Here at BT Powerhouse, we've already heard enough reasons as to why Rutgers won't succeed in the Big Ten this season. The Big Ten is the best basketball conference in America! Rutgers is a team that could barely compete in the AAC! The Knights haven't made the NCAA Tournament since the Bush administration (the first one)!
Yep. We've heard it all, alright. Time for a change, though. This is a new era of Rutgers basketball. Here are five reasons why it won't start out so bad.
Myles Mack and Kadeem Jack are coming back.
The Big Ten is losing a lot of firepower this year. Just look at all the players who just graduated or were picked in the NBA draft. Michigan State lost three stars, Michigan lost Nik Stauskas, Ohio State saw Aaron Craft gradate, and Wisconsin... Oh Wisconsin should be pretty darn good, but you get the point. It's a luxury nowadays to have your two best players return for their senior seasons, and that's what Rutgers gets in 2014-15. Mack and Jack (love that) combined for nearly 30 points per game. Mack led the team in assists while Jack led in rebounding. Together they form a solid foundation for a team that could raise some eyebrows this season.
The RAC is a tough place for road teams to play.
Not many Big Ten fans have gotten to experience in person the Louis Brown Athletic Center (RAC stands for Rutgers Athletic Center, the facility's former name), but I think it will immediately rank among Big Ten opponents' least favorite places to visit. And not just because of the long flight they'll be taking from the Midwest. The RAC is a smallish venue that traps sound thanks to its trapezoidal shape. While many Big Ten teams these days are used to playing in large arenas designed to fit giant concert crowds, the RAC is an old-school style gym that can get just as loud as Williams Arena or Assembly Hall.
Eddie Jordan knows how to recruit.
The former NBA head coach and Rutgers alum was a no-brainer hire for the school after the Mike Rice scandal. So far Jordan has rewarded his employer with a pretty healthy recruiting class for the 2014-15 season. The headliner is Shaquille Doorson, a 6'11" center from the Netherlands who could be a significant shot-blocking presence right away if he can manage to avoid the foul trouble that tends to plague young big men. JUCO transfer Bishop Daniels should also prove useful right out of the box as part of Rutgers' guard rotation. With both high upside and depth, this class is one that Knights fans shouldn't be afraid to get excited about.
Rutgers probably won't lose to Fairleigh Dickinson again.
It won't take long for Rutgers to find out if 2014-15 is going to be a better season than last year. That's because one of the worst teams in Division I, Fairleigh Dickson, is up second on this year's schedule. Rutgers lost to FDU by a point at home during the 2013-14 non-conference slate after already dropping games to UAB, Drexel, and William & Mary. With a chance to show fans that last season is in the rear view mirror, the Knights probably won't lay such an egg again.
The AAC was pretty tough last year
Sure, moving to the Big Ten is tough. There is a lot of talent in this conference, but it's not as though Rutgers is coming from a minor league. The AAC had four NCAA Tournament teams in it last year, and SMU was nearly a fifth. Most experts would agree that the Big Ten is a more difficult landscape to navigate, but the Knights should at least hold their own against fellow cellar dwellers like Purdue, Northwestern, and Penn State. They may even surprise a contender or two at home.