When the Rutgers Scarlet Knights arrived in the Big Ten for the first time last season, most people generally thought that the Scarlet Knights men's basketball team would struggle and be an easy win for almost every team in the conference. Well, maybe except for the Wisconsin Badgers.
Over the course of the season, the Scarlet Knights went 10-22 overall with a 2-16 record in the Big Ten. The height of the team's season came with an upset win against Wisconsin in January at home. Unfortunately, following the win, the team lost its final 15 games including a game in the Big Ten Tournament.
But even with the upset win against the Badgers last season, the Scarlet Knights obviously have an uphill battle looking from afar if they want to be at the top of the food chain in the conference. However, they aren't that far off. Sure, the Scarlet Knights need talent and they have to have the right recruiting method to stay in the conversation with the top recruits around the country. But at the end of the day, all it takes is one player to come onto their campus and change the basketball program for the better.
In sports, it's rare to see a team that started well and continued to play at a high level consistently whether it's on the professional or college level. Each team goes through their struggles at some point. Some longer than others. So Scarlet Knights fans shouldn't be discouraged with where the state of the men's basketball team is right now. It can change before the Scarlet Knights know it.
Look at the Maryland Terrapins from last season. Almost everyone thought that the Terrapins would share the basement with the Scarlet Knights as the newcomers of the Big Ten. People saw how that played out. The Scarlet Knights can go from the bottom to the top. It could even happen as early as this year - although it isn't likely.
Looking at some of the targets that the Scarlet Knights have on their radar like 4-star players in the class of 2016 such as point guard Kwe Parker, point guard Myles Powell and small forward De'Riante Jenkins, how much would the perception of Scarlet Knights basketball change if all three players decide to play for them? A lot obviously in a good way. It's not that unrealistic to imagine either.
For instance, adding a player like Parker - who is a highlight reel dunker - can and will put fans in the seats.The basketball program can put themselves in a position where they can be marketed. In today's sports world, people like trends. And the Scarlet Knights have the pieces to trend recruiting in their favor.
Then, after seeing an entertaining player like Parker, maybe there are kids who may be more compelled to play for the Scarlet Knights. Combine that with the fact Rutgers will be seen on the Big Ten Network constantly and it's a great selling point. Even for a struggling program, entertainment still matters. People want to make sure their money is worth it to see the games.
Momentum swings very quickly not only during the games, but on the recruiting trail as well. But what factors into that whether young athletes in this day and age want to admit it or not, they like to be catered to. They like to be the center of attention.
And when a basketball program school can make them feel like they are the center of attention, it can create a snowball effect where those recruits commit. The only tricky part is, making every single talented athlete feel important all at the same time.
The good news for the Scarlet Knights is, younger athletes really do not care about the past too often. They care about what the basketball program can do for them right now. And when a basketball program can leave one really good impression on a big time recruit, it can change the dynamic of the program for the better for a really long time.