On Thursday, the Big Ten conference announced home and away conference opponents for the 2023-2024 women’s basketball season. Once again there are 18 league games. Rutgers will play four conference foes in Piscataway, four on the road and five teams twice both home and away.
Here are the matchups for head coach Coquese Washington’s second season at Rutgers.
Home: Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Penn State
Away: Illinois, Nebraska, Ohio State, Purdue
Home/Away: Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Wisconsin
Here are three takeaways on the Big Ten slate for Rutgers.
Opportunity at home
Obviously rosters change, but based on last season’s standings, Rutgers will face both the top and bottom half of the Big Ten standings at home. Iowa, Indiana, and Maryland were the top three teams and are likely to be at or near the top once again next season. Michigan will be as well after finishing in fifth place last season. Playing both the Hawkeyes and Hoosiers just once at home is ideal. It doesn’t mean Rutgers will have a great chance to win, but it’s the most desirable scenario to play them.
On the flip side, hosting the bottom five teams from last season aside from themselves gives the Scarlet Knights an opportunity at home in likely winnable or toss up matchups. Four of the five wins in league play last season for Rutgers came against the bottom teams in Penn State, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Northwestern, who they also beat in the Big Ten Tournament. Playing them all at home next season gives reason for optimism that RU can exceed its conference win total of five victories in Washington’s first season.
Middle of the road is difficult
All four road only matchups for Rutgers are against teams that finished ahead in the Big Ten standings last season. The middle of the conference is who RU needs to gain ground on. Ohio State won 28 games and went to the Elite Eight last season. They could compete for a Big Ten title and are going to be a difficult matchup. And against the middle of the pack like Illinois, Purdue and Nebraska just once away from Piscataway. That is a tough draw. The Scarlet Knights won just once on the road at Minnesota last season. To climb up the Big Ten ladder this season, they’ll likely need to pull off at least a couple upsets away from Jersey Mike’s Arena.
Improved depth will help the grind
Washington and the coaching staff have done a good job of adding high impact transfers. At the same time, they retained many key contributors from last season. While the roster is still just ten scholarship players, the team is more talented and deeper. While part of it was the competition, Rutgers lost five of its last six regular season league games last season all by double digits. An eight player rotation was certainly a factor. We don’t know the dates of the Big Ten slate yet, but there should be optimism that Rutgers has a chance to finish better down the stretch this coming season. The program’s overseas trip in August should help the coaching staff determine potential rotations and help with player development as well.
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