So far this summer I’ve discussed the non-conference schedule for Rutgers men’s basketball next season at length here, with two opponents still to be reported. This afternoon, Jon Rothstein of CBS sports tweeted out a report indicating each of the five conference opponents Big Ten teams will play twice in the 2017-2018 season. Based on the report, Rutgers was dealt a feast or famine type of schedule.
Sources: Rutgers' mirror Big Ten games for 17-18 will be Illinois, Michigan State, Nebraska, Ohio State, and Purdue.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) July 20, 2017
Michigan State is the prohibitive favorite to win the conference next season and Purdue, last season’s champions, are probably considered the toughest competition for the Spartans in conference play. In fact, last week CBS Sports released an early Power Rankings Poll for next season and listed Michigan State 1st, with Purdue coming in at 2nd. Those will obviously be very difficult matchups for Rutgers, who enter a second season of rebuilding the program under head coach Steve Pikiell However, The other three opponents that Rothstein reported are also all in rebuilding years. In fact, CBS listed Rutgers 11th in the preseason Power Rankings, directly ahead of Illinois, Ohio State, and Nebraska, in that order.
This is an exciting development for Rutgers basketball fans. Three of the program’s four wins last season came against each of these opponents. Rutgers beat Nebraska and Illinois at home, while losing to Ohio State by six points on the road in the regular season. Of course, Rutgers won their first conference tournament game since joining the Big Ten by upsetting the Buckeyes in the preliminary round, becoming the first 14 seed to ever win.
With a veteran core returning and infusion of intriguing newcomers, Rutgers has a legitimate chance to move up the standings and finish in any other place than last, the only spot they have ended up in three seasons so far in the Big Ten. Having six scheduled games against opponents they beat last season and are also in rebuilding mode should only breed more confidence that Steve Pikiell will lead the program to even more progress in year two.
Once Rutgers formally announces their schedule for next season, we will offer a full breakdown. For now, in an offseason that has seen the coaching staff pound the recruiting trail at a relentless pace, there is even more hope that better days are ahead for Rutgers basketball.