Year four of the Steve Pikiell era tips off this season with Rutgers forming some expectations. The Scarlet Knights were only 14-17 overall last season but won seven games in conference play. It was the first time Rutgers won seven or more games in conference since the 2005-06 season.
This season Rutgers could compete for an NIT spot. That doesn’t seem like much, but considering the program hasn’t played in postseason play since the aforementioned 2005-06 season, it would be a big accomplishment and step forward.
To do that, they’ll have to manage a more difficult non-conference schedule and a Big Ten conference that projects to be the best in the country this season. Let’s take a look at the road Rutgers will need to manage to try and take a step forward.
Holiday Season Tournament
Rutgers will not participate in a non-conference in-season tournament this season.
ACC/Big Ten Challenge Opponent
The Scarlet Knights go on the road during the ACC/Big Ten Challenge to Pittsburgh. The Panthers are in Year two of the Jeff Capel-era and are looking to improve upon a 14-19 season last year. It is hard to say how Pitt will be this season. They welcome five new scholarship players this season, so it will be interesting to see how Capel integrates so many new pieces to the program. Rutgers will likely be favored, and this will be a nice opportunity for a Power 5 road victory in a difficult place to play.
Gavitt Games Opponent
Rutgers will not participate in the Gavitt Games this season but do play a Big East opponent in non-conference play. On December 14th, they’ll host probable top-25 team Seton Hall in a New Jersey bragging rights matchup.
Last season was a close 72-66 loss for Rutgers as Seton Hall staved off a late Scarlet Knights rally. This season Rutgers has a great opportunity at home to pull off a huge upset and earn a quality win in non-conference play.
Sneaky Tough Mid Major Game
Rutgers welcomes NJIT to the RAC on November 26th and the Highlanders could pose some challenges. NJIT finished 22-13 last season and return every player this season. Their T-Rank projection this season is 19-10 and 12-4 in the Atlantic Sun. A key player to watch will be 6-foot-10 senior Abdul Lewis. Rutgers struggled with frontcourt play last season, and Lewis averaged Check out some highlights of Lewis last season below.
Toughest Stretch Of Games
January 28 - vs. Purdue
February 1 - vs. Michigan (in New York City)
February 4 - at Maryland
Rutgers faces off against three of the top teams in the Big Ten during a stretch in late January and early February. The matchup against the Wolverines is at Madison Square Garden for the Big Ten Super Saturday.
All three teams project to be in the top-five in the league, but Rutgers will have an opportunity to earn a quality win or two.
Best Chance For An Upset
March 3 - vs. Maryland
The Terrapins come to the RAC on Tuesday, March 3rd with a good chance at an upset. Maryland was 6-5 on the road last season and dropped some head-scratchers on the road last season such as a 78-61 blasting at Penn State. In recent years Rutgers has been good about picking off a few ranked opponents at home and this late-season opportunity could be another one in early March.