Rutgers Basketball is coming off a round of 32 exit from the NCAA tournament, and a 6th place finish in the B1G last year. There’s also a considerable amount of data and opinion that they should have been a Sweet 16 member - except closing out against Houston deemed a bit tougher task than they were ready to accomplish.
As with every new year in college basketball, there are changes. Transfers, freshman, and upperclassmen have been given that extra year of eligibility. COVID has had a large effect on this - Rutgers especially so.
Myles Johnson: Transferred to UCLA // Loss of 8 PPG; 8.5 RPG (team leader); 2.4 BLK
UCLA is already a team with a great shot at running far into the NCAA tournament - ranked #2 in the preseason poll, and Myles gives them an incredible rim defender and rebounding machine. Originally from California, he headed back west after giving Rutgers some wonderful play and earning his ECE degree. Easy kid to root for.
Jacob Young: Transferred to Oregon // Loss of 14.1 PPG; 3.4 APG (team leader); 1.7 STL (team leader)
Wild, fast, and great. No team in the B1G liked seeing Rutgers coming up on their schedule, and Jacob Young is a big reason why. His ability to break a game open with a steal or slash the lane with a millisecond’s notice won a lot of games last year. He’s going to start his MBA at Oregon and try to help his team earn that 13th spot in the preseason AP poll.
Montez Mathis: Transferred to St. Johns // Loss of 8.3 PPG; 2.8 RPG; 0.7 STL
I always liked Montez. Kid played fast and a giant chip on his shoulder, but just couldn’t put it all together. I don’t know what’s at St. Johns that isn’t at Rutgers, but hopefully he finds what he’s looking for. Another Pikell grinder.
Aundre Hyatt: Transferred in from LSU // Gain of 4.2 PPG; 3.1 RPG; 0.5 APG
6’6” Forward from LSU joins the team from their second round run in the NCAA Tournament last year. The season numbers aren’t great, but in the 2021 Tourney he did have a 13 point 10 rebound game against the Bonnies in the first round. 3 years of eligibility.
Rodney (Ralph) Agee: Transferred in from SJSU // Gain of 11.1 PPG; 5.2 RPG; 0.7 APG
Interesting pickup here. Agee can play - he’s a 6’8” 235lb. PF who came out of the East Los Angeles Community program featured on Netflix’s Last Chance U (if you haven’t watched all 5 seasons - stop reading this, call out sick from work/school the next two days, allocate some funds for delivery food, and enjoy). Spent the last year at SJSU. Two years of eligibility.
Jalen Miller: Recruit // #3 player in MD; 6’3 Point Guard
Kid can pass and shoot. We’ll see how well he adapts to college basketball speed, but his saving grace may be the veritable Maryland gauntlet of AAU travel teams in the area. He’s played against the best high school and AAU teams in the country growing up.
If you’re not a Rutgers fan, you’re not going to particularly like this section.
Geo Baker, Ron Harper, Caleb McConnell; and THE HEADBAND himself Paul Mulcahy are all back. Bringing with them with a towering cast of returning highly regarded lower classmen that are going to make B1G games extremely competitive. Highlighting this lower classmen list are:
Mawot Mog (SO): 6’7”
Cliff Omoruyi (SO): 6’11”
Dean Reiber (SO): 6’10”
Jaden Jones (FR): 6’8” (writer’s note - this kid is gonna be really good)
Cliff is the only true 5 on the team, so be prepared to see a bunch of trees every time your team comes to the RAC.
Trapezoid of Terror
It’s got a Twitter account and a music video. It’s not Cameron Indoor, or the Palestra, or Assembly Hall. It’s an ugly-ass stone building in Piscataway which looks more at home in a 1949 Soviet Nuclear Scientist recruiting video than it does as a dangerous place for opposing teams to play basketball.
No one really knows, but the consensus is that the way the roof is angled combined with the materials and where the fans sit - directs all noise towards the court. My engineering background started and ended with Legos as a 10 year old, so I can’t confirm or deny this. But it’s true.
Last year really hurt not having any home attendance. It’s a point I’ll make, but it pales in comparison to the hundreds of thousands that have passed away due to COVID. The precautions are/were warranted.
Schedule and Predictions
The first part of the schedule is almost all at home, and all should be wins. There aren’t really any surprises, nor rough mid-majors. 6-0 is the goal.
A rematch of the first round of last year’s NCAA Tournament awaits the knights in their second portion of the schedule (note: why is this game at 9 PM? This is potentially after exams and late at night on a Tuesday. This is how couches get burned.)
I think they end up 2-1 in this stretch - early season usually bodes well for Steve Pikell teams.
Seton Hall is the only challenge here, but they’ve undergone a ton of re-work after their 14-13 season last year. A lot of transfers in, a lot of current injuries, and Rutgers has recently had the Hall’s number. Going 4-0 here.
The B1G schedule is a slow burn. January is slightly easier than the gauntlet that is February. My predictions are:
Michigan @ RAC (W)
Nebraska @ RAC (W)
Penn State AWAY (W)
Maryland AWAY (L)
Iowa @ RAC (L)
Minnesota AWAY (L)
Maryland @ RAC (W)
Nebraska AWAY (W)
At the end of this January stretch, they’re 17-4. This sounds silly, right? A team that barely made it to the round of 32 last year in a traditionally stacked conference can’t have a record that good? Check out this rest of the season meat grinder:
Northwestern AWAY (W)
Michigan State @ RAC (W)
Ohio State @ RAC (L)
Wisconsin AWAY (L)
Illinois @ RAC (L)
Purdue AWAY (L)
Michigan AWAY (L)
Wisconsin @ RAC (W)
Indiana AWAY (L)
Penn State @ RAC (W)
That ends the season with a 21-10 (B1G 10-10) record. Significantly better than the 16-12 last year that got them a 10 seed to the NCAA Tournament - but hey, Steve Pikell said that this is his best basketball team he’s had at Rutgers, and the RAC is back? Why not?