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TOPIC: Around College Basketball 2019/20 Season

Around College Basketball 2019/20 Season 1 week 4 days ago #377072

  • jerseyshorejohnny
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SPORTS COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Rutgers Is Actually Good at Basketball. No, Really.

Picked to finish 12th in the Big Ten, the surprisingly resurgent Scarlet Knights are on track to make their first NCAA Tournament since 1991


By Laine Higgins / WALL STREET JOURNAL

Feb. 11, 2020

In this jumbled season of college basketball, underdogs have pulled off massive upsets, decades-long winning streaks have snapped and the top teams are playing musical chairs with the No. 1 spot. The weird almost seems normal.

Among those odd occurrences: Rutgers, a team that was picked to finish 12th in the Big Ten in the preseason rankings, has instead emerged as one of the league’s toughest teams to beat—especially at home.

The Scarlet Knights stormed back from an 18-point first-half deficit on Sunday night to defeat Northwestern 77-73 in overtime and preserve their perfect 16-0 record at the Rutgers Athletic Center, nicknamed the RAC. The RAC has also been deemed the “Trapezoid of Terror” due to its odd architectural shape. Currently tied for third place in the conference with a 17-7 record, Rutgers is 1.5 games behind first-place Maryland and will have a chance to avenge a recent road loss to the Terrapins when the teams face off again on March 3, this time at the RAC.

The Scarlet Knights’ abrupt success this season is jarring. The program is four years removed from a 7-25 season. It’s been 14 years since their last winning campaign and 29 years since their last appearance in the NCAA tournament. Current head coach Steve Pikiell is the school’s sixth men’s basketball coach this century. Three of the prior coaches were fired in part for bad behavior, including causing a scene at a Big East baseball game and allegedly forcing players to practice naked after missing free throws.

Meanwhile, their geographic benefit of being located in one of the nation’s basketball hotbeds hasn’t worked in their favor. Back in 1999, Jay Williams, a future NBA star from Plainfield, N.J., planned to play for Rutgers. Then he begrudgingly obliged his mother by taking an official visit to Duke and became a Blue Devil.

The trend continued for years, as Rutgers whiffed on New Jersey recruits who favored Seton Hall and St. John’s, two basketball powers located a few miles north on I-95. Coach Fred Hill Jr., a self-styled “King of New Jersey” hired away from Villanova in 2006, signed the university’s first McDonald’s All American player in Mike Rosario, but failed to produce a winning record.

Rutgers was among the first to offer Piscataway, N.J.-native and Class of 2014 No. 1 recruit Karl-Anthony Towns a scholarship after his sophomore year of high school. He frequented the RAC in the years before college, but opted for the one-and-done route at Kentucky.

When Pikiell came to Rutgers in March 2016, he arrived with a blue-blood pedigree, having played for legendary Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun in the late 1980s and early ‘90s, and a reputation as a turnaround specialist. Prior to Rutgers, Pikiell took Stony Brook to its first America East conference title and its first NCAA Tournament appearance.

Ron Harper Jr., one of the first prospects signed by Pikiell, was swayed by the coach’s history of guiding programs to unprecedented heights. “Coach Pikiell told me he’s been to a lot of schools and every school he’s been to he’s done it first. I believe he could do that here at Rutgers.”

Pikiell also brought a dose of realism to the recruiting process, emphasizing a player’s potential for development rather than his hometown.

“With building this program, we want the right people. Everybody else worries about geography,” he said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. “The good players from New Jersey are gonna have a lot of good choices, so it’s not always a knock on us if they pick other places.”

In November 2017 Pikiell signed Maryland four-star prospect Montez Mathis, the highest ranked player to commit to the Scarlet Knights since 2010. He also nabbed one of the Garden State’s finest in Harper, a three-star out of Don Bosco Prep and son of five-time NBA champion Ron Harper. It was the first time since 2011 that Rutgers landed a higher-ranked New Jersey player than Seton Hall. The trend continued last year with the signing of guard Paul Mulcahy, the No. 7-ranked player in New Jersey according to 247sports.




Pikiell’s tenure coincided with the construction of the massive $115 million RWJBarnabas Health Athletic Performance Center, a convenient recruiting tool that opened in September. The 370,000 square foot complex houses the university’s basketball teams (men’s and women’s), wrestling, gymnastics, strength and conditioning and sports medicine programs.

“It’s just like when you buy a car, do you want a shiny car that’s new with all the new technology or do you want the old reliable one?” said Pikiell.

As Mulcahy put it, “Timing is everything and it’s a great time to be here.” The Bayonne, N.J., native knows: He was a regular at the RAC growing up and is familiar with the parking lot that used to stand where his team now practices.

“Old” and “reliable” are generous descriptors for what practicing at Rutgers used to entail. Both basketball programs shared a dimly lit gym and dingy weight room with several other teams. Court space was at such a premium that players seeking to get in extra shots after hours would be denied by the dance team or another one of the several organizations that shared the space.


“Now, if they have an hour off from midnight to one in the morning, they don’t need to call a coach to open the door, they can walk into the facility,” said Pikiell. “Guys are doing that a ton more.”

Those extra hours are showing up in the box scores: the team is making a higher percentage of all of its shots this year. Combine that with Rutgers’ gritty style of defense and the Scarlet Knights are outshooting opponents for the first time during Pikiell’s tenure.

Rutgers has quietly developed into a defensive powerhouse this winter. The team grabs 28.7 defensive rebounds per game, second most in the Big Ten, and is ninth in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency per KenPom.com.

All of these forces coming together—the recruiting, the facilities upgrade, the steady coach—came together on Jan. 20, when Rutgers cracked the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time in 41 years.



The excitement is palpable. Attendance is up 31% from Pikiell’s first season in 2016-17 and the team is on pace to sell out a program-record nine games. Rutgers sold 26% more season ticket packages for 2019-20 and, according to associate athletic director for sales strategy Ryan Gottleib, surpassed its season revenue goal in late December. Harper said he’s taken to wearing a jacket with the hood pulled up around campus since a student asked him to sign their forehead on College Avenue. (He declined.)

Barring an end-of-season meltdown, Rutgers has a good chance of making its first NCAA tournament since 1991, when George H.W. Bush was president. And with four sophomores in the starting lineup, there is reason to believe this season’s run of success isn’t just another one of this season’s weird blips.
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Around College Basketball 2019/20 Season 1 week 2 days ago #377248

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Big win by Porter Moser's Loyola, Chicago Ramblers over 22-3 N. Iowa.

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Around College Basketball 2019/20 Season 1 week 2 days ago #377258

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bamafan wrote: Big win by Porter Moser's Loyola, Chicago Ramblers over 22-3 N. Iowa.


Ya know, I watched some of Loyola- Chicago's game last week. They looked rather decent.
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Around College Basketball 2019/20 Season 1 week 1 day ago #377304

  • NCJohnnie
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For any east coasters interested today is a chance to see the last undefeated team San Diego State w/o staying up until midnight. They play Boise State at 4 pm on the road on CBSSN.
Probably the best chance they have of losing in the regular season although their last game is Nevada on the road.

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Last edit: by NCJohnnie.

Around College Basketball 2019/20 Season 1 week 1 day ago #377319

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UConn squeaks by Memphis, 64-61, in a very tight game. First time I've seen Precious Achiuwa play. Guy's a beast. Oh, what might have been. :(
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Around College Basketball 2019/20 Season 1 week 1 day ago #377329

  • Mean Gene
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MJDinkins wrote:

bamafan wrote: Big win by Porter Moser's Loyola, Chicago Ramblers over 22-3 N. Iowa.


Ya know, I watched some of Loyola- Chicago's game last week. They looked rather decent.


They’re an excellent passing team. They move the ball really well in their half court offense
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Around College Basketball 2019/20 Season 1 week 11 hours ago #377396

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Per Goodman

ACC supporting Big Ten’s one-time transfer waiver proposal.
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Around College Basketball 2019/20 Season 1 week 9 hours ago #377410

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Paultzman wrote: Per Goodman

ACC supporting Big Ten’s one-time transfer waiver proposal.


Only a matter of time
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Around College Basketball 2019/20 Season 5 days 15 hours ago #378014

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John Beilien will become the hottest free agent coach.

Texas if they part with Shaka Smart? Indiana especially if Archie does not make NCAA's this year?

Every high major job opening will have interest in John. Downside is his age, he is 67. But you put him with a good staff he will outcoach just about anyone.

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Around College Basketball 2019/20 Season 5 days 15 hours ago #378021

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We have a terrific coach. He gets fired, I'm done.
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