The Rutgers men’s basketball team remained nationally ranked for a second straight week, as they were voted 25th in this week’s AP Poll released on Monday afternoon. Last week, they were voted 24th in the AP Poll and 25th in the coaches Poll, which was the first time the program was nationally ranked since the end of the 1978-1979 season.
Rutgers lost at Iowa on the road last Wednesday night 85-80, but with the Hawkeyes moving up this week from no. 19 to no. 18, it seemed possible that RU would not be penalized in the national rankings. Although they did drop one spot, they remained in the Top 25 . The Scarlet Knights also survived against Nebraska on Saturday at the RAC by the final score of 75-72. Rutgers currently has the best home record in college basketball at 14-0.
There are six Big Ten teams in this week’s poll: no. 14. Michigan State, no. 15 Maryland, no. 18 Iowa, no. 19 Illinois, no. 24 Penn State and no. 25 Rutgers.
Seton Hall remains at no. 10 and is the best win of the season for Rutgers so far.
At 15-5 overall and in a third place tie with Maryland in the Big Ten standings with a 6-3 record in conference play, Rutgers has a NET ranking of 23rd and are 3-3 against Quad 1 opponents, as well as 2-1 against Quad 2 opponents. This is a way that the NCAA Tournament measures wins and quality of schedule in its NET Rankings. RU is also 26th in the current KenPom rankings, which analyzes efficiency only.
The Scarlet Knights aren’t just in serious contention to end the school’s 29 year drought without an NCAA Tournament appearance, they are currently considered a top half of the bracket team. However, this week is vital for Rutgers to continue to be held in that standing, as they host Purdue on Tuesday, a Quad 2 opponent, and face Michigan, a Quad 1 opponent, at Madison Square Garden this coming Saturday afternoon. If Rutgers was able to win both games, they would improve its NCAA Tournament resume even more so and be firmly entrenched at the top of the Big Ten standings. Rutgers had produced two victories against KenPom Top 40 opponents in Pikiell’s first three seasons combined, but already own five wins this season with two more opportunities this week against the Boilermakers and Wolverines.
Tuesday’s game against Purdue marks the fifth consecutive sell-out at the RAC, a program record. In addition the Seton Hall game, future games against Michigan and Illinois in February have sold out as well. The only other home games not sold out that are remaining are against Northwestern and Maryland games. If either eventually does, which seems likely at this point, it would break the program record of eight sell-outs set in the 1998-1999 season.