Big Ten basketball fans questioned the decision to add Rutgers from the very beginning. The academics were up to snuff, which was a concern when the most recent round of conference expansions happened. Athletics on the other hand? Well, they have a single national championship, in fencing, in 1949, that they share with West Point. That's even worse than Purdue.
Their basketball history isn't great either. They have only made the NCAA Tournament six times, and the most recent was 1991. Again, this is worse than even Nebraska, who has seven and puts them ahead of only Northwestern in terms of number of appearances and most recent appearance. However, the Scarlet Knights do have something many programs can't claim. In the 1975-76 season their team went undefeated and made it to the Final Four before losing to Michigan. That team often gets overshadowed because the team the Wolverines faced next was also undefeated and is still the last undefeated team to win the NCAA Tournament. That team was Bob Knight's Indiana Hoosiers.
Rutgers may never feel like a real Big Ten school to some die-hard fans, but they're wrong. We should welcome the Scarlet Knights with open arms, doing anything less is a disservice to the conference and therefore, your own team. They've already given us on of the best regular season upsets ever against Wisconsin last season. Sure, New Jersey isn't in the Midwest and it seems weird to travel all that way to watch a game, but remember, playing less than an hour away from NYC most years can only serve to help recruiting and broaden the conference's reach and your horizons as a fan.
Here's some reasons to head out to Garden State and catching some roundball:
- Rutgers University is older than the nation itself. Also, the oldest building on campus, Old Queens, began construction before any other Big Ten school was even conceived (try not to snicker at the name when you visit it).
- You get to check out one of the most intimate and interesting arenas in the Big Ten. With a capacity of only 8000, The RAC is smaller than a few high school gyms in Indiana, but when the crowd is rocking it earns high marks for atmosphere.
- With only one home sellout last season, there is a good chance you will have plenty of space to let any kids you bring run around the upper sections.
- Get a chance to nab a Fat Darrell at the famous RU Hungry or eat at one of the rest of the grease trucks on campus before tip.
- Eddie Jordan seems like a good guy, and he's not nearly as scary as Bo Ryan, Fran McCaffery, or Tom Izzo. Nor is he as creepy as Tom Crean. Actually, he may be more likable than every coach, but Tim Miles.
- The Scarlet Knight is a cool mascot. Again, less scary/creepy than Purdue Pete, Herbie Husker, and Sparty......and Tom Crean.
- You get to be a part of the highly sought-after New York market for a few hours.
- Jim Delany sheds a single, beautiful tear every time a Big Ten fanbase accepts Rutgers into their hearts.
- You can go check out "The Barn" (College Avenue Gymnasium), the old basketball gym that was built on the site of the first intercollegiate football game between Rutgers and Princeton.
- Oh, and you are almost guaranteed to see your team win, because, you know, they're playing Rutgers
So, if you get a chance, go see a game in Piscataway. It should be a fun experience and you get to support your team and the conference as a whole.
Also, thank your lucky stars the Big Ten didn't add Syracuse and Louisville, for obvious reasons.