The Big Ten just announced conference opponents for 2022-2023 men’s basketball season. Dates and times will be released at a later date.
Here are Rutgers’ matchups:
Home Only: Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska
Away Only: Illinois, Purdue, Wisconsin
Home & Away: Indiana, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Iowa, Michigan St, PSU
Here are five takeaways regarding the Big Ten schedule for Rutgers men’s basketball.
Kevin Willard can’t avoid the RAC this time
Two years removed from Seton Hall cancelling the Garden State Classic due to not wanting to host with fans unable to attend due to Covid-19, he will make his return to the RAC in his first season as head coach of Maryland. The last time he coached at the RAC, Rutgers torched Seton Hall 68-48. After several spirited games between the Terps and Scarlet Knights in recent years, Willard’s presence for the lone meeting between the two programs will certainly add even more juice to this game.
Indiana, Minnesota, Northwestern and Penn State should all be improved
There are no easy games in the Big Ten and of the seven opponents that Rutgers will play twice, we already know Iowa, Michigan State and Ohio State will be a challenge. However, the other four opponents will not be a walk in the park either.
Minnesota should be much improved with North Carolina transfer Dawson Garcia and Rutgers lost on the road to a shorthanded Gophers squad last season. Penn State will be in year two of the Micah Shrewsberry era and Rutgers rarely plays well in Happy Valley. They also escaped with a 1 point win on Senior Day last season. In addition, Northwestern returns a lot of key players from last season although Pete Nance and Ryan Young are big losses. Of course, that leaves the offseason darling Indiana Hoosiers, who return almost all of their key contributors and are considered the favorite to win the Big Ten by most national media. Rutgers has won eight of their last nine meetings against the Hoosiers, so playing them twice this winter should produce two battles in Mike Woodson’s second season.
Three road only opponents are tough places to play
While it’s a positive that RU only has to play Illinois, Purdue and Wisconsin once, all three opponents have strong homecourt advantages. Obviously Rutgers won in Madison for the first time as a member of the Big Ten last season, but that doesn’t change the fact it will be a very tough environment to win in again.
Home Slate is compelling
Fans have plenty to be excited about with the home slate this coming season. Maryland, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State and Iowa are all set to visit the RAC. The Michigan State game is expected to be played at Madison Square Garden after being postponed during Covid, so that will be a highly anticipated matchup and short train ride for fans. Add in Penn State visiting yet again and there are plenty of fun matchups scheduled for the RAC.
Last season proves hard to predict SOS
Last season, we all expected Rutgers to excel in January and struggle in February based on how the Big Ten schedule shaked out. The opposite happened instead. While we don’t have dates yet, it’s still difficult to project too far ahead based on matchups. On paper, Rutgers has a very winnable home slate against conference opponents and will face major challenges on the road. The bottom line is every Big Ten game is difficult and Steve Pikiell’s team needs to focus on themselves. If they can play to their potential, there is no reason to think RU won’t go dancing once again next March.
A few more things
It will be a couple months before Rutgers’ complete schedule is announced. Here are the reported non-conference games so far: Bucknell, Rider, Columbia, Sacred Heart, UMass-Lowell, Seton Hall. The ACC/Big Ten matchup is yet to be announced as well as four other non-conference opponents. Expect at least one more power five opponent added despite the fact that Rutgers is not in the rotation for the Gavitt Games this year. A high profile neutral game opponent could be added as well.
UPDATE: Rutgers and Wake Forest will play a home and home series beginning next season per Jon Rothstein. Details here.
As for national media projections, Andy Katz recently named Rutgers 5th in his Big Ten power rankings. In addition, Joe Lunardi of ESPN projected the Scarlet Knights in the field of 68 in his latest bracketology this week as one of the last four teams included.