One of the most anticipated non-conference games in years for the Rutgers men’s basketball team will not be taking place after all. The Stadium’s Jeff Goodman first reported the news and On The Banks confirmed soon after that the Scarlet Knights have opted out of the Jimmy V Classic. Originally scheduled to play Baylor at Madison Square Garden this season, the event was moved to Orlando due to the global pandemic COVID-19. However a source confirmed Rutgers will not participate “due to logistical issues”.
While it had been previously reported that teams participating in one of the eight events taking place in Orlando could schedule additional games against other opponents, finding mutual dates and available locations are a challenge. For Rutgers, making the trip to Florida for one confirmed game would have likely required a few days total for it to happen due to testing protocols with travel. In addition, any issues with COVID-19 in Orlando could have potentially sidelined the team for two weeks if they had to quarantine. Head coach Steve Pikiell was a guest on our latest podcast episode and told host Lance Glinn that he was “managing the virus” and not playing in the Jimmy V Classic appears to be part of that process.
Baylor is expected to be a consensus top five ranked team heading into this season and would have given Rutgers a chance to make a splash on the national stage in non-conference play.
This is a season of uncertainty and with preseason practice set to begin on October 14, no major conference has announced a schedule as of yet. Many early season tournaments have been cancelled, as well as notable teams having dropped out of events. It was even reported today by Matt Norlander that Charleston will not play in the Charleston Classic, it’s own event that was relocated to Orlando. Included in the report was that Seton Hall, also scheduled to play in the event, was “in limbo.”
The Big Ten has yet to announce anything regarding scheduling for this season, but it’s expected the usual 20 game slate will be planned. The NCAA previously announced that a maximum of 27 regular season games could be scheduled this season, but only 25 for teams not taking part in a MTE (multi-team event). Playing 25 games this season appears to be the most likely outcome for Rutgers, unless they scheduled a MTE on their home floor by hosting three other schools. This format has been a developing concept across college basketball in recent weeks with teams like Duke and Arizona planning their own. No word on Rutgers following this trend. However, there is a possibility that teams could play 27 games without an MTE if state restrictions prevented those schools from traveling, but the Division I Council still needs to vote on this policy later this month.
It is expected that the Big Ten/ACC Challenge (December 8 & 9) and Gavitt Games (vs. Big East) will take place this season. None of the matchups have been announced, but Rutgers will obviously face two challenging high major opponents in those contests. While the dream of the Garden State Hardwood Classic taking place in the Sunshine State is now dead, all indications are that Rutgers and Seton Hall are actively trying to continue one of the most underrated rivalries in college basketball this winter. How Rutgers completes the rest of its non-conference schedule remains to be seen, but it’s likely they’ll add a couple of home games against local low or mid-major opponents.
Despite Caleb McConnell set to miss this season due to a medical redshirt, expectations for Rutgers men’s basketball remain high. However, with less than two weeks until practice for the season begins, we still don’t know the schedule. Regardless, the preferred destination for the end of the season remains the same...the NCAA Tournament.