In the weeks leading up to the 2017-’18 college basketball season, BTPowerhouse will be releasing its preview series breaking down each Big Ten team. These will come in a set of series previewing the overall team, the team’s backcourt, wings, and big men, and the team’s schedule. Each post will take a look at its top in-depth and give predictions on the upcoming season.
Rutgers’ long trek to relevance began last season, their first under head coach Steve Pikiell. The Scarlet Knights went 15-17, improving their record by 8 wins over the year prior. Most of that improvement came as a result of a weak non-conference schedule (they won only 3 conference games last year), but the program had a different feel to it. Rutgers won their first Big Ten Tournament game, a coda that should remind the rest of the league that this is a program on the rise.
Rutgers’ current roster construction has gone against the grain of the Big Ten in that they don’t many pure “wings.” This is a team that will rely on big bodies in the post and quick feet on the perimeter. With four seniors and star player Corey Sanders possibly NBA bound after this year, Steve Pikiell will finally have a chance to put his own stamp on this roster (as it stands, Rutgers has two wing commits in the fold for next year). This season, an unbalanced roster could lead to some matchup problems in Rutgers’ favor in non-conference play, but will likely hurt them as they face more versatile rosters in their own league.
‘BTPowerhouse Preview’ - Rutgers Wings
- 2016-'17 All-Big Ten Qualifiers: None
- Departures: Jonathan Laurent
- Additions: Geo Baker
- Top Player: Issa Thiam
Deshawn Freeman would take the top spot on this list, but at a bulky 6’7” he does most of his work in the paint, attempting only 16 threes last season. Freeman will start. It is unlikely that any of the following players will join him. Having said that lets take a closer look at who’ll be on the wing for the Scarlet Knights this year.
Thiam grabs the top spot basically by default, and that shows how integral he will be to this team’s success. At a lanky 6’10”, Thiam is able to stretch the floor in a way that no other big man on this roster can. Thiam attempted 99 threes last season, shooting over 3 per game on average while playing reserve’s minutes (18 per game). Now a sophomore, Thiam will see his role increased and Rutgers will need him to improve on the 30% clip at which he knocked down the long ball last year. At the very least, Thiam should continue to provide a strong defensive presence.
The 6’4” freshman may be asked to handle the ball occasionally when Corey Sanders sits, but will primarily be a shooter on the wing. Baker has a guards skillset, but by virtue of his height he is classified as a wing here.
“The Canadian Draymond Green” (according to his mixtape) put up similar numbers to his counterpart from Saginaw in their respective debut seasons. That’s the good news. The bad news? Draymond Green did not have a good freshman year. Jokes aside, Omoruyi has reportedly shown a lot of improvement this offseason and lands on this list by virtue of his versatility and his willingness to shoot an occasional 3 (though he’s still looking for his first make). Omoruyi gave the Scarlet Knights 10-20 minutes a game in league play last year and will likely get a similar amount of run this year.
Rutgers will need production out of its deep frontcourt and talented backcourt to improve on their win total from last year. Don’t expect much position-less, wing-dominated basketball out of this team.