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The Biggest Questions Rutgers will Face in 2016-17

No one is sure Steve Pikiell knows what he got himself into.

Stony Brook v Kentucky Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Picking only three questions to highlight for Rutgers Basketball was difficult. Last season was a huge disappointment for the Scarlet Knights, who enter the 2016-2017 season with a new head coach. Steve Pikiell is getting his first shot at leading a power five conference school after leading mid-major Stony Brook to the NCAA tournament last season. His task is not easy and fans should not expect results immediately.

How many games will Rutgers win in the Big Ten?

The Rutgers Scarlet Knights have yet to be competitive since entering the Big Ten. When the 2016 conference schedules were released, it was obvious thing would not be easy this season.

When the 2016-2017 Big Ten conference schedule was released, BTPowerhouse took to a podcast to discuss. It was almost consensus the Scarlet Knights would find it difficult to win more than five conference games. There is no overly difficult stretch on the schedule, but the talent level in the Big Ten could leave the Scarlet Knights with a 3-7 record through their first ten conference games. That would be the best case scenario.

Aside from the Big Ten schedule, Rutgers will play four NCAA tournament teams during their non-conference slate. The most intriguing match up is Steve Pikiell’s return to New York to take on his former team, the Stony Brook Seawolves.

Rutgers will need to beat somebody they are not supposed to in order to call their season a success. The Scarlet Knights will have plenty of opportunities to upset ranked teams including Wisconsin, Michigan State, Iowa, Indiana, and Maryland. A win against the Badgers when they come to Madison Square Garden would be a huge win for the program.

How with first year head coach Steve Pikiell fare?

Steve Pikiell is heading into his freshman year as head coach of the Scarlet Knights. This is Pikiells first shot at coaching a power five conference team, though the talent at Rutgers isn’t quite on par with most other power five schools. Fresh off an NCAA Tournament birth with Stony Brook, Pikiell brings a .550 overall winning percentage to Rutgers. If he wants to be the answer the Scarlet Knights need and make them competitive, he will need to get used to losing. Things will need to get worse before they get better.

Pikiell has his best player returning in 2016. Corey Sanders tested the NBA waters but wisely returned to his spot at the top of the Rutgers Men’s basketball team. If Pikiell can keep Sanders around the next three seasons, his job will become much easier.

The roster is not exactly Sanders and a bunch of scrubs, however. While the Scarlet Knights do not have the recruiting stars of the top schools in the Big Ten, Pikiell has an athletic and talented roster to work with. Incoming freshman Issa Thiam and Eugene Omoruyi can be athletic mismatches in the back court. Thiam, a 6’9” small forward, will be particularly interesting due to his size. Rutgers will also be strong in the middle provided C.J. Gettys, Shaquille Doorson and Ibrahima Diallo can use their height to protect the rim.

Is Corey Sanders an NBA player?

Getting a top 100 player is no small feat for a struggling school like Rutgers. When the 93rd best player in America (according to 247Sports) announced he was coming to New Jersey instead of heading down south to the state of Florida, fans saw it as the first step in a rebuilding program. Corey Sanders’ had an extremely productive first year, playing so well he even decided to declare for the NBA Draft to test the NBA waters.

Sanders averaged 15.9 points, 4.3 assists and 3.3 rebounds for a terrible Rutgers team. He is the greatest asset head coach Steve Pikiell will inherit, but does he have the makeup of an NBA player? Standing at 6’1” tall, he is not undersized to play in the NBA, although he may find it difficult to get his shot off against taller NBA defenders. Luckily spot up shooting is not the entire makeup of his game. Sanders is plenty aggressive and will need to continue to carry Rutgers if he intends to improve his draft stock.

Sanders is the 54th ranked sophomore going into this season according to DraftExpress. That likely leaves him as an undrafted player, meaning he will need to improve his game vastly if he intends to leave after this season. NCAA rules allow Sanders to enter his name in the draft every season and return to school, provided he does not hire an agent. Sanders has taken advantage of the rule before and will likely do so until he feels comfortable with his draft status.