Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God, oh my God, oh my God, oh my God, oh my God.... YOU GUYS IT IS ALMOST HERE!!!!!!!
Okay, now that I got that out of my system:
When we last left the Rutgers Scarlet Knights basketball team, they and Coach Steve Pikiell had been pulled off the court at the Big Ten Tournament when the season and NCAA Tournament was summarily canceled by the coronavirus.
Now, after an off-season where we were unsure at times if a season was even going to take place, opening night is just under three weeks away. Wow.
We don’t even have a schedule yet. But, guess what? That’s not going to stop me, your basic uberfan, to go off with four thoughts about the up and coming season. You ready? Because here we go.
COVID-19: All right, you don’t want to hear it and I don’t want to hear, but it’s a basic fact. Pikiell has talked about it during every interview he’s done this fall. With cases skyrocketing across the country, Pikiell is right, the team that manages COVID-19 the best is going to do the best this season. You only need a minimum of 13 games to make the NCAA Tournament. That is going to make for a season of madness and uncertainty. As far as we know, Rutgers basketball has managed the virus well so far. But the virus lays in wait and it doesn’t mean it will remain that way. Plus, with the virus keeping the fans out of the stands this season, what will that do for Rutgers vaunted home court advantage? Only the RAC, the legendary Trapezoid of Terror, knows for sure.
Who’s Improved? Geo Baker and Ron Harper Jr. are making pre-season lists. Baker is my favorite Rutgers athlete ever at this point, and always struck me as the kind of kid who won’t let the noise bother him, and will just show up and ball. I expect him to have a huge senior season. Harper is great too, and it feels like junior year is the year he can start to add consistency to his already great game. My big question mark? How much of a jump will Paul Mulcahy take this year? With Caleb McConnell out, Mulcahy will be the back up point guard without question. If there is little to no drop off when he comes in (and he was a lot of fun last year), there aren’t a lot of weaknesses on this team. Also, think about Montez Mathis—already a fantastic defender, there are times where his offense seems to be coming on strong. He could have a huge junior year too.
The Freshman: You want to see a program get old and stay old—meaning you want your program to have as many junior and seniors in it as possible. The Scarlet Knights are finally there with a veteran team. But part of the fun of a new season is seeing how the new guys fit in. The prize of the class is top 50 recruit Cliff Omoruyi. The big man should split time with Myles Johnson and offer a ton of rebounding and defense. That said, early reports are that he is super fast, so seeing him hit those famous alleyoops are going to be fun. Mawot Mag is going to be a Swiss Army knife. He can shoot it and he can defend. If he can lock down the opponents along with Montez Mathis and knock down some shots? He will play. Dean Reiber is 6’10” and a stretch guy. I’m guessing he’s a developmental piece, but we will see. My sleeper? Oskar Palmquist. Pikiell has raved about his athleticism. He’s a lefty and he can shoot. A sniper is what this team has needed most and good shooting is contagious. What if he’s patient zero?
The Schedule: This is the big question mark. It’s been reported that Rutgers will open with Sacred Heart, and they will play Syracuse in the Big Ten ACC challenge. There’s also a report of an MTE with Rider and FDU. But with Seton Hall possibly ducking the Knights this season, my opinion is Rutgers still needs another power 5 (6?) team added to the schedule to balance it out. The Big Ten is going to be a beast as it always is. Rutgers has the depth and talent to survive and win, but without knowing what the schedule will look like, it is hard to make a prediction. Hopefully we will hear soon because—I don’t know if you can tell from my voice in this article—-but I am freaking excited. How could you not be? Even KenPom has Rutgers ranked 27, their best ever start in the poll.
Let’s go Rutgers!