Earlier today, the Big Ten announced their full conference slate for the 2016-2017 men’s basketball season. For a full review, Dave White covered it here. We were still waiting on Rutgers to release their non-conference portion of the schedule, which was finally released later on this afternoon. Let’s take a look.
The highlights include Miami in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, DePaul as part of the Gavitt Games, Fordham at Madison Square Garden, and of course, blood rival Seton Hall. Those games were already announced unofficially earlier this summer.
One highlight for head coach Steve Pikiell is a road game at Stony Brook, the program he built into a perennial America East conference champion. He was hired by Rutgers after taking Stony Brook to the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history last season. The game this season was worked into his contract when he was hired by Rutgers.
In terms of name brand opponents, the competition falls off after those five games mentioned. Rutgers will play seven teams who finished last season ranked 250 or worse by KenPom, with four being sub-300. This should come as no surprise, as Rutgers is looking to rebuild after a 7-25 record last season, the worst for the program since the 1987-1988 season. Steve Pikiell needs to show progress on the court this season. With a roster that is devoid of seniors, it makes sense to schedule games that can help build confidence before conference play.
After finishing with just a 6-7 non-conference record last season, Rutgers must show progress by putting together a winning record before conference play begins this season. Wins come at a premium in the Big Ten and they will need to prepare themselves for league play by winning non-conference games against lesser opponents. Based on this schedule, I have confidence Rutgers will enter Big Ten play with a winning record. I think there is a chance they win 8-10 non-conference games, based on the schedule and current roster Pikiell has put together. As Dave said with the Big Ten schedule, there are five winnable home games there. Hoping for 12-14 wins overall in Pikiell’s first season seems like a reasonable start and would signal progress is being made on the court.
Of course, it’s a week plus before Labor Day and a lot can still happen. Perhaps Rutgers does actually find a quality shooter through the graduate transfer market? If that happens, expectations should increase. If not, hopefully this team enters the season with a healthy roster, something that was not the case last season. Stay tuned!
Here is a breakdown of the opponents based on difficulty and each non-conference team’s KenPom ranking from last season, as well as record and NCAA appearances.
Rutgers KenPom ranking last season - #291
At Miami (ACC-Big Ten Challenge) #13; 27-8, NCAA Sweet Sixteen
At Seton Hall #22; 22-9, NCAA appearance
At Stony Brook #93; 26-7, NCAA appearance
Winnable But Not Easy
At Fordham (MSG) #167; 17-14
At DePaul (Gavitt Games) #184; 9-22
Drexel #252; 6-25
FDU #270; 18-15
North Texas #288; 12-20
Morgan State #305; 9-22
Hartford #314; 10-23
Niagara #324; 7-25
Central Connecticut State #351; 4-25
Molloy - Division II
Schedule By The Numbers
NCAA Teams - Miami, Seton Hall, Stony Brook
2 Big East; 1 ACC; 1 Atlantic 10
Home & Away Matchups: Iowa, Maryland, Northwestern, Penn State, Wisconsin
Home Only: Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska
Road Only: Indiana, Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue