Maybe it’s because I’ve been a Rutgers fan for too long, but as I pulled on to New Durham Road during my drive to Jersey Mike’s Arena, it hit me.
Rutgers was probably going to get blown out tonight.
I don’t know why I knew, but it just felt like it was coming. As if this team, after a disappointing start to the season and had been fending off the last wave for a while. The crest had peaked and now came the break and crash. So, after hitting their first three shots, Rutgers could never truly find their rhythm. Eric Ayala and Fats Russell were unconscious and the Scarlet Knights were down by 20.
Though they had a few runs, and some Geo Baker threes, Rutgers couldn’t get it back to single digits until the final minute. They now sit at 11-8 and 5-4 in the Big Ten during what is considered the easy part of their schedule They face two road games and then a gauntlet of the top teams in the conference. It will take a miracle to the make the NCAAs.
And you know what’s weird? I’m fine with it.
I’m not happy with it. And I’m still giving ever ounce of my fandom with a hoarse throat and clenched cheering fists. I’m not giving up on this team.
But, logically? I’m okay with it.
The past three years have been the best, most exciting years of my basketball fandom. There have been so many moments of both excitement and heartbreak that people surrounding the program will talk about forever. From Geo Baker and Jacob Young’s performance at Purdue before the world shut down, Ron Harper’s miracle heave, and finally breaking the curse of the NCAA Tournament appearance last year.
The weight was lifted off their shoulders and that was exhausting. To fans and maybe the team alike. This team isn’t a doormat anymore, however. Rutgers is a program now that is tough to beat. They play hard, they defend, and they are very good at home. Tonight wasn’t there night, and it’s looking like this year just isn’t their year. But they have a good coach who did something historic in one of the toughest basketball conferences in the country.
Rebuilds and program building certainly isn’t a linear process. And I think we are going to get some more electric moments at the RAC (okay, fine JMA) both this year and in years going forward.
Will I be critical? I’m sure there are times I will be. And, as a fan who likes to be optimistic, I’m sure there will be times where I’m too easy on them. We aren’t a program that is buried under the weight of 30 years of futility anymore.
Think about that. What Steve Pikiell and company have done here is momentous. This season may not end how we want, but he’s going to get time to continue to shape things going forward.
But, at this moment, I am a fan and I’m going to try and enjoy each game. Enjoy screaming and yelling and getting frustrated and getting elated. The team didn’t have it tonight.
The other day against Minnesota, it was a fun game with a player that went off in ridiculous fashion.
It’s sports. It happens.
I don’t root for the college version of the Yankees. I am a die hard fan of a scrappy team that goes out and beats other teams 48-46. One that gives you heart attacks and disappoints at times. But one that also gives you immense highs when those moments happen.
Maybe they have another miracle in them. Maybe they don’t.
You probably won’t agree with me, but here is where I stand.
I love Rutgers basketball. I love this team and the memories and moments they’ve given us. Going forward, maybe the premonitions while I’m on Route 27 will be positive ones.
Going try to enjoy it.