I started getting the DMs four o’clock Saturday afternoon. The Rutgers football team had fallen to Buffalo 42-13 at home and the Chris Ash era had taken a wrong turn down Disappointment Road and now fans were thinking ahead. All the DMs had the same message.
There’s unfair pressure on Steve Pikiell to succeed now.
My reaction this is typical... uh... what?
Listen, fans, there are a lot of you who don’t give two hoots about basketball unless they show some excitement... like beating Seton Hall or making a fun run in the Big Ten Tournament. That’s great. I’m glad Rutgers basketball has given you some semblance of joy.
But, just because the football team is terrible does not mean the basketball build get rushed. That’s not the way it works.
There are a lot of signs that Steve Pikiell is on the right track here. He’s beaten some ranked teams. His squadron is almost always focused and they play really hard. The play excellent defense. Recruiting has picked up. There are some exciting players suiting up this year.
But the successes of last year were mostly because of Corey Sanders being on fire. Now, the team is almost a complete unknown. Geo Baker is playing point guard nearly 100% of the time. There are six new players playing for the team this year. The schedule is a lot harder.
So you have to give Steve Pikiell and the team time. There is going to be a lot of learning going on, and I expect the beginning of the season is going to be tough. I’m not sure I’m ready to predict an over .500 finish.
Fans have to be patient with this program. Just because the football team is bad and you’re starving for some success doesn’t mean you have to amp up the pressure on Pikiell.
Steve Pikiell often says “Enjoy the build.” That means you go through peaks and valleys before reaching the top (that metaphor doesn’t completely work, but you get it.) There are going to be valleys this year.
There’ll also be some peaks.
But you have to be willing to go through this without calling overreacting. That doesn’t mean Pikiell and company aren’t going to try and win. Their goals is going to be to win every game, and I hope they do. But when they don’t, you can’t freak out. Just two and a half years ago, this program was at the lowest it has ever been. To build that up means the young players are going to need experience.
Take the long view. Don’t rush things.
If you’re not ready to do that, maybe you should sit the rest of college out this year and come back next year in September fresh and ready to go. You and the program might be better for it.