Rutgers (6-12; 0-5) is in the midst of a 20 game losing streak in Big Ten conference games, with their last win coming more than a calendar year ago. With their next four games coming against #24 Purdue (15-3; 3-2), #16 Iowa (13-3; 4-0), Michigan (13-4; 3-1), and #4 Michigan State (16-3; 3-3), it's likely the losing streak will continue. So the question begs, will Rutgers win a conference game this season? The four games just mentioned would complete the first half of the conference schedule, which is undoubtedly more difficult than the second half. However, with the lack of depth that Rutgers currently has, with three frontcourt players out indefinitely and just seven healthy scholarship players available, there will be no game they are favored in the rest of the way. In an effort to stay positive, let's take a look at the three games left on the schedule that Rutgers could most likely win this season.
February 3rd, Illinois at home
The Illini (9-9; 1-4) have had their fare share of injuries this season as well, with leading scorer Kendrick Nunn missing the first five games of the season and third leading scorer Mike Thorne Jr. hurt and missing games right now. They have two bad losses in non-conference play to North Florida and Chattanooga. In conference play, they have lost to Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State and Nebraska. Their one win was a huge upset of then #20 Purdue, beating the Boilermakers by 14 points at home. Their star backcourt of Nunn and Kendrick Hill, who both average over 18 points a game, combined for 52 points on 17-27 (62.9%) shooting from the field in that win.. However, the Illini haven't won a road game all season and are an opponent Rutgers matches up better against than most Big Ten teams, as they are guard heavy and a perimeter scoring team. Rutgers gets another crack at Illinois on the road on February 16th.
February 20th, Penn State at home
The Nittany Lions are currently 2-4 in the conference and 11-8 overall, coming off a big 9 point win over Northwestern this weekend. Penn State is a young team and suffered early season losses to Duquesne and Radford, but are showing signs of improvement. However, they struggle to score, averaging just 67 points a game, one less point than Rutgers, with only three players averaging in double figures. They are as bad a shooting team as Rutgers, shooting the same 41.8% from the field. From long range, Penn State is not as good from three-point range, shooting almost 3% (30.4%) worse than the Scarlet Knights. On paper, Rutgers is capable of winning this game.
March 5th, Minnesota at home
The Richard Pitino led Golden Gophers are buried in the Big Ten basement alongside Rutgers, with a equally terrible record (6-12: 0-6). They have lost to Penn State and Nebraska, two bottom tier conference teams, and have non-conference losses to South Dakota, South Dakota State, and Milwaukee. Their best win is against Clemson, a team that beat Rutgers by 18 points. They are not a strong shooting team either, averaging just 41.2% from the field. Rutgers actually has a chance to not finish in last place of the Big Ten, as they have an opportunity to beat Minnesota twice. Rutgers plays Minnesota first on the road on February 23rd, but have a better chance at home on senior night in the last game of the regular season. Hopefully, seniors Greg Lewis, Bishop Daniels and Omari Grier end their Rutgers careers at home on a high note!
I think Rutgers has a legitimate chance to win all three games, but they will obviously need to play near their best and stick together on both ends of the floor to do it. For the players, I sure hope they pull a win or two down the stretch, as a winless campaign would be a tough burden to bare, extending the conference losing streak to 33 games. As for Eddie Jordan's tenure, I don't think a couple of wins should make a difference in his future, but winning these games would certainly help his cause perception wise. Ultimately, I think Rutgers goes all the way through the conference schedule without a win, before taking down Minnesota at home on senior night. Hopefully I am wrong and they win a couple more along the way. If they do, these three games are the most likely for them to do it!