Saturday, February 26, 2022

Three big opportunities remain in the regular season

(photo courtesy of USA Today)

Only three games remain for Rutgers in the regular season

There are only three games left in the 2021-22 regular season for the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, and each game is just as important as the next. According to Bracket Matrix, in their most recent update, Rutgers is projected to land as an 11-seed or 12-seed in at least 79 brackets, including Rutgers as one of the Last Four In, which means Rutgers could possibly be in one of the play-in games. If Rutgers wants to bolster its tournament resume, improve its chances of making the NCAA Tournament, and avoid the dreaded play-in game, Rutgers must take care of business in its last three games. 

Rutgers has #13 Wisconsin (2/26), Indiana (3/20), and Penn State (3/6) left on the schedule. The game against Indiana (Q1) is Rutgers' only remaining road game, while Wisconsin (Q1) and Penn State (Q3) are home games. Many bracketologists and analysts have said Rutgers probably needs to win two out of three to be a lock for the NCAA Tournament. One thing is clear, Rutgers must avoid losing to Penn State at home. A loss to Penn State could potentially spell disaster for Rutgers because a Q3 loss at The RAC would severely damage their tournament chances. Currently, Rutgers is #83 in the NET Rankings, but they can vastly improve their ranking by snagging a road win against Indiana and wins at home against Wisconsin and Penn State.

The best chance for the Scarlet Knights to win two out of their final three games are most likely at home against #13 Wisconsin and Penn State. The RAC has been a tremendous advantage for Rutgers this season. Rutgers is 13-2 at home this season, with only losses to Maryland and a fluke loss to Lafayette. The Scarlet Knights have beaten all of their ranked opponents at The RAC this season. Rutgers' most recent victim at The RAC was #15 Illinois, where the Scarlet Knights cruised to a 70-59 victory. After the game, Fighting Illini coach Brad Underwood praised The RAC for its unbelievable atmosphere as Rutgers fans made it nearly impossible for Illinois to communicate to another on the court. Rutgers must use The RAC crowd to its advantage when they play against Wisconsin and Penn State.

The Scarlet Knights also have a chance to pick up a Q1 victory when they travel to Bloomington  on 3/2 to take on the Indiana Hoosiers. The Hoosiers have been extremely difficult to beat at Assembly Hall this season. The Hoosiers are currently 14-3 at home this season, with losses to Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin. Rutgers will face a tall task when taking on Indiana; however, Scarlet Knights have had the Hoosiers' number the last couple of seasons, including a season sweep of three games last season. A road win against Indiana would go a long way, and would greatly improve their NET ranking.

The Scarlet Knights know what they have to do to make another consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. After their most recent historic four game winning streak against four ranked opponents, Rutgers should still have the confidence to beat Wisconsin, Indiana, and Penn State in their final remaining games of the regular season despite their recent two game slide (losses to Purdue and Michigan on the road). Rutgers can end the bubble conversation by winning all three games, but they can still position themselves for the NCAA Tournament by winning two of their remaining games and avoid losing to Penn State at home.

Keys to the Game: #13 Wisconsin at Rutgers (February 26, 2022)

(photo courtesy of NJ Media Advance)

#13 Wisconsin (22-5; 13-4) at Rutgers (16-11; 10-7)

After dropping a second loss on the road at Michigan this week, Rutgers travels back home to Piscataway to take on the #13 Wisconsin Badgers this Saturday, February 26th (6 PM ET, BTN). This is an extremely important game for Rutgers to help keep their NCAA Tournament chances alive. If Rutgers pulls off a second upset of Wisconsin, they will have swept the Badgers for the year and earned themselves a Quadrant 1 victory. Meanwhile, this is a critical match-up for Wisconsin because a win at The RAC will keep the Badgers' Big Ten regular season title hopes alive. Wisconsin is going to try and become the first ranked team this season to come to The RAC and attempt to beat Rutgers. Rutgers has knocked off all of its ranked Big Ten opponents at The RAC this year. Rutgers throttled previously ranked #13 Michigan State by 21 points; narrowly escaped #22 Ohio State 66-64; crushed #15 Illinois 70-59; slowed down #25 Iowa 48-46; and upset previously ranked #1 Purdue on a last second Ron Harper Jr. heave 70-68.

The atmosphere this Saturday is going to be absolutely tremendous. NJ Media Advance's Brian Fonseca reported that as of Thursday the cheapest ticket available was $84. reported the game is now sold out. After the Scarlet Knights knocked off Illinois just over a week ago, Fighting Illini coach Brad Underwood praised The RAC for being one of the Big Ten's best and toughest atmospheres to play in for college basketball. Nothing can prepare Greg Gard's Badgers for what awaits at The RAC.

The first time these two teams met earlier this season, Rutgers pulled off a major upset 73-65 on the road at the Kohl Center. It was very close gritty back-and-forth affair between both teams. Rutgers fans can expect the same type of game again this time around. 


  1. Deny Johnny Davis - Rutgers held Johnny Davis to only 11 points the first time these two teams met. Caleb McConnell did an incredible job denying Davis. Davis finished well below his scoring average of 20.6 ppg. Davis is an intricate part of the Wisconsin offense and if Rutgers wants to win on Saturday, they must limit and deny any good looks for Davis. Look for Caleb McConnell to have the assignment of guarding one of the best players in the Big Ten, again.
  2. Defend the perimeter and clog the paint - If Davis is not an option on Saturday, Wisconsin will look elsewhere for help. Expect Wisconsin to turn to Brad Davison and Tyler Wahl for help offensively. Brad Davison can be lethal beyond the perimeter. If Davison gets good looks from beyond the arc and heats up, there can be no stopping him. Last time Rutgers faced Wisconsin, the Scarlet Knights forced Davison and Chucky Hepburn to shoot a combined 2-of-13 from beyond the arc. Rutgers is going to have to put immense pressure on Davison and Hepburn, and deny them any good looks from beyond the arc. Despite the Scarlet Knights playing great perimeter defense in the last meeting, Tyler Wahl killed Rutgers in the paint. Wahl scored 23 points, including 9-of-14 shooting from the field. Ron Harper Jr, Cliff Omoruyi, Dean Reiber, and Mawot Mag are going to have to size Wahl up and play very physical defense.
  3. Play with mental focus, physicality, and toughness - Rutgers looked a step too slow in their 71-62 loss to Michigan, and it almost appeared as if they lost their edge with tenacity, physicality, and toughness. Steve Pikiell's teams have always been known to be very aggressive, physical, and tough. Rutgers is going to have bring everything they got to this game on Saturday. Rutgers has to remain locked in from the tip. The Scarlet Knights have to rebound well, drive the lanes and draw fouls, and force turnovers. Rutgers cannot allow themselves to get off to a slow start and play catch up, especially against a very possession efficient Wisconsin team. Rutgers has to work for good looks around the basket. Also, they must stay mentally focused. Paul Mulcahy was visibly frustrated in the game against Michigan earlier this week and he cannot allow himself a breakdown during the game. Rutgers also must be smart and not commit unnecessary fouls in key situations.
  4. Unleash Ron Harper Jr and Geo Baker - These two are the leaders and faces of this Rutgers Scarlet Knights basketball program. Both must have a big game against Wisconsin. It doesn't always boil down to points, but if they can both carve out assists, defensive stops, and good ball distribution Rutgers is going to be successful. Ron Harper Jr and Geo Baker must continue to work for good shots and not force bad shots.
  5. Feed off the crowd - Listen, The RAC is going to be loud on Saturday. It is going to be absolutely insane. Rutgers needs to feed off the energy of the crowd and keep their foot on the gas pedal. Keeping the crowd engaged the entire game is going to make it miserable for Wisconsin.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Keys to the Game: Rutgers at Michigan (February 23, 2022)

(photo courtesy of the Asbury Park Press)

Rutgers (16-10; 10-6) at Michigan (14-11; 8-7)

The Rutgers Scarlet Knights have now entered the most critical stretch of their 2021-22 season. It is definitely gut check time for the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers has four remaining games on their schedule, and it appears every remaining game is just as important as the next. Rutgers travels to Ann Arbor to battle the Michigan Wolverines (14-11 overall; 8-7) on Wednesday, February 23rd (7 PM ET; BTN). The Michigan Wolverines will be without their head coach Juwan Howard, currently serving a five-game suspension, and two key players, Moussa Diabate and Terrance Williams, both serving one-game suspensions, for their roles in the altercation that took place at the conclusion of their game with Wisconsin this past Sunday. Phil Martelli will be filling in as the interim head coach while Howard is serving his suspension. 

Both teams met earlier this season as Rutgers prevailed with a 75-67 victory at The RAC. Michigan was short-handed a couple of players in their first meeting due to COVID-19, but this time around Michigan will be short-handed one of their best players in Moussa Diabate. Diabate scored 15 points and had 9 rebounds in the first meeting. His production in the game on Wednesday will sorely be missed. Diabate has had some big games recently including 28 points in the Michigan win over Iowa, as well as 15 points in their upset of Purdue.

Michigan is going to be playing for their tournament lives on Wednesday, as they desperately need a win and to avoid a loss to Rutgers at home. A loss to Rutgers (Q3) could be potentially damaging to Michigan's tournament resume. On the other hand, Rutgers needs to win in Ann Arbor to add another Q1 win to their tournament resume and to secure an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament.


  1. No slow starts - Rutgers has done a great job in their last several games by getting off to good starts. Rutgers must avoid any slow starts at all costs. Also, Rutgers must avoid going cold from the field. That means Rutgers has to take good shots. Pound the rock. Drive the lane early. Try to get Michigan's Hunter Dickinson into foul trouble early in the game. If Rutgers is able to force turnovers, put on the jets and score points in transition, they can win this game.
  2. Shut down Hunter Dickinson - Many reasons why Michigan has had success beating good teams this season is because of Hunter Dickinson. He is the nucleus of this team, and most of the scoring goes through him. He is averaging 18.0 ppg. He is also averaging 8.1 rpg. Rutgers has to shut him down completely. They have to make all of his shot attempts difficult. Rutgers has to box him out real well on the boards to avoid letting him get any second chance opportunities.
  3. Defend the perimeter - Much of the three point shooting is done by Eli Brooks and Caleb Houstan. Together they are averaging a combined 37% from deep. Rutgers can ill-afford letting these two players get any good looks from deep. When both get hot from deep, they can stay hot and be momentum killers for Rutgers. 
  4. Play with tenacity, toughness, and mental focus - This game is going to be a war. Michigan is already going to be fired up for this game because they are without their head coach and one of their best players. Despite being a bit short-handed, don't expect Michigan to take this game lightly. They are going to want to win this one for their suspended coach, for their fans, and for their NCAA tournament lives. Rutgers is going to have to battle for every loose ball and every rebound. They are going to have to play with tenacity and toughness while maintaining their composure and mental focus. Rutgers must avoid committing too many fouls and sending the Wolverines to the charity stripe.
  5. Team chemistry - Rutgers has to continue distributing the ball on the floor to each of its players and look for the best shot available. Do not play isolation ball. Communication is also going to be key in this game. With a hostile crowd on hand, Rutgers is going to have to effectively communicate with one another on the defensive and offensive sides of the ball. 
  6. (BONUS) Do not underestimate Phil Martelli - Phil Martelli is no student to the game. He coached at St. Joseph's for 24 seasons with lots of success. He was brought onto Michigan in 2019 as an associate head coach by Juwan Howard to help with recruiting and game experience. Expect Martelli to have a game plan for tomorrow. 

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Keys to the Game: Rutgers vs #5 Purdue (February 20, 2022)

(photo courtesy of The IndyStar)

Rutgers (16-9; 10-5) at #5 Purdue (23-4; 12-4)

The Rutgers Scarlet Knights passed another test this past Wednesday when they blitzed past #12 Illinois, and are riding a four-game winning streak, one which includes four wins over ranked opponents. Immediately from the tipoff, Rutgers took full control of the game against Illinois and never looked back. It is going to take a similar performance from Wednesday's game to beat the #5 Purdue Boilermakers at Mackey Arena on Sunday, February 20 (5:30 PM ET, FS1). Rutgers is playing with a lot of confidence right now, but they are playing with tenacity, physicality, and great team chemistry. The last time Rutgers and Purdue squared off, the Scarlet Knights upset the Boilermakers with a last second heave by Ron Harper Jr at the buzzer to win the game 70-68. 

However, that game was back in early December. Now it is February, and a lot has changed since then. Purdue is currently sitting in first place and have reeled off a slew of big wins. Despite their excellent record and first place position in the Big Ten, Purdue has struggled in their last three games, winning two out of three. They were blown out by Michigan 82-58; escaped with a win at home against Maryland 62-61; and had a very difficult time putting away Northwestern 70-64. Each one of these three teams forced one singular issue with Purdue. They made Purdue turnover the ball. Purdue is averaging 15 turnovers a game in their last three games.

Rutgers is currently riding a four-game winning streak against Purdue dating back to the 2019-20 season. Rutgers has shown it is capable of winning in one of the Big Ten's toughest environments. The Scarlet Knights did just that when they knocked off the Boilermakers 71-68 in OT at Mackey Arena during the 2019-20 season. This time around, Matt Painter, his players, and the fans may take this game very personal on Sunday. Purdue is tired of losing to Rutgers, and they will be expected to battle the Scarlet Knights with everything they got. If Rutgers were to pull off the unthinkable and upset the Boilermakers again this season, it would catapult the Scarlet Knights NET ranking and more than likely ensure an NCAA Tournament bid.

One question remains, and that is the status of Ron Harper Jr, who hurt his finger in the last couple of minutes in the game on Wednesday. He is listed as day-to-day and the injury does not appear to be too serious. Will he play in this game on Sunday or get rest to help his injured finger?


  1. Do not be intimidated by Mackey - Mackey Arena is known to be one of the most difficult atmospheres to play in. Purdue's crowd is going to be loud, wild, and in a frenzy the entire game. This should come as no surprise to Rutgers, but the Scarlet Knights should be used to this by now. The RAC is probably, if not, just as good of an atmosphere as Mackey. Rutgers must shake out the butterflies and not be intimidated by the hostile environment they are walking into. Rutgers must get off to a good solid start so they can prepare themselves to go blow for blow with Purdue. 
  2. Force turnovers - Purdue has been very turnover prone in their last three games. Michigan, Maryland, and Northwestern all forced Purdue to commit a lot of turnovers. Purdue is averaging about 15 turnovers per game in their last three games. Caleb McConnell and Geo Baker have to force the issue, and swarm all over the court to grab steals and force bad passes.
  3. Defend the perimeter - Rutgers has been excellent on the defensive side of the ball in their last four games. They have defended the perimeter very well, and this has to continue on Sunday evening. Purdue has an excellent group of three-point shooters. Sasha Stefanovic and Mason Gillis can be deadly from deep. Both players are averaging a combined 43% from deep. Rutgers can ill afford to let Purdue get hot from deep. Rutgers will have to pressure them on the perimeter and play very tight swarming defense.
  4. Limit Jaden Ivey - Caleb McConnell has been up to the task in his last four games with guarding the best players on each team. Well, he has to guard Jaden Ivey on Sunday. Jaden Ivey is a fantastic versatile player who can shoot and rebound. Ivey is averaging 17 ppg, and McConnell is going to have to guard him real well and force him to take bad shots.
  5. Rebound! Rebound! Rebound! - Purdue's player size is without a doubt much bigger than Rutgers. Zach Edey and Trevion Williams are monsters in the paint, and boxing out those two are going to be a big task for Cliff Omoruyi and Dean Reiber. Rutgers is going to have to get locked in and try to do whatever they can to scrap and pull down rebounds. Last time these two met, Purdue out rebounded Rutgers by a margin of 8. If Rutgers wants to have any success in winning this game, they are going to have be on the positive end of rebounding. Especially, when it comes to limiting Purdue with second chance opportunities on the glass.

Friday, February 18, 2022

Rutgers making its March case stronger


(photo by Scott Faytok of NJ Media Advance)

Rutgers has been improving its performance and tournament resume

The entire college basketball world has been swept off its feet and is now aware who the Rutgers Scarlet Knights truly are. Rutgers is on a historic winning streak after becoming the first unranked college basketball team to upset four ranked opponents in a row (#19 Michigan State, #18 Ohio State, #15 Wisconsin, and #12 Illinois). Rutgers is now 5-1 against AP Top 25 teams this season. Rutgers and #5 Purdue share the best record against AP Top 25 teams in the entire country. Not even #1 Gonzaga or #2 Auburn can make that claim.  

This all comes as a major surprise to the college basketball world after Rutgers suffered early season losses to Massachusetts and Lafayette, as well as losses to the bottom four teams in the Big Ten Conference (Penn State, Northwestern, Maryland, and Minnesota). However, Rutgers is still in contention with the Big Ten's best for first place and possibly in position to earn a share of the regular season Big Ten season title. Many fans and media outlets have written off Rutgers early on in the season, but the Scarlet Knights have continued fighting. 

It has been attributed to the second half of the game against Northwestern in early February as to what sparked Rutgers to go on an improbable run against the best teams in the Big Ten. Despite the loss to Northwestern, Coach Steve Pikiell made many changes defensively and offensively in the second half, which led to success for Rutgers and they almost won the game in overtime after trailing as much as 24 points. Rutgers learned a lot about themselves after that game. They applied from what they learned in the second half of the Northwestern game to each one of their games that followed. The result? An historic four-game winning streak against ranked opponents.  

Coach Pikiell has Rutgers playing at a very high level since the Northwestern game, and it was only a matter of time until this team found its true identity. Rutgers is playing with more intensity and focus than they did earlier in the season. Rutgers has drastically improved its team chemistry, including better distribution of the ball and less isolation play. Rutgers is also back to playing very physical, swarming defense. Physicality and defense have always been the cornerstone of Pikiell's teams. The Scarlet Knights are a team no one wants to play right now.


Currently, Rutgers has a NET ranking of 74. A road win against #5 Purdue this weekend would be massive, and certainly boost their NET ranking. It would be yet another Q1 win for the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers boasts a record of 6-3 against Q1 teams, one of the best in the country and a record of 5-1 against ranked teams in the AP Poll, tied with Purdue for the best in college basketball. Here is Rutgers record against each quadrant in the NET rankings:
  • Quadrant 1: 6-3
  • Quadrant 2: 2-3
  • Quadrant 3: 2-2
  • Quadrant 4: 6-1
Despite the early season losses to Lafayette (Q4) and Massachusetts (Q3), Rutgers appears to be on its way to a possible at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament. According to Bracket Matrix, as of February 16, Rutgers is projected to land between a 10-12 seed in the NCAA Tournament in at least 13 different brackets. Popular bracketologists like Joe Lunardi (of ESPN) and Jerry Palm (of CBS Sports) have projected Rutgers as an 11-seed. This will likely improve if Rutgers were to win 3 out of their 5 remaining games of the regular season and if they can pick up win in the Big Ten Conference Tournament.

Before Rutgers fans can start celebrating and dancing, Rutgers has to finish the season strong. The NCAA Tournament Committee will likely watch Rutgers very closely, and will look to see how Rutgers finishes in its last 10 games. 

Rutgers has road games remaining against Purdue (2/20), Michigan (2/23), and Indiana (3/2), all which are Q1 opponents. The Committee loves when they see good teams win on the road, and it will be imperative for Rutgers to snag a road victory down the stretch. Rutgers is currently 3-7 on the road this season. Rutgers has road victories over Wisconsin (Q1), Maryland (Q2), and Nebraska (Q3). Although the Scarlet Knights' road record does not look as impressive, consider Big Ten foes Indiana's and Iowa's records on the road. Indiana's record on the road is just 2-6 while Iowa's is 3-5. Currently, both teams are projected to land in the Field of 68, and are projected to seed better than Rutgers despite both teams' having slightly worse quality wins on the road. Indiana has only beaten Maryland (Q2) and Nebraska (Q3) on the road this season. Iowa's best road wins were against Utah State (Q2), Virginia (Q2), and Minnesota (Q2). If Rutgers truly wants to get the monkey off its back and secure a sure bid, it would be ideal for Rutgers to win one of its three remaining road contests.

Rutgers has only two remaining home games, which include Wisconsin (2/26) and Penn State (3/6). The game against Wisconsin would be an opportunity for another Q1 victory; however, the game against Penn State would be a potential Q2 or Q3 matchup depending where the Nittany Lions land in the NET rankings by March 6th. A Q2 win against Penn State would help boost the Scarlet Knights' NET ranking by just a little bit; however, if Penn State were to enter the game as a Q3 opponent, a loss to the Nittany Lions could be damaging to their tournament chances. Rutgers must win both of these games. Rutgers is currently 13-2 at home this season and they have made it virtually a nightmare for opponents to play the Scarlet Knights at The RAC. Rutgers has made incredible adjustments the last two weeks during their historic run, and it will likely continue when the Badgers and Nittany Lions come to Piscataway.


If Rutgers were to continue its historic run with a string of upsets down the stretch it is possible Rutgers could be looking at potentially winning or sharing the Big Ten regular season title. It would be a remarkable turn of events for a team that was left for dead back in November when they suffered two poor losses by the likes of Massachusetts and Lafayette. It would truly be a real embarrassment and a shame if Rutgers were to finish in the top four of the Big Ten Conference and receive a double digit seed from the NCAA Tournament Committee. However, Rutgers has to remain focused and take each game at a time, and most importantly, WIN!

If you want to track the Rutgers Scarlet Knights NET ranking summary report, please visit the NCAA's summary sheet here.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Keys to the Game: Rutgers vs #12 Illinois (February 16, 2022)

(photo courtesy of The Daily Illini)

#12 Illinois (18-6; 11-3) at Rutgers (15-9; 9-5)

The Rutgers Scarlet Knights face one of their most difficult challenges of the season in #12 Illinois on Wednesday, February 16 (7 PM ET, BTN); however, Rutgers is riding a hot three-game winning streak after knocking off #19 Michigan State, #18 Ohio State, and #15 Wisconsin. Rutgers should have a lot of momentum going into this game. Rutgers has been the talk of the nation after its recent string of upset victories. Rutgers received 10 votes for the Associated Press Top 25 rankings and Geo Baker earned co-Big Ten Player of the Week. Once left for dead, Rutgers has resurrected its season and they find themselves square on the bubble for the 2022 NCAA Tournament. Rutgers is currently #81 in the NET rankings, #78 in the KenPom rankings, and #62 in the Sagarin ratings. These two teams met early in the season, and Rutgers was blown out in Champaign by a score of 86-51.


  1. Defend the perimeter - Caleb McConnell has been extraordinary on defense the entire season. He has been the primary defender assigned to defend each team's best player. He has done a remarkable job and he is going to have to continue his incredible defense along the perimeter. Rutgers cannot allow Illinois to get hot beyond the arc. When Alfonso Williams, Jacob Grandison, and Trent Frazier begin heating up from deep, Illinois can be unstoppable. Rutgers' defenders will be have to be locked in and force bad shots or not allow Illinois to get good looks.
  2. No easy baskets for Kofi Cockburn - Cliff Omoruyi and Dean Reiber are going up against one of the best centers in the Big Ten. Cockburn is a dominant player down low and he is one of Illinois' primary scorers. Where Rutgers lacks in size down low, Omoruyi and Reiber are going to have to hold their own and do everything they can to make Cockburn's life miserable. Force Cockburn to take bad shots and do not allow Illinois to easily feed the ball to him.
  3. Rebound! Rebound! Rebound! - Rutgers was dominated on the boards by Illinois last time they met in December. If Rutgers is going to have any chance in winning this game, they have to rebound defensively and limit Illinois' second chance opportunities. On the flip side of the coin, Rutgers is going to have to try and convert second chance opportunities on the glass.
  4. Drive the lane, draw fouls - Rutgers has done a great job in the last three games in driving the lane and pounding the rock down low. They have been able to score baskets and draw fouls. Rutgers is shooting well from the free-throw line this season, and in their last three games, Rutgers is averaging about 77% from the line. If Rutgers can get some of Illinois' key players in foul trouble, they could win this game.
  5. The RAC needs to rock! - Rutgers' needs to keep its crowd engaged from the tip. No slow starts, and Rutgers has to stay locked in for 40 minutes. If they are able to do this, the RAC will certainly be raucous and loud the entire game making it difficult for Illinois. Just ask Ohio State after they were unable to even hear the shot clock buzzer when they visited the RAC last week.


Tuesday, February 15, 2022

The remaining gauntlet

(photo courtesy of 247sports)

Rutgers Remaining Opponents

Rutgers only has six regular season games left on the schedule before they play in the Big Ten Conference Tournament. Each game is extremely important and vital to helping Rutgers continue to build its resume and its case for an at-large bid in the 2022 NCAA Tournament. Below are the remaining opponents on the schedule for Rutgers with each team's net ranking in parenthesis and which quadrant they are in.

  • February 16 - vs Illinois (#13, Q1)
  • February 20 - at Purdue (#9, Q1)
  • February 23 - at Michigan (#36, Q1)
  • February 26 - vs Wisconsin (#23, Q1)
  • March 2 - at Indiana (#41, Q1)
  • March 6 - vs Penn State (#93, Q3)
Each one of Rutgers' remaining opponents are going to be extremely difficult to beat, but it can be done. Many doubted Rutgers entering the February slate after Rutgers lost a heartbreaker to Northwestern 79-78, which dropped Rutgers to 12-9 overall and 6-5 in the conference. Since the loss to Northwestern, Rutgers has reeled off three impressive victories over #19 Michigan State, #18 Ohio State, and #15 Wisconsin, all which are Q1 wins. Rutgers has improved its NET ranking drastically and has notched three more Quad 1 wins to improve its Quad 1 record to 6-3. Rutgers was selected by ESPN as the National Team of the Week; Andy Katz proclaimed Rutgers as his Team of the Week; and Geo Baker was named Co-Big Ten Player of the Week.

So what was the turning point of the Rutgers season that fueled three impressive victories in a row?

That question can be answered by Rutgers' unrelenting fight in the second half against Northwestern. Rutgers was down by at least 24 points in the second half, but somehow, Rutgers was able to claw their way back into the game and force overtime. Coach Steve Pikiell decided to change things up defensively and offensively in the second half, and his adjustments were a thing of beauty. Paul Mulcahy scored a career high 31 points and had 7 assists, while Cliff Omoruyi scored 22 points and had 6 rebounds. Despite the loss, Rutgers learned more about themselves and what they needed to do to win games and play better defensively when the gauntlet approached.

After winning against three ranked opponents in a row, Rutgers finds itself on the cusp of possibly earning an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament. Right now, Rutgers remains on the bubble but they can improve their tournament resume by winning three more games in its next six. 

Rutgers best opportunity to win three more games are probably at home but do not count this Rutgers team out on the road despite their 3-7 road record. Rutgers recently visited the Kohl Center, a place Rutgers has struggled mightily since joining the Big Ten, and went pound-for-pound with Wisconsin in a stunning 73-65 victory.

Rutgers has owned the State of Indiana lately. Rutgers is 7-0 against Indiana and Purdue combined in the last two seasons. Last time Rutgers played Purdue at Mackey Arena was in the 2019-2020 season, where Rutgers came away with a crucial 71-68 overtime win. Rutgers beat Indiana three times in the 2020-2021 season, including a 74-70 win at Assembly Hall. Rutgers edged previously #1 ranked Purdue this season at the RAC 70-68. Purdue and Indiana will be frothing at their mouths hungry for revenge and will be looking to end Rutgers' winning streak in the state of Indiana. 

If Rutgers can win its three remaining home games against Illinois, Wisconsin, and Penn State and snag a road victory against either Indiana, Purdue, or Michigan, Rutgers should be a lock for the NCAA Tournament. Whether they earn a decent seed would be the question that remains. They are likely looking at an 11 or 12 seed in the NCAA Tournament.