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Rutgers enters final week of regular season in familiar position



Photo credit Rutgers Athletics

Rutgers men’s basketball enters the final week of the regular season in a familiar position. The Scarlet Knights are jockeying for a position in the top half of the Big Ten standings while also fighting to clinch an NCAA Tournament berth.

Thursday’s game at Minnesota is important for many reasons. A win would give Rutgers 19 wins overall, a winning record in Big Ten play, a program record 5th road win since joining the league while also avoiding a fourth Quad 3 loss. However, the most important aspect would be that a win would very likely clinch an NCAA Tournament bid. That’s exactly what acclaimed Bracketologist Brad Wachtel said on The Scarlet Faithful podcast this week.

With a NET ranking of No. 32 and KenPom rating of No. 31, Rutgers is currently projected as a 9 seed by the Bracket Matrix, which accounts for 110 different bracketology projections.

A road win over the Gophers would eliminate any potential disturbance moving forward in regard to hurting RU’s resume. After beating Minnesota by 35 points at home last month, Rutgers will be double digit favorites. That being said, the Scarlet Knights lost in Minneapolis last season against a short handed team. Taking care of business on Thursday against a team that’s lost 12 games in a row is really important.

Northwestern will visit the RAC on Sunday night for the regular season finale. It’s senior night and Caleb McConnell’s last game at home. It should be an emotional night. Rutgers will want to end the regular season on a high note after losing their last two home games. It won’t be easy against the Wildcats. RU beat them in January at their place so revenge is on the menu. They have also been the biggest surprise in the league this season and are like Rutgers, a great defensive team. It will be Northwestern’s third road game in their last four contests.

The point is for a fourth year in a row, Rutgers enters the final week of the regular season with so much to play for. A double bye is still possible if RU can win both games. Although with the tiebreaker scenarios looking like Rutgers would need a lot for that to happen, winning out heading to the postseason would be huge. This team has fought through a ton of adversity this season.

“These guys, Caleb, Paul and Cliff, these guys are winners. They’ve been through this,” explained head coach Steve Pikiell. “They know the rigors of this league. I don’t think people really realize how hard it is, traveling and doing the things that these guys have to do on a daily basis. You can’t play well every night even though that’s what’s expected. But they continue to fight through it.

Rutgers has now won at least 10 games in the Big Ten regular season for the fourth straight year. However, there is so much more to still play for.

If the Scarlet Knights can earn a third straight NCAA Tournament bid, it will be the first time the program has done so.

The good news for the team is they’ve been here before. Needing wins in the final week of the regular season to punch their ticket to March Madness is something that has become a normal part of the schedule.

For fans, the ups and downs of the season can take a toll. However, Rutgers has proven in each of the last three previous seasons that they play their best with their backs against the wall. By winning at Wisconsin without Caleb McConnell and coming back from a 19 point deficit at Penn State while remarkable, has also become the norm for this program.

“That’s our culture,” McConnell said after the win over Penn State. “When our backs against the wall, we stick together, we show grit, we grind and, and that’s why we’re able to do things like this. That’s kind of what we’ve been preaching all year. Stay together, stay together, stay together and when we do us, we get us results. That’s what we showed tonight.”

March is here. For Rutgers, that has become not only a meaningful time, but a time when Pikiell’s teams show what they truly are. Winners. There is no reason to expect any different this week.

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  1. thevinman

    March 2, 2023 at 12:33 am

    {{The Scarlet Knights are jockeying for a position in the top half of the Big Ten standings while also fighting to clinch an NCAA Tournament berth.

    Thursday’s game at Minnesota is important for many reasons. A win would give Rutgers 19 wins overall, a winning record in Big Ten play, a program record 5th road win since joining the league while also avoiding a fourth Quad 3 loss.}}

    It is amazing how far coach Pikell and his staff has taken Rutgers, from a national joke to a team that is now expected to make the NCAAs. Wow, just wow!

  2. Henry Rutgers

    March 2, 2023 at 1:13 am

    Another quality article. You summed it up wonderfully.

    Games like Minnesota scare me. Minnesota has nothing to lose while for RU a loss would be devastating. We’ve shown we’re capable of great play but we’ve also shown that we can fail to show up.

    I actually was looking at flights and game tickets to go out and watch the game. Courtside seats were available for $8. They actually had some venue seats listed for $2. I didn’t know Stubhub went that low with ticket prices. My wife tempered my desire to go by reminding me we have some obligations that would be inconvenient to reschedule and guests coming over to watch the game in the theater room. She didn’t think it was funny when I said they could still watch the game at our home.

    I’m really excited about the Northwestern game Sunday. As good as Northwestern is playing, I think we can beat anyone in the league especially at home if we show up and are prepared. Minnesota first.

  3. BataliBoli98

    March 2, 2023 at 4:19 am

    As RU fans we’d be nervous regardless, but there is no team I’d rather play tomorrow on the road than Minnesota. I really liked Aaron’s points in the podcast and think that Simpson’s play the other night might light a fire under Mulcahy. I’d look for Hyatt to also break out of his funk. Cliff needs to play smart and again avoid foul trouble. Him on the bench could be the great equalizer. I think there will be some nervous moments in the first half, but RU will take it 72-62 and do so be sealing the win with made free throws.
    Go RU!

    • Henry Rutgers

      March 2, 2023 at 4:23 am


  4. pj43

    March 2, 2023 at 4:51 am

    I’d like to see each of the starters on his “A” game for this one with another nice bench contribution – if for no other reason than just to see what it would look like!

  5. Henry Rutgers

    March 2, 2023 at 2:07 pm

    As would I but who are your five starters? I’ve argued vigorously that Simpson should start at point guard with either Hyatt or Mulcahy in the Mag slot. If it were my choice, I’d start Hyatt and Mulcahy would come off the bench. One of the issues we’ve been debating is the coach’s favoritism when it comes to Mulcahy and his unwillingness to alter his starting five consistent with his philosophy of time played is time earned.

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