If you follow Rutgers basketball, the misery never ends.
Corey Sanders is suspended two weeks for violating team rules, Rutgers announces. He will miss four games. Ouch— Jerry Carino (@NJHoopsHaven) February 15, 2016
Jerry Carino broke the news this afternoon that Eddie Jordan has suspended Corey Sanders for the next four games. What a nightmare, as this season has veered off the rails into complete madness. In the midst of a 27 game conference losing streak, their embattled coach has now suspended the team's best two players. Deshawn Freeman, out for the season due to injury, was suspended indefinitely last week. However, the suspension of Sanders sinks this team into true hopelessness.
Sanders has been on a tear on the court as of late, and was honored last week as the Big Ten's freshman of the week for his performance two weeks ago against Illinois and Nebraska. He has scored 23 points or more in his last three games and is in the top ten in the conference for scoring, assists, and steals, which he is tops in the league. He also leads all Big Ten freshman in scoring. More importantly, Sanders has been the only shining light in a season full of darkness.
After Jordan benched Sanders for two games in January, he struggled in a substitute's role. But he seemed to learn from whatever lesson was being taught and has flourished ever since. Sanders has taken on a leadership role on the court and is clearly the best player and future of the program. Now, who knows how this will play out? The underlying fear from fans that Sanders would entertain the idea of transferring after the season, will now reach a palpable buzz.
Credit Eddie for not letting his star player get a free pass, a major mistake that former coach Fred Hill made with former star recruit Mike Rosario. However, even Eddie has to start to wonder if his dream to resurrect his beloved program will ever happen. After going off last week and showing frustration that fans aren't demonstrating patience, this is now worst case scenario.
Sanders is missing games that Rutgers actually has a chance to win, as they play at Illinois, Penn State at home, at Northwestern, and then at Minnesota. All four teams have losing records in the conference, with Minnesota sitting at 0-13 and likely Rutgers best chance to end the losing streak. Rutgers is now down to seven active scholarship players for a second stretch this season.
They will get another chance with Sanders against the Gophers at home on the last game of the season, assuming he returns from the suspension. Defending his coach against criticism, Sanders gave Eddie a strong endorsement last week. Today, he is suspended and there is little reason for Rutgers fans to have hope this team will win again this season. If Freeman and Sanders ultimately leave after this season, fans will sadly have to wonder if this team will even equal the few wins it has had this season in the next one. Let's hope this is truly rock bottom for this program, because the most loyal supporters can't take much more of this.