As the Big Ten continues its desire to take over the world, they've managed to move basketball eastward.
Yesterday, the conference announced the 2018 Big Ten Tournament will be played in Madison Square Garden. This is great news for Rutgers and Maryland, as they can now sell local recruits on playing at or near their home at least once over the next four years. The Garden is the Holy Grail of college basketball arenas, and the Big Ten has been one of the best conferences in recent years. It's a win for both the conference and arena.
The move, however, does not come without controversy. Several midwestern coaches, such as Tom Izzo, expressed concern about the move. Not only will travel be difficult for these teams, but the Big Ten's season will have to end a full week early. MSG will still hold the Big East Tournament, and Jim Delany had to account for that. The team that wins the tournament will still have a full week off before the NCAA Tournament begins.
But what of Rutgers, you ask?
This is potentially a huge win for them. Going along with the recruiting pitch, a competitive team will bring in the local crowd and should make it a Rutgers friendly arena--something that rarely happened when they were in the Big East. But, between now and then, Rutgers has to build and pay attention to basketball.
It's a common refrain, but Rutgers administration has yet to show an interest in improving basketball. There have only been rumors of an Athletic Village that would include a practice facility. However, the only official news is that the Scarlet Knights' brass has been mired in a feasibility study for months now. Results of that study are expected in the spring.
Meanwhile, to put salt in the lack-of-updates wound, NJIT--a little school without a conference--beat a ranked Big Ten team on their home court by upsetting Michigan. They followed that up with a win over St. Francis and some big talk. As NJIT tries to land itself in a conference, has begun talking openly about building a 100 million dollar new facility. If NJIT ends up getting something done (no small task, I'll admit), that is big trouble for Rutgers and its basketball perception. Plus two other local programs, Seton Hall and St. John's appears to be in the midst of magical seasons.
A perception that already has taken too many blows in the past. With luck, Rutgers feasibility study will bring back promising results and a design and then shovel to ground sooner rather than later.
AKA, sooner than NJIT.
All is not lost, however. Eddie Jordan does have a promising point guard recruit committed, and seems to be building a solid foundation. Mike Williams--who would play at MSG in his senior campaign--is having a very good season, forced into more time than expected. Jordan has to continue to build on this. Get to 9-4 out of conference anyway you can.
Then upset someone.
The momentum has to start now, because 2017-2018 has to be the target year for the Scarlet Knights. They have to be primed and ready to make a run under Eddie Jordan in the 5th (and final) year of his current contract. If Jordan can have this team ready to go, a magical regular season might end at the Garden with a nice tournament run.
But challenges lie ahead for Jordan and the administration. And until the foundation starts to be laid by administration--once they start to care--all Rutgers fans can do is gaze longingly toward the future.
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