There has been a lot to cover this offseason regarding the Rutgers men's basketball team. However, one area that there has been little discussion on is regarding next season's schedule. The only two non-conference games besides the Seton Hall game that have been announced so far were coordinated through the Big Ten and their contracted schedules with the Big East and ACC. They are as follows:
Gavitt Games: At DePaul
ACC/Big Ten Challenge: At Miami
Today, while no official announcement has been made by Rutgers or the Big Ten, conference matchups have been announced by several schools on social media. Our friend Thomas Beindit, editor-in-chief of SB Nation's BT Powerhouse, has compiled all of the conference matchups for each school here. Dates and times will be announced at a later date. Based on the information that has been confirmed, he was able to put together the conference matchups for Rutgers, which are listed below:
Big Ten Schedule:
Home & Away Matchups: Iowa, Maryland, Northwestern, Penn State, Wisconsin
Home Only: Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska
Road Only: Indiana, Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue
Broke down the upcoming Big Ten schedule by KenPom. Maryland has the easiest slate and Rutgers has the toughest: pic.twitter.com/cxI3FKxeaM— Thomas Beindit (@tbeindit) June 20, 2016
- Rutgers has the most difficult conference schedule based on last season's KenPom Ratings. However, a key factor is that Rutgers cannot play itself, as they ranked #291st, which is 68 spots below Minnesota and 145 spots worse than Penn State, who were 12th & 13th respectively among Big Ten schools.
- This is backed up by the fact that the four toughest conference slates for this season based on last season's KenPom include Minnesota, Nebraska, and Illinois, who along with Rutgers, finished as the bottom four teams in the Big Ten standings in 2015-2016.
- Playing Iowa, Maryland, and Wisconsin twice is a very tough slate. Considering the Wisconsin "home" game will be played at Madison Square Garden, as part of a hockey-basketball doubleheader for the Badgers, it is even more difficult. Let's be honest, Rutgers will be lucky to win a game within these six scheduled.
- Playing Penn State twice gives Rutgers a decent chance to win one game against the Nittany Lions, assuming progress is made this coming season. Don't misunderstand though, Penn State will not be an easy game. They have a top 30 recruiting class for 2016 to pair with a top 50 class from 2015, so they have a chance to make significant strides next season.
- Rutgers was actually given a pretty manageable home slate, including Penn State and Northwestern, along with games against Illinois, Minnesota, and Nebraska at the RAC. Last season at home, they lost to Illinois in triple overtime and beat a shorthanded Minnesota team for their only conference win of the season.We won't speak of Nebraska, but they certainly are not a conference blue blood.
- The majority of the road games will be brutal, highlighted by the two Indiana schools and Michigan State, along with Iowa, Maryland and Wisconsin. Of course, a supposed easier road game Rutgers has is against Northwestern, who they lost to on the road last season by 39 points. I still have nightmares about that one. Just brutal road slate for Rutgers.
Honestly though, this is probably as favorable a conference schedule that Rutgers could realistically ask for with the Big Ten next season. They avoid Michigan State and Indiana twice and their home slate includes all of the bottom six teams from last season, with the exception of themselves. It will definitely be very difficult regardless, but it could have been worse. Maybe the summer sun has colored me too optimistic. It's going to be tough sledding every year, but hopefully head coach Steve Pikiell can equal or surpass the league win total that the program has had the past two seasons combined (3 wins in 2 seasons) in 2016-2017. It certainly won't be easy, especially with the lack of depth on the current roster.
As for the rest of the non-conference schedule, there has not been any news regarding the remaining 11 games. We know Princeton and Monmouth will not be on the schedule, as both schools released their non-conference schedules already and Rutgers was noticeably absent. It's fair to assume the program is close to finalizing the majority of non-conference games and they could be announced within the next month. Rutgers is probably working to put together a manageable non-conference schedule for the first year of the new coaching regime. There will likely be some local opponents, along with some obscure one's as well. Stay tuned for updates.