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Men’s Basketball Non-Conference Schedule: How Important Is Game No. 4 vs. Temple?

The Scarlet Knights face another early-season hurdle in 2022-2023.

Rutgers v Wisconsin Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images

Last season, Rutgers began a skid after a loss in the fourth game of the season. The non-conference schedule for the 2022-2023 season has been released and one matchup sticks out — Game No. 4 against Temple.

The Scarlet Knights began the season 3-0 during the 2021-2022 campaign before hitting the road for the first time. Rutgers fell to DePaul in Chicago to suffer its first loss of the season. This would begin a stretch of three consecutive losses by a total of seven points. An inexcusable home loss to Lafayette and last-minute loss to UMass followed.

The non-conference schedule has a similar feel this season. The Scarlet Knights begin the season with three straight home games against Columbia, Sacred Heart, and UMass-Lowell. Another 3-0 start will be expected before a trip to Mohegan Sun Arena to take on Temple. Rutgers will then return home to take on Rider and Central Connecticut State.

The Aaron McKie era with the Owls began with two consecutive losing seasons. Temple bounced back last year with a 17-12 record and finished fourth in the AAC. The season ended with a quarterfinal loss to Tulane in the conference tournament.

This is a game that fans will expect Rutgers to win but could the fourth game of the season plague the Scarlet Knights once again?

Temple seems like a relatable game to DePaul last season. The Owls might even be a hair better at the moment. The Scarlet Knights will have three games to get their feet wet without Ron Harper Jr. and Geo Baker before their first early-season test.

Since taking over as head coach, Steve Pikiell has been attempting to improve the non-conference schedule for Rutgers. Per a press release by Rutgers, the team was No. 292 in the nation on ESPN’s strength of schedule the year prior to Pikiell’s arrival. Over the last four years, the Scarlet Knights have fixed this ranking No. 29, No. 33, No. 2, and No. 29 in the nation, respectively since 2018.

The favorable part of the non-conference schedule ends after six games. From there, Rutgers will face a pair of ACC matchups against Miami and Wake Forest. The Scarlet Knights will host in-state rival Seton Hall as Big Ten play likely begins in the beginning of December.

The gauntlet will only get tougher following the first six games. A 6-0 start for the Scarlet Knights will help for multiple reasons — confidence without its two leaders from years past and keeping bad, early-season losses off their resume.

Rutgers could not shake the loss to Lafayette, and the two around it, until Selection Sunday. It took a win over No. 1 Purdue and a stretch of four consecutive wins over ranked opponents for the Scarlet Knights to be one of the Last Four In. This season, it will be the Temple game that proves most important.