With the first week of football season coming to a close on Monday night, and Rutgers getting blown out by Washington State, it's only natural that Scarlet Knight fans are looking ahead to basketball seas...what's that? Rutgers BEAT Wazzu? IN SEATTLE?!?! Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle!
Ridiculous football results aside, Rutgers fans everywhere were excited for the announcement of their first ever B1G basketball schedule two weeks ago and the official Rutgers Basketball Twitter account came through with this killer graphic.
Sweet lettering, intense looking players, and impossible to read opponents. That can't be the way the marketing department drew this one up. Regardless, let's dive right in and see what Rutgers can expect in their first B1G season.
Unlike fellow newcomer Maryland, who starts off with three of their first four games on the road including opening in East Lansing, Rutgers gets to ease into their B1G schedule with two straight home games at the RAC. On December 30th, Rutgers officially opens B1G play against perennial bottom-feeder Northwestern. This is a chance for Rutgers to make a good first impression on the league, and the home crowd should be amped up for the first conference game, but be wary! Northwestern hauled in an impressive recruiting class this year and they aren't looking to be Rutgers first ever B1G conference win. Next up, Rutgers continues its two-game home stand with a bout with Penn State. Another B1G also-ran, Penn State is looking to up the ante this year and be competitive for a middle of the table slot in conference. PSU is being touted as one of Rutgers' "natural rivals" due to proximity, so this should also be a game where the RAC is loud. I see Rutgers going 1-1 in these two games, but for the life of me don't know which game will be which.
The next four games for Rutgers is where they really get their "welcome" to the B1G. At Nebraska (who only lost one game at home last year and it was by one point to Michigan), home against Wisconsin (who made the Final Four last year and is a preseason favorite to do it again), at Maryland (fellow newcomer and annual ACC contender), and at Minnesota (who play on a stupid raised court in a stupid old barn that is very hard to win at). I don't really see Rutgers coming away with a win in any of these games, and in their defense I don't see a lot of teams coming away with a win in a four-game stretch like this.
The Knights return home on January 20th to take on a revamped Michigan squad, but a revamped Michigan is still better than a full-strength Rutgers, I'm afraid. Their next game is at Penn State, which could be a revenge game (either way!) depending on how the first battle turns out.
Home against MSU, at Indiana and Illinois, and home against OSU is how Rutgers spends the doldrums of late January and early February. There doesn't appear to be a win in any of those games either, but if Indiana or Illinois is as dysfunctional as they have been the last few seasons, Rutgers could sneak away with a win at Assembly Hall(s).
In their next four games, Rutgers plays Purdue twice, and there if you learn anything about the B1G, Rutgers fans, it's that there is always the possibility for a win when Purdue is on the schedule. Always. Sandwiched between the two Purdue contests are matchups at Iowa and home versus Indiana. Winning at Iowa doesn't happen often, even when Iowa is terrible (which they won't be this year), but a home matchup with Indiana could be just what the doctor ordered to get Rutgers on a bit of a confidence streak.
The final two games of the season before the B1G Tournament see Rutgers playing Maryland at home and going to Ann Arbor to duke it out with Michigan. Maryland is a tough team to judge based on their offseason, uh, shenanigans. They could be vying for a Tourney slot or they could have Hindenburged their way to only a handful of conference wins. Either way, should be a big one for Rutgers. Despite the preponderance of Michigan Men who choose to sit silently during sporting events out of "respect for the game," Crisler Arena is a tough venue for an opposing team to walk out of with a victory.
Lightning round Rutgers B1G schedule recap:
Plays twice: Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Penn State, Purdue
Plays only at home: Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Plays only on the road: Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska
All things considered, Rutgers has a relatively easy conference schedule. They play a lot of the top dogs only once, and most of them have to travel to New Jersey. Despite this, I don't think Rutgers finishes higher than 11th in the conference this year. There will probably be a game two that they win where everyone is all "What? Really?" But other than that, I see Rutgers struggling to adjust to their first year of B1G ball.
You can find their full schedule right here.