Aaron Rodgers once told the city of Green Bay to “R-E-L-A-X” after losses put the team in a difficult position. In New Jersey, that postgame tactic would not work — it is all about results.
On Saturday, the Wisconsin natives welcomed a struggling Rutgers squad to town and left feeling anything but relaxed.
The Scarlet Knights entered on a three-game losing streak with the most recent coming on their home floor against Nebraska. They left with a one-point victory against the Badgers and maybe a sense of relief leaving Madison.
Following its three-game losing streak, there was a sense of panic surrounding the state of the team. Mawot Mag is out for the season with a knee injury and this was a huge hit on the defensive end of the floor. The one-time four or five seed dropped down near the eight or nine line. With some difficult games coming up, there were some wondering if Rutgers would end up on the bubble when it is all said and done.
Enter Madison. Caleb McConnell suffers an injury in warmups, which is another big hit on the defensive end. Offensively, McConnell has struggled since the beginning of the year but has remained a leader on the other end of the floor. Cam Spencer stepped up while Cliff Omoruyi continues to shine down low.
The question remains, does this take a bit of the panic away that was surrounding Rutgers? The short answer is yes, a little.
The Scarlet Knights came into the weekend with two victories in true road games. The win over Wisconsin added a third. It also gave Rutgers its ninth conference victory of the year. In the past, the magic number has been 10 in terms of Big Ten victories needed to make the tournament. This year, Rutgers should exceed that number and this was a key victory needed to potentially get to 11 or 12. Of course, this helps seeding come Selection Sunday.
Rutgers will host Michigan on Thursday before hitting the road once again to take on Penn State. The final two games of the regular season will consist Minnesota and Northwestern.
The Scarlet Knights are now in a four-way tie for third place in the Big Ten, along with Michigan. The contest against the Wolverines will go a long way in terms of seeding come conference tournament time.
There is no doubt that the temperature has cooled around the Scarlet Knights and it will only get closer to neutral with every victory. Come Thursday, Rutgers has a chance to defend home court once again.