Their last NCAA appearance was in 1991, under then coach Bob Wenzel. Coaches have come and gone, but the results have been largely the same. There was a slight spike under Gary Waters, when the team reached the NIT final against Michigan in 2004, but then it was back to normal under a series of underachieving coaches. Eddie Jordan is the poster child for that statement. He brought the Rutgers program to depths which no one could have envisioned.
Then in came Steve Pikiell, former UConn captain and highly successful Stony Brook coach and things are finally on the uptick in Piscataway. The expectations are even higher, as juxtaposed against the debacle that is the Rutgers football program.
Pikiell brings an energy and a defensive coaching acumen which Rutgers has not seen in decades. And there is enough talent on this team to finally escape the Big Ten basement.Rutgers has the talent to eclipse Illinois and perhaps Northwestern.
Rutgers lost leading scorer Corey Sanders, team leader Mike Williams and high energy rebounder, Deshawn Freeman. But much talent returns and some promising newcomers should enhance the team, both offensively and defensively.
Sophomore Geo Baker is unquestionably the team leader. He averaged 10.8 ppg in 31.6 minutes and shot 37.1% from 3-point land last season. He is a top Big Ten guard.
Former Quinnipiac star Peter Kiss, who sat out last season might be the other starter at guard.Incoming freshman guard Montez Mathis, who chose Rutgers over UConn should be the third guard. He is versatile, but needs to enhance his 3-point shooting.
Freshman Ron Harper Jr., the son of former NBA star Ron Harper, can drill it from the outside.
Rutgers has some impressive size and a great big man coach in assistant Jay Young. Shaq Carter at 6-9 was a highly coveted JUCO signee. 6-7 Eugene Omoruyi showed flashes of brilliance last season, especially in March Big Ten games. By all accounts, he is vastly improved this season.7-0 senior Shaq Doorson is also much improved and can be a rebounding machine.
Rutgers plays local rivals St. John’s at home and Seton Hall on the road, early in the season. St. John’s is viewed as a Top 25 team. The results of those 2 games should be indicative of how the season will progress for the hungry Scarlet Knights.