Rutgers basketball went from being a starving team to a thriving team. Under Steve Pikiell’s leadership, they finally achieved a winning record, both in the Big Ten and overall.
Before March Madness was canceled due to the ongoing pandemic, Rutgers basketball completed its first winning season since 2005-06. They were also on the verge fighting for a spot in the NCAA tournament. Fans have been waiting for this opportunity, and credit should go to Steve Pikiell.
Back on March 24th, Pikiell was announced as the 2020 recipient of the Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year Award, presented by collegeinsider.com. It is an award given to the top coach in division one.
In 2016, Rutgers hired Steve Pikiell to develop a winning program. The same way Pikiell put one together at Stony Brook. It was no easy task as the previous season, Rutgers finished 1-17 in the Big Ten Conference. However, there is now an expectation for winning tradition to happen at the RAC.
In Pikiell’s first two seasons, the Scarlet Knights finished both campaigns with 15 total wins. They had more wins in two years than they combined for in the three years before Pikiell arrived. Along with increasing the number of RU’s games won, the Bristol, CT native focused on putting together a team through developing a style of play and then recruiting players to fit it.
Recruits like Geo Baker, Myles Johnson, and Shaq Carter laid a solid foundation for the turnaround at Rutgers. In 2018, Pikiell and staff were able to get a four-star player, Montez Mathis, to commit to the school. Recruits and transfers paved the way for what took place in the 2019-2020 season.
In a very competitive Big Ten, Rutgers finally put together a winning season. They finished their season 21-10 overall and 11-9 in the conference.
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In the previous season, they finished with14 and seven wins, respectively. That was the progression that Rutgers students and fans were expecting to see. Pikiell’s team was dominant at home this year. They finished with an impressive 18-1 record at the RAC.
Due to the pandemic, Rutgers missed a chance to compete for a spot in the tournament. That stopped college basketball fans from witnessing the work Pikiell did to make Rutgers a legitimate contender in the future. In March, Rutgers landed a commitment from nationally ranked center Cliff Omoruyi.
Steve Pikiell deserved the national award as well as the contract extension he received from Rutgers. He’s developed a winning culture at a school that was desperate for a change. The future of Rutgers basketball looks bright, and Steve Pikiell is the man to thank for it.