The Rutgers men’s basketball team doesn’t open play for the 2018-2019 season until mid-November, but the schedule is getting closer to being complete. The ACC/Big Ten Challenge pairings were announced today and for the second time in three years, Rutgers will travel south to play at Miami. The Scarlet Knights lost 73-61 in that initial meeting, but will face a less heralded Hurricanes team this coming season. Even so, the draw is not an easy one, but can serve as a good test for a very young Rutgers team early in the season. The game will take place on Wednesday, November 28th.
It was previously announced in May that Rutgers will host St. John’s at the RAC as part of the Gavitt Games event between the Big East and Big Ten. The contest will take place on Friday, November 16th. This is also the second time the two programs have met in the Gavitt Games, with St. John’s winning 60-58 in Jamaica, Queens in what was Eddie Jordan’s last season as head coach at Rutgers. Rutgers won a thriller in last year’s preseason scrimmage tune-up against the Johnnies at the RAC. This time the matchup will count and Chris Mullin’s squad looks to be improved. Star guard Shamorie Ponds announced he will return for his junior year this week and highly sought after Auburn grad transfer Mustapha Heron committed to St. John’s just the other day. This potentially could be the season the Johnnies finally climb up the Big East ladder with Mullin as coach.
Other non-conference games that have been previously reported include a road game against former Atlantic 10 rival UMASS, as well as the continued series with Fordham. Those two programs finished in the basement of the Atlantic 10 standings last season. Of course, the rivalry game against Seton Hall will continue and will takes place most likely in mid-December at the Prudential Center in Newark. I’ll have more on this recently renewed series in the coming weeks.
The remaining six non-conference games have not been officially announced. With road games already scheduled at Miami and Seton Hall, expect mostly home games to fill out the non-conference schedule. Expect Rutgers to fill the majority of open slots with some local mid-to-low major teams at the RAC, something head coach Steve Pikiell explained in my interview with him back in April would be a priority in scheduling non-conference games.
One educated guess is that Rutgers has played Fairleigh Dickinson the past five seasons, so it’s likely another matchup between the two “Knight” programs will take place again. A matchup against an Ivy league team (don’t expect it to be Princeton) would be a solid addition to the schedule.
One unknown this season is how the new twenty game Big Ten schedule will effect the dates of non-conference games. Last season, teams had two conference games scheduled during the first week of December to accommodate the earlier than usual Big Ten Tournament due to it taking place at Madison Square Garden. This season it will be in Chicago and will be held during the usual Championship Week across college basketball. It’s possible Rutgers will complete it’s non-conference portion before beginning Big Ten play this season.
The twenty Big Ten game schedule for Rutgers was announced back in April with dates yet to be determined. For my analysis of the upcoming Big Ten schedule for men’s basketball, click here.
Once the complete schedule for Rutgers is formally announced later this summer, I’ll be back with a full review including KenPom rankings from last season.