Welcome to the first article in BTP’s offseason series where we count down the fourteen best Big Ten programs of the past decade.
The results will be based on four criteria:
- Big Ten regular-season winning percentage over the past ten seasons. Higher is better.
- Number of teams that finished ahead of each school in the standings over the past ten seasons. (With adjustments to true up Nebraska, Maryland, and Rutgers, who didn’t play a full ten seasons in the Big Ten.) Lower is better.
- Big Ten regular season titles over the past ten seasons. Outright titles are better than shared titles.
- Big Ten Tournament titles over the past ten seasons.
The following didn't affect the rankings at all, but in each article we’ll also give out four awards for each program:
- Team of the Decade
- Player of the Decade
- Best Regular Season Win
- Most Crushing Regular Season Loss
For the latter two, we’re going with regular season only because otherwise we’d just end up looking at a lot of NCAA Tournament games, and everyone knows March can elevate your soul and then break your heart. We’re looking for the games that can do the same on their own merits without the advantage of being win-or-go-home.
(Also, I’m probably going to pick the wrong crushing loss. I can look at scores and records and highlights and kind of recall what an emotional punch each game packed, but I’ve only really lived Purdue losses, so if you think there’s a better candidate in this category, let me know in the comments.)
Lastly, for Maryland, Rutgers, and Nebraska, we’re only including teams, players, and games from those schools’ time in the Big Ten. This is a Big Ten blog, and we’re nothing if not conference chauvinists.
With all those disclaimers out of the way, let’s take a look at the lowest team on the totem pole—Rutgers.
Big Ten Winning Percentage
In five years in the league, Rutgers has won sixteen games and lost 76, good for a winning percentage of 0.174. Woof. You could double that and they’d only move past one other team. Rutgers is trending in the right direction, with their win total going 2-1-3-3-7. Unfortunately for Rutgers, momentum isn’t one of our criteria.
Teams Finishing Ahead of Rutgers
In five years, Rutgers has finished behind 61 other Big Ten teams. Adjusted to a ten-year basis, that’s 122, which is easily the worst mark in the conference. In fact, only two teams have ever finished below Rutgers in the Big Ten standings. Take a bow, 2019 Nebraska and 2019 Northwestern.
Big Ten Regular Season Titles
Big Ten Tournament Titles
None. Rutgers has played on Wednesday in the BTT every year. The farthest they’ve ever advanced was to Friday, in Madison Square Garden in 2018.
Team of the Decade
The 2019 Scarlet Knights are the only possible pick. They won seven Big Ten games and finished in the Top 100 on KenPom. Now most Big Ten programs wouldn’t consider that a great season, but—c’mon there are only so many ways I can point out that Rutgers has been terrible. The 2019 version of the Scarlet Knights was the least terrible.
Player of the Decade
Corey Sanders. Sanders isn’t only the first Scarlet Knight to forego college eligibility to turn pro in a long time (though he ended up going undrafted), but he’s one of only three Rutgers players to ever receive all-conference honors. (No Rutgers player has ever garnered more than Honorable Mention.) The highlight of Sanders’ career was undoubtedly watching him ball out in Madison Square Garden as the Knights rode the hometown crowd to an improbable mini-run. Sanders was never a very efficient player, mainly because he was never a very effective outside shooter, but he could break down a defense and create his own shot with the best of them.
Regular Season Win of the Decade
January 11, 2015.
Rutgers fans will claim that in the old Big East, the RAC was considered one of the most intimidating arenas on the east coast. One Sunday in Piscataway, the Wisconsin Badgers—in fact, the best Wisconsin Badgers team in history—found out just how accurate that was.
Rutgers 67, Wisconsin 62
Regular Season Crushing Loss of the Decade
November 16, 2018.
Aristotle said that hope is a waking dream. For most of Rutgers’ decade, they were living in a basketball nightmare. Yes the losses to St. Peter’s, St. Francis, Monmouth, Stony Brook, and Hartford were embarrassing, but they’re embarrassing in the way that a toddler pooping his pants in a restaurant is embarrassing—you’d rather it didn’t happen, but it’s not like they know any different.
No, to be a crushing loss, it takes more than embarrassment. It takes hope. And then it takes extinguishing that hope like a dump truck of sand being poured on a scented candle.
Before this game, Rutgers had blown out two bad teams at home. They were 2-0, had their best team since before the Eddie Jordan era, and they got a chance to assert Big Apple superiority at the RAC against their former Big East rivals. The Scarlet Knights scored the first basket, and then trailed for the next thirty-nine-and-a-half minutes. Basketball respectability was still at least one season away.
St. John’s 84, Rutgers 65.
Fake Internet Quote That Puts It All In Perspective
Bombardment, barrage, curtain-fire, mines, gas, tanks, machine-guns, hand-grenades—terrible, yes, but have have you ever watched an Eddie-Jordan-coached Rutgers team?
—Erich Maria Remarque, author, All Quiet on the Western Front