2022 in Review
There was panic, severe disappointment, embarrassment and outrage during the inexplicable three game non-conference losing streak to DePaul, Lafayette and UMass. All three by one possession, two on buzzer beaters and without Geo Baker, left fans rightfully beside themselves. Rutgers had seemingly had lost their way.
Similar feelings followed the 35 point loss at Illinois to begin Big Ten play. A lost season was unfolding before our very eyes.
Until it wasn’t.
Rutgers trailed No. 1 Purdue by 8 points with 4:38 to play on December 9, 2021. A halfcourt buzzer beater by Ron Harper Jr. revived new life into the season. It was equal parts exciting and frustrating, as it proved this team had so much potential but failed to take care of business in November. Could they ride this historic win and save the season?
What resulted was a stomach punch double overtime loss for the ages in the First Four game against Notre Dame that ended a historic three year run by a transformational senior class. The March Madness gods were cruel as the Irish ended all hope in the opening minutes of St. Patrick’s Day.
At the end of the day, Rutgers had another successful season given their long history of not succeeding. They made the tourney for the second straight season, just the second time that happened in program history. Some big contributors are gone in Ron Harper, Jr. and Geo Baker, but some big pieces return, too. Rutgers is resembling something along the lines of stability. Lock up Pikiell.
PG Paul Mulcahy, 6’6’’ Senior: Mulcahy is one of those big returning pieces, and one of the few returning point guards in the league. He’s a decent scoring option and shoots the ball well, but really embraced passing the ball, and his assist rate was a good 31%, though he also turned the ball over. Of course, when you are passing to Geo Baker and Ron Harper, you might get good results. The question for him, and really the team, is how they will generate offense without those guys.
SG Cam Spencer, 6’4’’ Senior: One option will be Loyola Maryland transfer Cam Spencer. He was a prolific scorer in the Patriot League, but all the usual questions apply. Loyola Maryland was terrible last year and so was most of the league. Can Spencer score in the B1G? Can he defend? His slash line looks great at 54/36/86, so if he can get some open looks he should be able to stick.
SF Caleb McConnell, 6’7’’ Senior: The reigning B1G Defensive Player of the Year, McConnell is another of their big returnees. And make no mistake, his defense is his bread and butter, because the offensive end has been a work in progress. Him developing something of an offensive game would go a long ways for the team. Interestingly, he shot 36% from three as a freshman, but hasn’t been above 30% since. Woof.
PF Aundre Hyatt, 6’6’’ Junior: We are penciling in Hyatt here. The former LSU transfer is the leading returner in minutes outside of the big three, and his rebounding is a big plus. However, his offensive numbers were pretty bad last season, and he might instead come off the bench, because he can play and defend multiple positions.
C Cliff Omoruyi, 6’11’’ Junior: The final piece of the Big Three and perhaps the most important, Omoruyi made a big jump in his second year last year. He was a plus shot blocker and rebounder, and he shot a tidy 64% from the field. The big question for him is how his game looks as a focal point of the offense. With teams paying more attention to him, his development (or lack thereof) into a skilled passer and shooter will be key.
SF Mawot Mag, 6’7’’ Junior: Another in the collection of tough-nosed athletes with questionable offensive games, Mag will be in the mix to start and is most remembered for a big dunk late in their upset of #1 Purdue last season. A native of Australia, he provides teammates with a constant source of Vegemite.
F/C Dean Reiber, 6’10’’ Junior: Reiber should provide depth at the center position. His biggest accomplishment last season was shooting 7/12 from both the free throw line and the three point line. A real bar trivia answer, that one. He might force his way onto the court - Rutgers appears to lack real scoring options, and at some point they may just play anyone who can make an outside shot.
CG Jalen Miller, 6’2’’ Sophomore: Hey, look, a Rutgers man who played a bit last season and is known for tough defense but couldn’t throw the ball in the ocean. Welcome to the party. Only a sophomore, he might have more promise than some of the older guys when it comes to scoring.
PF Oskar Palmquist, 6’8’’ Junior: The last returnee and the one who played the least last season, Palmquist merits mention because he is Swedish. The Swedes shall inherit the earth. Also, Palmquist has the requisite Euro-shot and make baskets from outside, so he’s another guy who may get some run when they need capable scorers.
PG Derek Simpson, 6’2’’ Freshman: The first of the true freshmen, Simpson checks in as the 244th ranked player on the 247 composite. He has all the requisite certifications of a Rutgers player - a gamer, a competitor, a defender, etc. He also was a prolific scorer in high school, so he might break through into the lineup this season.
PF Antwone Woolfolk, 6’7’’ Freshman: Woolfolk, straight out of Cleveland, was recruit number 290 on the composite. Woolfolk was actually a prospect in football, too, and was destined to play tight end at Cincinnati until he was seduced by the sweet words of Steve Pikiell. Now he is in New Jersey, trying not to get dunked on. Life is strange.
PF Antonio Chol, 6’8’’ Freshman: Chol reclassified from the 2023 class to join this merry crew. He is unranked on the composite, but makes it as a three star on 247 itself. He profiles as a three and D prospect. His youth makes it unlikely he will see minutes this season, but stranger things have happened.
MNWildcat: I would like to call your attention to the Rutgers schedule, where major events consist of...
- A neutral-site game with Temple in Connecticut
- A mandated ACC-B1G game at Miami
- Seton Hall at home
- Wake Forest at home
The rest of the games are at home against KP #170 UMass Lowell, #186 Rider, #283 Bucknell, and a host of over-300 teams.
I have no idea how the fuck Steve Pikiell keeps wrangling this shit, but I like to think one year Rutgers is going to have all these come home to roost and just accidentally play 5 road games in one fell non-conference swoop.
Oh, the roster? Well, if Paul Mulcahy can actually be a good primar—AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
Rutgers is gonna grind shit into the ground. Mulcahy will flop his way around, Caleb McConnell will play some good defense, and Cliff Omoruyi is a cromulent Big Ten center. I like the Cam Spencer pickup, as Rutgers is gonna need some scoring from somewhere and I assume he’s basically just his older brother Pat.
But it’s more of the same in Piscataway; we’ll see if that’s good enough to fuck around and accidentally wind up in the NCAA Tournament again. I’d bet on them at or just shy of .500 in the conference, which for Rutgers feels like high praise.
Thumpasaurus: Stan Pickell has got his work cut out for him
midreavus79: Fuck Rutgers
RU in VA: Ha, probably gonna win the B1G this year.
MaximumSam: Steve Pikiell is officially a Good Coach, so I feel confident in a few things. Rutgers is going to play some tough ass defense. They have multiple guys who are great defenders, plus a real rim protector in Omoruyi. The ceiling on the team will be what they get out of their offense. Can Spencer play in the B1G? Can Omoruyi develop his skill? Can one of their many other pieces develop an outside shot in addition to tough defense? This team will be a tough out every night, and the difference between wrangling for a tourney berth and contending for the B1G is whether anyone can score.
Daily Hoosier: While the losses of Harper, Jr. and Baker are massive, Rutgers actually returns the second most minutes of any team in the Big Ten. The trio of Omoruyi, Mulcahy, and McConnell give the Scarlet Knights three highly experienced returning starters to build around. Mulcahy made a big jump last year, McConnell is an elite defender, and Omoruyi is on track to be very productive as an upperclassman. Cam Spencer is a career 39 percent shooter from three and should help to offset some of the lost scoring production in the backcourt. Pikiell has proven at this point that he can get the most out of a team.
Inside the Hall: There are a lot of questions surrounding this Rutgers team, mainly because there isn’t much information about anyone outside of McConnell, Omoruyi and Mulcahy. A good part of the bench has promise, but whether or not they are starter-quality players is unknown. Don’t expect the Scarlet Knights to be as good as last year. At the NCAA tournament last year, Pikiell himself even said the 2021-22 team was the best he’d ever coached. But all of the unknowns don’t mean Rutgers won’t be competitive or able to take other teams by surprise.