1979 was the last time Rutgers was ranked, in season. The Scarlet Knights are now 25th in both major polls. This just the beginning for RU.
The Big Ten conference is the home of many big schools that are successful in a variety of sports. There is a standard that some teams struggle to achieve. One of those teams who is fighting to become relevant is the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.
When Rutgers is mentioned, the bad football team makes headlines more than any other sports. With its many losing seasons, the university needed to make a big change that can help Rutgers become a contender. Now that Greg Schiano has returned to coach the football team after nine years away, it has brought lots of publicity to the school and optimism that Rutgers University can compete in the Big Ten conference.
Rutgers fans have another thing to celebrate. The men’s basketball team is ranked for the first time since 1979. This is just the beginning for head coach Steve Pikiell and the Scarlett Knights.
Rutgers basketball hasn’t had a winning season since 2005-06 when they went 19-14. Between that season and the current season, RU had a winning percentage of 0.396 and a record of 164-250 with four different coaches including Steve Pikiell.
RU’s last NCAA march madness appearance was following the 1990-1991 season. It was a “one and done” affair. Ever since then Rutgers University has been itching to get back to the Big Dance. The road to redemption started with the hire of someone who has a track record of building a team and leading them to the tournament. That coach was Steve Pikiell.
Pikiell got his first full-time heading coaching job at Stony Brook for the 2005-06 season. He coached there for 10 years and brought a drastic improvement. Stony Brook went from 4-24 his first year to 26-7 in his final. His last season on Long Island included a trip to the NCAA tournament.
Rutgers is in the Big Ten Conference now, they need to prove their worthiness. Pikiell’s resume of turning unheralded Stony Brook into a tournament team was enough for Rutgers Athletic Director Patrick Hobbs to hire him to turn around the struggling Scarlet Knights program.
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Pikiell entered 2019-20 with a record of 44-54 in three seasons at Rutgers, with a 13-43 mark in conference play. Those poor numbers showed improvement was needed this year. Pikiell put a team together that can compete. They are led by 6-4 junior guard Geo Baker, and sophomore swingman Ron Harper Jr.
This is a team that spreads out the production, they can hurt opponents from all over the floor with a multitude of weapons. It has helped Rutgers make their way to a 15-5 record (6-3 in the Big Ten) and the No. 25 ranking in both the AP and Coaches Polls.
With the charisma and culture set by Pikiell and his staff, Rutgers has a legitimate shot at making this year’s NCAA tournament. As the Cinderella story continues in New Jersey, only time will tell when Rutgers can go for it all. This just the beginning for RU. In the meantime, Pikiell continues to push his team to excellence.
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