror in 2020 was just a thing to behold.
Back to obsessing over #Rutgers. Look at the crowd when Griffin travelled. Not just shouts for the whistle. Everyone got up and motioned the call. We talk about the RAC as a place with nothing to do but watch basketball. That’s it. It’s 8K people engaged with the action. Hostile. pic.twitter.com/o5EYm5bKYu— Jake Ostrove (@JakeOstrove) February 17, 2020
(No, I’m not stalking Jake here, he just happens to have a great set of plays on his Twitter feed.)
This is what makes the tourney cancel such a heart-breaker. This was a team you could root for. This was a place you could root for. Steve Pikiell pounding nails! That’s a coach you can root for.
2020 will live on forever as a gut punch for a million different reasons, and this is just one more.
Thank you all so much for tuning into Rutgers week! We hope you had a great time, we sure did. Overall, and as always somehow, Rutgers fans have a lot to be optimistic about. A new football coach and staff, the one that helped lift our program into the big leagues in the first place, very solid recruiting, and a basketball team that is HERE. Watch out for the Scarlet Knights, the sleeping giant is finally... waki—coming out of REM sleep.
Be sure to check out any Rutgers content you missed: