The Rutgers men’s basketball team is having a tremendous year thus far. With a record of 18-8, they are currently 3rd in the Big Ten standings; this is the team’s best ranking since joining the Big Ten Conference in the 2014-15 season. In addition, this season marks the first time since 2005 the Scarlet Knights have a record above .500.
At this current pace, the team is on track for their best season in decades. For example, Rutgers has not been ranked in men’s basketball since 1979. This could also be their first return to the NCAA Tournament in 30 years (they last qualified in 1990).
Aligning the Stars
As you might expect, the level of excitement for fans is steadily simmering to a fever pitch; tickets to watch the Scarlet Knights are selling out, including a record-setting 9 sold out games in a row. This strong show of support is paying off, as Rutgers has a staggering 16-0 record at home right now.
But how did this happen? How did the Scarlet Knights go from being last or second to last just five short years ago to making a tournament run? The answer comes as no surprise to sports fans. Every great college program has one thing in common, a transcendent coach who lifts their program to excellence. In this case, Head Coach Steve Pikiell is at the center of the Scarlet Knights and their newfound success. Within four years, he’s taken the Scarlet Knights from the weakest in their conference, to a potential Big Ten threat.
The Power of Teamwork
Of course, a great team also needs great players. This year, Rutgers is ranked 14th in defense efficiency, allowing just 60 points per game. A large part is due to their dominance on the boards where they rank 13th in college basketball; thus allowing very little second chance opportunities. In fact, this defense could be the main driving force for Rutgers to push into the NCAA Tournament.
Meanwhile, the Scarlet Knights have had tremendous team play on the offensive end; earning averages of double digit scoring from three of their starters. In addition, 7 out of 15 active players average 8 or more points per game. In particular, second year forward Ron Harper Jr. leads the team with 11.4 points per game.
Rutgers has a handful of games left on their regular season schedule, including 2 ranked opponents (Penn State, Maryland). If they keep playing at their current level, they will make the NCAA tournament. Click here to see the Rutgers Scarlet Knights live events schedule, as well as streaming options.