Rutgers men’s basketball announced its 2023-2024 schedule on Tuesday along with the Big Ten conference. The 31 game slate will tip-off on Monday, November 6 against its oldest rival Princeton on a neutral court setting the tone for a more compelling non-conference schedule. The 20 game Big Ten league schedule is always challenging as well. Here are four takeaways along with the full schedule below.
Non-conference schedule is an important upgrade
There is noticeable improvement with the 11 game non-conference schedule compared to previous seasons under head coach Steve Pikiell. There are three first time traits to the non-conference slate during the Pikiell era that will improve the strength of schedule from past years.
Rutgers will play four high major opponents, face four opponents who finished in the top 100 of KenPom last season and play four games on the road or on a neutral court in the non-conference schedule for the first time in the Pikiell era. This shows that making this part of the schedule more competitive as well as improving metrics that the NCAA Committee and NET rankings take into an account was a priority.
In addition, Rutgers will play just three opponents who finished sub-300 in KenPom last season. That’s the second fewest of the Pikiell era.
I would also expect Georgetown and Bryant to be improved with a KenPom ranking closer to 100 than 200 this coming season. Princeton will likely take a step back, but should still be a top 150 opponent.
Here is a full list of the non-conference opponents along with their KenPom rankings from last season.
No. 53 Mississippi State (Neutral)
No. 58 Seton Hall (Road)
No. 86 Wake Forest (Road)
No. 91 Princeton (Neutral)
No. 208 Bryant (Home)
No. 218 Howard (Home)
No. 219 Georgetown (Home)
No. 266 Boston U (Home)
No. 308 St. Peter’s (Home)
No. 331 Stonehill (Home)
No. 363 LIU (Home)
January start to B1G play is brutal
While Rutgers does open league action at home against Illinois on December 2 as the only pre-2024 Big Ten game on the schedule, the start to the new year is extremely challenging. RU opens 2024 with road games at Ohio State on January 3 and at Iowa on January 6. Neither venue has been kind to the Scarlet Knights over the years. Rutgers does follow with Indiana at home, a favorable draw after winning 8 of the last 10 meetings including the last three in Piscataway.
Even so, the January 9 meeting with the Hoosiers won’t be easy as they’re tracking to be a top half team in the league. On January 14, the Scarlet Knights take what has become an annual trip to East Lansing against league favorite Michigan State. The Spartans are the only Big Ten team to be excused from visiting Jersey Mike’s Arena when you combine last season and this coming one.
Rutgers has a chance to reestablish home court advantage
Here is a breakdown of who Rutgers will play this season in Big Ten play.
Home Only: Indiana, Northwestern, Penn State
Away Only: Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota
Two Way: Purdue, Maryland, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Nebraska
The good news is several teams who have lost multiple visits in a row to Piscataway will visit again next season. Indiana and Illinois have lost four in a row at the RAC. Purdue and Penn State have lost three straight. Ohio State has lost two consecutive trips to Piscataway, both in the final minute of play. Wins over these programs in recent years have helped solidify one of the best homecourt advantages in the country.
Of course, Rutgers uncharacteristically lost its final three home contests to Nebraska, Michigan and Northwestern last season. That was more a product into the state of the team at the time more than anything else. With new leadership and a faster paced style expected, Rutgers certainly has an opportunity to make the RAC a nightmare once again this season. Winning at home has been a big part of RU becoming a regular top half Big Ten team and they need to reestablish that edge.
That leads to my last takeaway.
It never works out the way you think it will
Two seasons ago, most thought that the January portion of the Big Ten schedule was favorable on paper for Rutgers but that February was extremely difficult. Instead, RU lost to bottom half teams in Penn State, Minnesota and Maryland in January before rattling off a historic four game winning streak against ranked Big Ten teams in February.
Last season, Rutgers had a very challenging January on paper including road games at Purdue and Northwestern but beat both. They were alone in second place at 8-4 in early February in what was considered a very reasonable closing stretch of Big Ten play. Mawot Mag got injured and RU closed out with a 2-6 record.
So the takeaway is we don’t know what’s going to happen. It may appear that certain stretches are tougher than others right now. The reality is that the season will play out a certain way that’s impossible to predict. The schedule is what it is and the best teams will rise while the inferior ones will drop. Natural selection will play out. That being said, I do think Rutgers can win double digit Big Ten games for a fifth straight season.
Here is a full listing of the 2023-2024 season schedule for Rutgers.
Monday Nov. 6: Princeton (Neutral)
Friday Nov. 10: Boston U (Home)
Sunday Nov. 12: Bryant (Home)
Wednesday Nov. 15: Georgetown (Home)
Saturday Nov. 18: Howard (Home)
Monday Nov. 27: St. Peter’s (Home)
Saturday Dec. 2 Illinois (Home)
Wednesday Dec. 6 Wake Forest (Away)
Saturday Dec. 9 Seton Hall (Away)
Saturday Dec. 16 LIU (Home)
Saturday Dec. 23 Mississippi State (Neutral)
Saturday Dec. 30 Stonehill (Home)
Wednesday Jan. 3 Ohio State (Away)
Saturday Jan. 6 Iowa (Away)
Tuesday Jan. 9 Indiana (Home)
Sunday Jan. 14 Michigan State (Away)
Wednesday Jan. 17 Nebraska (Home)
Sunday Jan. 21 Illinois (Away)
Sunday Jan. 28 Purdue (Home)
Wednesday Jan. 31 Penn State (Home)
Saturday Feb. 3 Michigan (Away)
Tuesday Feb. 6 Maryland (Away)
Saturday Feb. 10 Wisconsin (Home)
Thursday Feb. 15 Northwestern (Home)
Sunday Feb. 18 Minnesota (Away)
Thursday Feb. 22 Purdue (Away)
Sunday Feb. 25 Maryland (Home)
Thursday Feb. 29 Michigan (Home)
Sunday Mar. 3 Nebraska (Away)
Thursday Mar. 7 Wisconsin (Away)
Sunday Mar. 10 Ohio State (Home)
From the release:
“Rutgers men’s basketball is riding a streak of 28 consecutive sold-out regular season games at Jersey Mike’s Arena. For the first time in school history, men’s basketball sold out every game on its home schedule, including setting the program record for most season tickets sold (5,873) in 2022-23.”
“Single-game tickets at Jersey Mike’s Arena for the 2023-24 season are limited and season tickets are sold out. Single-game tickets will go on sale later this fall. Fans can purchase tickets to the Princeton and Miss. State games above.”
“Start times and network designations for all conference and non-conference games will be
announced during the week of Sept. 25-29. The 27th Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament
will be held Wednesday, March 13 through Sunday, March 17 at the Target Center in
Woke up this morning with our new 2023-24 season schedule. 🪓
— Rutgers Men’s Basketball 🏀 (@RutgersMBB) September 19, 2023
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