This has been a bit of a roller coaster week for Rutgers men’s basketball fans. Monday night, it seemed star Corey Sanders was staying in the NBA Draft. Tuesday night, the program announced he was in fact, returning after all. This morning, there was a report that four more non-conference opponents have been added to next season’s schedule.
Rutgers to anchor round-robin MTE this season, featuring East Carolina, Cleveland State, Coppin State, & Central Conn State; per a source.— The D1 Docket (@TheD1Docket) May 24, 2017
Each get 4 games. Rutgers gets four at home, East Carolina gets three at home. The rest should split. https://t.co/TRjLEuNA6g— The D1 Docket (@TheD1Docket) May 24, 2017
Expectations for next season are impossible to truly assess until the roster is set and the schedule is complete. Even so, Sanders returning and four non-high major opponents added to the schedule should signal optimism for next season.
Last month, I covered in more detail as to which non-conference opponents were already scheduled for next season here. I also made some suggestions as to how the remaining slots could be filled. With this multi-team exempt tournament, it appears that Rutgers has just three more opponents to confirm. One of which will be selected as part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
My hope is for a home game versus Boston College, which is an opponent that Rutgers could be favored against. Nothing has been announced. However, it was officially confirmed today that Rutgers will not take part in this season’s Gavitt Games, which pits the Big Ten against Big East. With only ten teams in the Big East, four Big Ten teams rotate out of the event each season. After road games versus St. John’s and DePaul, they will be skipped over this year.
Here is a full list of reported or confirmed opponents for next season:
Central Connecticut State
- All ten reported or confirmed non-conference games are scheduled at the RAC.
- Their ACC opponent is yet to be named
- The Big Ten schedule has not been released. The five conference opponents that Rutgers will play a home and home series against should be announced in June. The actual schedule with dates should be released in August.
- The average KenPom rankings from last season for the ten non-conference opponents scheduled for 2017-2018 is #247. Their non-conference opponents from last season had an average KenPom ranking of #232. However, Rutgers played Division II Molloy as well last season, which does not register as part of the average.
- This season, they have three non-conference opponents so far who ranked worse than 300 in the KenPom rankings from a year ago. Last season, they played four opponents worse than 300.
- Sources state the Cleveland State matchup was confirmed last year, when former Rutgers head coach Gary Waters was there. He retired after last season, so no reunion is in the cards.
- This year, they have one opponent that was ranked sub-100 in the KenPom rankings last season (Seton Hall). They could add another, based on their ACC opponent. Last season, Rutgers played sub-100 opponents Miami and Seton Hall, both on the road.
- Rutgers will play two Big Ten opponents between December 1st through December 4th due to the conference tournament being played at Madison Square Garden. I cover the details and reasons why here.
I agree that the non-conference schedule is filled with opponents that are not that appealing from a fan perspective, but they are also very winnable games. I hope Rutgers adds a couple of more challenging contests with their two remaining open slots for this season, including adding a road game. However, having two Big Ten games in early December and the importance of forward progress in year 2 of the rebuild under head coach Steve Pikiell, I’d expect more of the same. Monday night, with Sanders’ return in doubt, it was fair to wonder how Rutgers would even achieve double digit wins next year, even with a weak non-conference schedule. Now, the hope should be that Rutgers achieves similar results as they did in non-conference play last season, when they started with an 11-2 record ahead of Big Ten play. As more details on next season’s schedule become available, we will post an update at that time.