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Rutgers Athletics Improving in Year 2 of Big Ten

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Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

It has been a frustrating football season for Rutgers fans, as the team has regressed on the field and embarrassed the university off the field.  Coach Kyle Flood has failed to motivate and lead his team successfully on the field, while betraying our trust off the field.  The national media has labeled the football program a number of different derogatory terms. I am disappointed and upset about how this football season has gone so far as well.

However, while all of this has been going on, there has been much to be proud of and celebrate within the rest of the Rutgers athletics world. We are in year 2 of competing in the Big Ten conference.  That fact alone should make Rutgers supporters happy.  Sure, we are not Maryland, who came into the Big Ten ready made to compete in multiple sports after decades in the ACC.  It will take time to compete with Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State in multiple sports on a annual basis. Despite all that, there are several fall and winter sports teams set up to improve on last season and exceed expectations. The dark days these are not.

Women's Soccer

The women's soccer team is ranked in #7 in the country, finished in third place in the Big Ten regular season, and has advanced to the Big Ten conference tournament semifinals.  They currently are ranked #3 in the RPI and are assured a place in the NCAA Tournament, set to begin in a week plus.    At 15-2-2, they have the most total wins in the conference and improved on their fourth place finish from a season ago.  They have also already advanced farther in the conference tournament than last season.

In addition, the women's team raked in conference honors. Casey Murphy won Goalkeeper of the Year in the conference and Erica Skroski won Defender of the Year.  With a Big Ten tournament championship and long NCAA tournament run still possible, this team deserves to be celebrated!

Men's Soccer

The men's soccer team is playing at Maryland tonight with a chance to win the conference regular season crown. Last season, they finished 6-12-1 and 1-6-1 in Big Ten conference play.  Heading into tonight's showdown, they are ranked #16 in the nation, a regular season record of 11-4-1 and 4-3 in conference play.  If they can beat Maryland and Ohio State loses to Michigan, Rutgers will win its first ever Big Ten regular season title in any sport. Either way, they have significantly improved on their conference finish from last season and could make some serious noise in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.

Wrestling

The wrestling team is ranked #18 in the nation and has legitimate national champion candidate in Anthony Ashnault. The Big Ten in wrestling is like the SEC in football, except more dominant.  This week's poll includes four Big Ten schools in the top five and nine in the top eighteen.  Rutgers struggled at times last season with the step up in conference play but demonstrated the potential for a bright future.  This season should be exciting in watching how Rutgers performs, both on a conference and national level.

Women's Basketball

The women's basketball team is five spots out of the top 25 in both the coaches and AP polls.  They play a loaded schedule and oh by the way, we have one of the greatest women's college coaches of all-time on our bench, Hall of Famer C. Vivian Stringer.  If you missed her put on a clinic at Rutgers media day, I recommend you take some time and watch her press conference.  She essentially pulled a Norries Wilson but in a more cerebral way.  After waiting for the media to address her, Stringer then pontificated for a good twenty minutes about her love for her players and specific goals for them. She is a polarizing figure and I love her passion and honesty. The women's team finished in 5th place in the Big Ten a year ago, a solid first season in the new conference. After advancing to the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament last season, they have a chance to do so again and perhaps even more this season.

Men's Basketball

Once you stop laughing please here me out.  Yes, the men's basketball team has been picked last by every major media outlet in the country.  Sports Illustrated ranked Rutgers the worst Power 5 conference team, by far.  This season is about progress and the team has long way to go to disprove all of its doubters.  However, one major reason to be excited is the debut of Corey Sanders, already the most famous Rutgers athlete due to his YouTube popularity. He is reason alone to watch the men's team this season, although there are several newcomers along with key returning players that give hope the team will be improved! Plus, Eddie Jordan has restored the integrity of the program and represents the entire university with class.  Also, while he hasn't brought the team back to the glory days yet, it is the 40th anniversary of the 1976 Final Four team that Jordan led on the court.  Another reason to be proud!

R Pride

In a year when Todd Frazier won the all star home run derbyCarli Lloyd led US to World Cup title and several football alums played key roles in winning Super Bowl, there is so much to be proud of with Rutgers athletics, both with current student athletes and alumni.  Don't let the failure and frustrations of the football team cloud all that is good "on the banks." If the winter teams can continue the improvement in the conference standings as the fall teams have, Rutgers will finish significantly better overall in the Big Ten in Year 2.  Respect from the rest of the conference has been difficult to obtain. The more success our teams experience this season, the sooner the respect will be earned.  And that is something that ALL Rutgers supporters should root for!