So, here we are... less than a week before the start of Eddie Jordan's second campaign as head coach of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. As the clock ticks closer to tipoff, we here at On the Banks decided to give our thoughts on the season.
Dave White: I'm going to be honest, after seeing the team play on Saturday, I came away more optimistic than I expected to. Even thought Baruch is a D-III team, Rutgers came out and did what they were supposed to and stomped them out. Usually, the Scarlet Knights let their lower division opponents hang around and then pull away late to win by 20 or so. Not this time, and it was done without RU's best player in Kadeem Jack. Which brings me to this: health. If Rutgers can stay healthy, they can have a competitive and exciting season. But if Jack's injury lingers or Myles Mack gets hurt, this season can go off the rails quickly. I'm going to save my prediction for another article, but I'm very interested in what the rest of the OtB team thinks.
Bob Cancro: It has been soooo long since there was a great (good?) men's team at Rutgers. After watching Rutgers' other sports during the fall, it is clear that moving to the Big Ten is going to be tougher than a lot of people expected. And here, going into the best basketball conference in the country, what can we expect? Well, I don't think it will be a disaster. Eddie has assembled his staff and is recruiting his players. That's important. As Dave has written, chemistry can be a major factor in team success. That being said, I think the team can go 10-3/9-4 in non-conference play. That's a decent start. And I think 8-10 (really) in conference. I think they steal one or two games, especially at home and especially if the students (and others) start coming out. NIT a real possibility.
Kevin Recio: Take that Baruch! I know expectations were low, but I agree with Dave. Seeing the Scarlet Knights completely handle with ease an overmatched team is nothing but a good sign heading into the season. The one thing that gives me some sort of confidence is that unlike the football team, the basketball team isn't stepping up significantly in opponent class. The Big East might have lost its luster from the mid to late 2000s, but that league was always worthy of a few national championship contenders. There won't be any awe-struck moments like when Rutgers rolled into Ohio Stadium. Playing at venues like the Carrier Dome and Yum! Center are just as impressive as playing at Assembly Hall. Oh, and Myles Mack projected as the top scorer in the B1G? That's gotta count for something, such as an NIT bid.
Andy Egan: It's hard not to be impressed with the smackdown the team layed on Baruch this weekend. Rutgers usually lets these kind of teams hang around way too long, and far too often, drops a game to a team like Monmouth that really should not be competing with a Big East/AAC/B1G East team. I know it was only a preseason game, but it's nice to see EJ's plan seemingly coming together with a year for his guys to gel and learn his system. The B1G schedule is every bit as intimidating as the schedules we have endured for years - trading Pitino and Boeheim for Izzo and Matta is no vacation. That said, there are beatable teams in this conference (cough ttfp cough) and I don't think 8 - 10 conference wins is unreasonable. I want to see Rutgers get off to a strong start in the out-of-conference slate, taking something like 9 of 12. 17 win season? Yes please! Also, we have Shaq, so, game over Big Ten.