Friday, November 18, 2022

Keys to the Game: Rutgers vs. Temple (November 18, 2022)

photo courtesy of Getty Images

Rutgers (3-0) vs Temple (1-2)

The Rutgers Scarlet Knights are coming off three straight early season victories and five days of rest as they prepare to battle the Temple Owls (1-2) at the Mohegan Sun in Montville, CT (5 PM ET, ESPNU). They are about to face unpredictable Temple team as the Owls have a strange start to their season. The Owls dropped their season opener to Wagner but rebounded with a stunning victory over inner city rival and then-16th ranked Villanova last week. This past Tuesday, Temple hosted Vanderbilt and lost in overtime. In what has been deemed as one of Aaron McKie's best teams, Temple has two key players that can shoot and score quickly. Damian Dunn and Khalif Battle are leading the way for the Owls, and Rutgers is going to have to pay extra attention in shutting them down. Temple will be Rutgers' first true test of the season, and this is the first neutral site affair for the Scarlet Knights since November 2019 when they dropped a contest to St. Bonaventure.

In our season preview for Rutgers, we listed the Rutgers-Temple matchup as the first "key game" of the season for the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers will surely be tested tonight, and the Scarlet Knights might be without key players Caleb McConnell and Paul Mulcahy due to injuries. How will Rutgers will play without two of its best players? How do the Rutgers plan to guard Dunn and Battle? Can Cam Spencer and Derek Simpson step up and help deliver solid performances and lead the Scarlet Knights to victory?


  • Defend the perimeter - Damian Dunn is a red hot 58% from beyond the arc, and if Rutgers is going to have success defensively they must shut down Dunn along the perimeter. Whoever is going to guard Dunn is going to have to force him into taking difficult, contested shots. Last year the Scarlet Knights were very successful in shutting down some of the Big Ten Conference's most prolific scorers but that task was usually given to Caleb McConnell. If Caleb McConnell is a no-go for tonight, one of the Rutgers' guards will have to step up. Other Temple players to defend along the perimeter include Khalif Battle and Zach Hicks.
  • Get the ball down low to Cliff - Temple doesn't have the best interior defense and Rutgers should exploit the Owls by feeding the ball down low to Cliff Omoruyi, and let the big guy go to work on Jamille Reynolds. This is a game where Cliff has to takeover in the paint.
  • Fast start, smartly build lead - Rutgers has to get off to a fast start and not fall behind early. Rutgers has to take smart high percentage shots and move possession quickly on the fast break. If Rutgers can do these things and build a lead, they must find ways to sustain their lead. 
  • Pound the paint - Just like feeding the ball to Cliff, Rutgers has to pound the paint. Aundre Hyatt and Mawot Mag need to get involved and stay involved. Find ways to drive the lane to draw fouls early. Rutgers has proven that it can shoot at a high percentage from the charity stripe.
  • Simpson and Spencer must step up - Simpson and Spencer are expected to be the floor generals and they have to make smart decisions. Find ways to score on the floor and distribute the ball among the team.

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Keys to the Game: Sacred Heart at Rutgers (November 10, 2022)

photo courtesy of NJ Advance Media

Sacred Heart (1-0) at Rutgers (1-0)

After demolishing Columbia 75-35 on Monday this past week, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights will host the Sacred Heart Pioneers at The RAC on Thursday, November 10th at 7 PM ET (BTN+). Sacred Heart will be a little bit of a step up in competition as they are currently rated 294 in the KenPom Rankings. Sacred Heart recently defeated the Division III bound Hartford Hawks 77-70 in their opening game of the season this past Tuesday. Sacred Heart saw four players score in double-digits against Hartford, including G Joey Reilly tallying a team best 23 points.

Last year the Pioneers finished 10-20 overall and 6-12 in the Northeast Conference. Sacred Heart's final NET ranking was 323 and the Pioneers did not post a single noteworthy win last year. Rutgers leads the all-time series 4-0 against Sacred Heart, and last defeated the Pioneers 86-63 in 2020. The Pioneers also lost several key scorers to the transfer portal this past off-season; however, Pioneer coach Anthony Latina is bringing in three transfers, Brendan McGuire (Quinnipiac), Raheem Solomon (Niagara), and Aidan Carpenter (Siena) to fill that void.

This is a game Rutgers should be favored heavily to win, and the talent gap between the Scarlet Knights and Pioneers is not even close. Rutgers also has more experience and athleticism. Historically speaking though, Rutgers should not take teams like Sacred Heart lightly and should remained focused and determined to win. Sacred Heart will be a Q4 opponent for the Scarlet Knights.


  • No slow starts, keep your foot on the gas - Just like in the game against Columbia this past week, Rutgers needs to replicate the same start and get off to a hot one. If Rutgers can build its lead early, it should give confidence for the rest of the team. Rutgers needs to be able to manage the lead and distance themselves early from the Pioneers and not allow them to come back. In Monday's game against Columbia, Rutgers got off to a 21-5 start but only for Columbia to inch back into the game making it 25-21 at one point. Rutgers was able to reel off a 6-0 run to close the half with a 31-21 lead. If Rutgers jumps out to a big lead early on, they need to continue do what works by making high percentage shots, limit turnovers, and not to force anything. 
  • Get Spencer going early - Cam Spencer played an incredible second half against Columbia and nailed shot after shot, ultimately finishing with 17 points. If Rutgers can get Spencer going in the 1st half and he can continue to stay hot, there's no stopping him. Not only can Spencer shoot but he plays tough defense and can nab some steals. On a day McConnell will likely not play, Spencer can help fill that void.
  • Feed the beast - Rutgers needs to get the ball down low to Cliff Omoruyi and let the big guy go to work on an inferior team. Work to create good looks for Omoruyi to jam the ball and draw screens to free him up to shoot from the top of the key. Cliff's game has improved vastly and Rutgers needs to take full advantage.
  • Bench production - Rutgers did not nearly see as much bench production as they would like to have seen against Columbia, but when those bench players come into the game on Thursday, they have to capitalize, make shots, and not foul. Rutgers may have to rely on a tight 8-man rotation but if someone else from the bench can step up, it adds another dimension to the game.
  • Shut down Reilly - Joey Reilly proved on Tuesday that he is going to be one of the go-to guys on Sacred Heart as he nailed 5 of 7 three-point shots and was 9 of 12 from the field against Hartford. Rutgers is going to have to protect the perimeter on defense and guard Reilly real tight.
  • Get Mag and Hyatt involved - Both players appeared to have really improved since last season as Mawot Mag and Aundre Hyatt scored in double figures on Monday. Hyatt was able to nab a double-double with 10 rebounds and 12 points. If these guys continue to produce like they did in the game on Monday, they are bound for an incredible year. Rutgers truly needs these two warriors to produce in double figures once again.

Monday, November 7, 2022

8 key games for upcoming season

photo courtesy of the Associated Press

What are the Rutgers Scarlet Knights' most critical games for their upcoming season?


  • November 18, vs Temple Owls at Mohegan Sun - If Rutgers can get to November 18th unscathed, the Scarlet Knights should be riding high with confidence but they must not underestimate a pesky Temple Owls basketball team. This will be the Scarlet Knights' first real test of the season. Aaron McKie is projected to have his best team yet with prolific scorer Khalif Battle returning to the lineup. The match up with Temple is a great opportunity for Rutgers to nab a neutral floor victory and help their NET ranking.
  • November 30, at Miami Hurricanes - Many will expect the Scarlet Knights to be 6-0 by the time they tipoff against Miami in late November. This will be the first true road game of the season for Rutgers, and they have a huge opportunity to pick up a Q1 win. Miami will be loaded offensively with lots of talent.
  • December 3, Indiana Hoosiers - What a way to start of a Big Ten conference game! Rutgers hosts the preseason favorites Indiana Hoosiers in what will already be a critical game in the early part of the season. If Rutgers can deliver a one-two punch to the highly-rated Hoosiers, Rutgers could potentially be off to one of its best starts in several years. A win like this could set the tone for the rest of the season.
  • December 11, Seton Hall Pirates - Rutgers hosts its bitter rivals in the Garden State Hardwood Classic, and it's a game the Scarlet Knights do not want to lose. The game is at The RAC. The crowd is going to be insane. The atmosphere is going to be intense. New Jersey better get ready for an epic showdown. A win over Seton Hall will surely give the Scarlet Knights a potential Q1/Q2 victory.
  • January 5, Maryland Terrapins - The Scarlet Knights welcome back Kevin Willard to The RAC! Maryland has been one of the few teams to have success winning at The RAC and Rutgers will want to end that trend quickly.
  • February 4, vs Michigan State Spartans - Rutgers has had the upper hand in the last two seasons against Michigan State with blowout victories. Michigan State will be much improved and this time around the game will be much closer. Although listed as a home game for Rutgers, the February 4th battle will be at Madison Square Garden, which unfortunately takes away the homecourt advantage of The RAC. Expect Spartans fans and Scarlet Knights fans to turn out in numbers for this classic battle in the heart of Manhattan. 
  • February 23, Michigan Wolverines - This game is going to be in front of a wild crowd that might blow the roof off The RAC. Last year, things got a little heated in the handshake line after the game and expect the temperature of this game to rise. This will be a very important game concerning the standings in the Big Ten.
  • February 26, at Penn State Nittany Lions - Not sure if this game could be a trap game for the Scarlet Knights, but it will be an important one between the two rivals. Rutgers and Penn State have shared some epic physical battles the last couple of seasons. Rutgers may need this win towards the end of the season to stay atop the Big Ten standings.

Sunday, November 6, 2022

Keys to the Game: Columbia at Rutgers (November 7, 2022)

photo courtesy of NJ Advance Media

Columbia at Rutgers

The Rutgers Scarlet Knights will tip off tomorrow night at The RAC in their opening game of the 2022-23 season against the Ivy League's Columbia Lions (7 PM ET, BTN+). Columbia leads the all-time series 25-24. The last time both teams faced each other was in 2018 when the Scarlet Knights pulled off a 68-65 victory at The RAC.

Fans, there will be a new-look Rutgers team on the floor tomorrow night, and the Scarlet Knights will rely heavily on the experience of their three captains, Paul Mulcahy, Caleb McConnell, and Cliff Omoruyi; however, this calls for other rotational players to step up and takeover big roles. There are questions that remain including how will this Rutgers team operate offensively without the big production from previous studs Geo Baker and Ron Harper Jr.? How will this Rutgers team look defensively? Can Rutgers close out opponents and win down the stretch? Can this Rutgers team prevent themselves from going on long scoring droughts during games? While it's a long season and there is more that remains to be seen, expect Coach Steve Pikiell to test out different rotations, schemes, and game adjustments to have a sense of where his team is early in the season. Coach Pikiell may even use the first game of the season against Columbia as a test for certain rotational players.

Last season, Columbia finished 4-22 overall, 1-13 in Ivy League play with a final NET ranking of 351. Not much has changed in the off season for the Lions, but coach Jim Engles expects his team to be improved. Heading into this game, Columbia will be a Q4 opponent for the Scarlet Knights, and this is a game they are heavily favored to win.


  1. No sluggish starts - Rutgers has to get off to a fast start by scoring points and forcing turnovers early on. Rutgers has to look for good shots by pounding the paint and driving the lane. The Scarlet Knights must avoid forcing bad shots and unnecessary turnovers. If the Scarlet Knights can get off to a fast start and build a comfortable lead, it should help themselves build confidence. You do not want a lowly rated team like Columbia hanging around for 40 minutes. 
  2. Shut down De La Rosa and Murphy - Columbia returns two quality players on their roster, Rubio De La Rosa and Liam Murphy, both who averaged more than 12 ppg. It is expected De La Rosa and Murphy will get most of the looks for the Lions and take most of their shots. Rutgers must shut them down early by not allowing good looks and turn up the pressure to force turnovers. If Rutgers can shut down De La Rosa and Murphy, it will be a long night for Columbia.
  3. Feed the beast - It's pretty simple. Feed Cliff Omoruyi the ball and let him go to work down low. Omoruyi led the nation in dunks last season and he has improved his mid-range jumper in the off-season. Fans should expect Omoruyi to dominate in this game.
  4. Rebound! Rebound! Rebound! - Rutgers needs to get down in the trenches and win the battle of the boards. If Rutgers can win the battle of the boards it will limit Columbia's second chance opportunities.
  5. Spencer and Simpson - Cam Spencer and Derek Simpson are likely to see significant minutes in tomorrow's game, and if both players can get going offensively and heat up, Rutgers should run away from Columbia comfortably.

2022-23 keys to the season and predictions

photo courtesy of Rutgers Athletics

The 2022-23 Rutgers Scarlet Knights college basketball season starts on Monday!

Check out RHI's 2022-23 Rutgers Scarlet Knights season preview

Ahh, the college basketball season is upon us, and that means the 2022-23 season tips off next week for the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (vs Columbia, Monday, November 7th at 7 PM ET, BTN+). The Scarlet Knights will be looking to replicate the success they had last season and hope they can earn their third straight trip to the NCAA Tournament, something this program has never achieved. But without their big playmakers Geo Baker (graduated) and Ron Harper Jr. (NBA), both who have moved on from the program, can the Scarlet Knights find ways to score down the stretch, make clutch shots in pressure situations, and win big games?

The Scarlet Knights return three key players including preseason All-Big Ten player Cliff Omoruyi, arguably one of the best centers in the conference and maybe in college basketball, assist leader Paul Mulcahy, and 2021-22 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Caleb McConnell. Behind their top three players Rutgers also returns key contributors including Aundre Hyatt, Mawot Mag, Jalen Miller, Dean Reiber, and Oskar Palmquist. In the offseason, Coach Steve Pikiell and his staff were able to nab one of the Patriot League's top scorers Cam Spencer (Loyola) from the transfer portal and recruit three quality high school players in Derek Simpson, Antonio Chol, and Antwone Woolfolk.

Many analysts across college basketball believe the Big Ten is wide open this season, and the Scarlet Knights appear to be one of the most experienced in the conference. The Scarlet Knights will try to use their experience to their advantage when taking on the Big Ten's best. But the key for the Scarlet Knights to have success this season will have to be contributions from everyone on the team. Each player is going to have step up and take over new roles to fill the void left by Geo Baker and Ron Harper Jr.

It should be noted the Big Ten media selected the Scarlet Knights to finish 8th in the conference this season.


  • Take care of business early - Rutgers has to get off to a fast, good start to the early part of the season. Their first three opponents (Columbia, Sacred Heart, and UMass-Lowell) are likely to be Q4 opponents, and Rutgers has to shut them down quickly and keep them out of the game. Rutgers must avoid any early losses, especially to low-rated teams. Last year, Rutgers' season was on life support after suffering three early non-conference losses in a row to DePaul, UMass, and Lafayette. Not only did they suffer those three terrible losses, but the Scarlet Knights needed overtime to overcome Lehigh and a second half run to pull away from Merrimack at the beginning of last season. Rutgers must avoid a sluggish start to the season and take care of business early. If they can get off to a good start, the Scarlet Knights should be ready for their first real test of the season will be on November 18th when they face off against Temple at the Mohegan Sun.
  • Avoid bad losses - We talked about how important it is for Rutgers to get off to a good start immediately at the start of the season but the Scarlet Knights must avoid any bad losses throughout the season. Last year, the Scarlet Knights' season was littered with many quality wins but with many bad losses. The NCAA Tournament Committee will likely not be as kind as they were to Rutgers last season if the Scarlet Knights suffer any bad losses. This means the Scarlet Knights should finish no worse than 9-2 in the non-conference portion of the schedule but without any Q3 or Q4 losses. Rutgers must also beat the teams they are expected to beat (Northwestern, Nebraska, and Minnesota).
  • Avoid injuries - Rutgers must avoid the injury bug. Over the course of the last couple of seasons, Rutgers fans have witnessed the Scarlet Knights without key players for big games, and sometimes the results were not in their favor. Rutgers will already likely be without Caleb McConnell for Rutgers' opening game against Columbia. Rutgers has to stay healthy throughout the season and will need contributions from everyone on the team.
  • Play smart basketball from the jump - All too often we have seen the Scarlet Knights get off to slow starts against their opponents, and force bad shots or go through long stretches in games where they are ice cold from the field. Rutgers has to work hard for good looks and take good shots. Drive the ball down low for high percentage shots and pound the paint to draw fouls to get to the line. This year's team does not look like the type of team that is built to come from behind by many points. Rutgers relied all too often on Herculean efforts from Geo Baker and Ron Harper Jr. to rally the team from behind large deficits to win games. Playing smart basketball also means, they must avoid committing too many fouls and getting into foul trouble. If Cliff Omoruyi gets into foul trouble early, who is going to step up and fill his role? Also, playing smart basketball means avoiding unnecessary turnovers. Last season, Rutgers committed way too many turnovers allowing other teams opportunities to score points and go on runs.
  • Use The RAC to your advantage - Rutgers boasts an incredible home record of 42-8 since the 2019 season making it very difficult for its opponents to win against the Scarlet Knights at The RAC. Many of the games have already been listed as sold out and the fans are going to be in a frenzy because they believe in this team. Rutgers has to feed off the energy of the crowd and deliver a knockout punch to its opponents that take on the Scarlet Knights in Piscataway. The RAC is truly one of the most underrated college basketball homecourt advantages in the country.

If Rutgers can accomplish these five keys throughout the season, the Scarlet Knights should expect to be dancing in March once again. Despite analysts across the college hoops world saying the Big Ten will be down this season, that still doesn't mean the Big Ten will not be tough. The Big Ten will always be a grind, and will always have highly-rated quality basketball teams. Rutgers will have to be ready to battle each and every night to prove it is a contender in the conference and can make the dreams of another NCAA Tournament. Rutgers should finish in the top of half of the conference once again. PROJECTION: Rutgers finishes 21-10 overall, 12-8 in conference; earns 10-seed bid to the NCAA Tournament.


  • Aaron Breitman (The Scarlet Faithful) - "Rutgers men's basketball season preview & predictions" - Click here to read
  • Aaron Breitman (The Scarlet Faithful) - The Scarlet Faithful Podcast, Episode 33, Rutgers men's basketball preview with Jerry Carino - Click here to listen
  • Brian Fonseca (NJ Advance Media) - "Rutgers basketball season preview: New-look Scarlet Knights pursue historic NCAA Tournament 3-peat" - Click here to read
  • Bobby Deren (Scarlet Nation) - Scarlet Nation Podcast, Episode 109, What did we learn in Rutgers hoops' exhibition win? - Click here to listen
  • Declan Walsh (Sports Illustrated) - "How Rutgers reemerged as having one of college basketball's greatest venues" - Click here to read