Saturday, March 18, 2023

Future Rutgers star Gavin Griffiths and others set to play in 60th Schoolboy/Schoolgirl Classic


photo courtesy of Rutgers Athletics

The Schoolboy/Schoolgirl Classic turns 60 on March 26th as Gavin Griffiths and Pape Kante highlight all-star players  appearing in the tournament.

by Richard Kent, Contributor

The Schoolboy/Schoolgirl Classic enters its 60th season as the all-star basketball tournament will be played in Bridgeport, Connecticut on March 26. 

It is the oldest, continuous running high school all-star game in the United States. It is even older than the McDonald's All-Star Game and The Dapper Dan Roundball Classic.

The Schoolboy/Schoolgirl Classic's origins began as an event in the 1960s that put the best high school players on teams representing Connecticut, New Jersey, Long Island, and New York City, and each team played games against one another.

Rod Foster, John Bagley, Harper Williams, Jeff Ruland, Sidney Green, Gary Brokaw, and hundreds of others, including 52 future NBA players, have all participated in this all-star event.

Rutgers has been well represented in this game. Previous Rutgers players Geoff and Todd Billet, Dahntay Jones, Jeff Allen, and Waliyy Dixon have all played in this game. Waliyy Dixon remains one of the top scorers in the history of this all-star game.

One of the most colorful characters in all of high school basketball history, Bronx staple Howard Garfinkel was a fixture at this event for decades and assisted with the selection of the New Jersey team.

Hall of Fame legendary college coaches, including John Wooden, Jim Calhoun, Pete Carril and many more, have all attended this event.

The Schoolboy/Schoolgirl Classic now boasts a Connecticut Girls East-West game, followed by a Boys Connecticut-New Jersey game.

In last year's 59th edition of the all-star game, Derek Simpson had a coming out party for New Jersey in a 10 point win over Connecticut. Also, current UConn player, Donovan Clingan played for Connecticut in the all-star game. 

This year's game takes place on March 26th, 3 PM at the Cardinal Shehan Center in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Rutgers five-star commit Gavin Griffiths and Michigan four-star commit Papa Kante will both be playing for Connecticut.

See the rosters below of each the boys teams and girls teams:

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Rutgers Tournament Resume vs Bubble Teams, 2023 Version


photo courtesy of Getty Images

How does Rutgers tournament resume stack up against the other bubble teams?

As Selection Sunday is only hours away, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights have another very interesting tournament resume just like last season. There are positives and there are negatives. Let's compare Rutgers' resume to the rest of the bubble teams. (Note: All information is current as of 11 March. Seeding projections are based on averages from

graphic courtesy of Mike Broadbent (The Knight Report)


  • Latest Seed Projection: 11 (Last Four In)
  • Appearing In Total Brackets: 114 out of 118
  • NET Rankings: 40
  • KenPom Rankings: 35
  • NET SOS: 41
  • NC SOS: 314
  • Home Record: 14-5
  • Away Record: 4-7 (includes three Q1 wins & one Q2 win)
  • Neutral Record: 1-2 (includes one Q2 win)
  • SOR: 57
  • Quadrant Record:
    • Q1: 5-7
    • Q2: 5-3 
    • Q3: 2-4
    • Q4: 7-0
  • Best Wins: 12/3, Indiana (27, Q1); 1/2, at Purdue (5, Q1); 1/5, Maryland (22, Q1); 1/11, at Northwestern (41, Q1); 1/15, Ohio State (48, Q2); 1/24, Penn State (55, Q2); 2/4, Michigan State (33, Q2); 2/26, at Penn State (55, Q1); 3/9, vs Michigan (58, Q2)
  • Bad Losses: 11/18, vs Temple (127, Q3); 2/14, Nebraska (93, Q3); 3/2, at Minnesota (220, Q3)
  • Interesting Note: Of all the bubble teams, Rutgers has the worst non-conference strength of schedule at 314. Rutgers does own the most true Q1 road wins out of all the teams projected to make the field. Rutgers also owns 7 wins over teams projected to the make the field and two Q1A wins.



  • Latest Seed Projection: 11 (Last Four In)
  • Appearing In Total Brackets: 114 out of 118
  • NET Rankings: 49
  • KenPom Rankings: 49
  • NET SOS: 38
  • NC SOS: 230
  • Home Record: 12-4 
  • Away Record: 4-6 (includes one Q1 win & one Q2 win)
  • Neutral Record: 5-2 (includes one Q1 win & two Q2 wins)
  • SOR: 41
  • Quadrant Record:
    • Q1: 4-8
    • Q2: 4-3
    • Q3: 5-1
    • Q4: 8-0
  • Best Wins: 11/21, vs Marquette (12, Q1); 1/28, TCU (29, Q1); 2/4, Missouri (42, Q2); 2/11, at Arkansas (22, Q1); 2/25, Texas A&M (20, Q1); 3/9, vs Florida (60, Q2)
  • Bad Losses: 1/11, at Georgia (152, Q3)
  • Interesting Note: Mississippi State is 5-2 on neutral floors, which is a very solid record. The Bulldogs own one of the best neutral floor victories this year when they defeated Marquette 58-55 back in November. The Bulldogs do have one Q1A win on the season and it came on the road against Arkansas back in mid-February.

PITTSBURGH (22-11; 15-7)

  • Latest Seed Projection: 11 (Last Four In)
  • Appearing In Total Brackets: 80 out of 118
  • NET Rankings: 67
  • KenPom Ranking: 78
  • NET SOS: 89
  • NC SOS: 145
  • Home Record: 14-3 
  • Away Record: 7-5 (includes three Q1 wins)
  • Neutral Record: 1-3
  • SOR: 58
  • Quadrant Record:
    • Q1: 4-4
    • Q2: 3-5
    • Q3: 5-1
    • Q4: 10-1
  • Best Wins: 11/28, at Northwestern (41, Q1); 12/2, at NC State (45, Q1); 12/30, North Carolina (46, Q2); 1/3, Virginia (23, Q1); 1/28, Miami (35, Q2); 2/1, at North Carolina (46, Q1)
  • Bad Losses: 1/21, Florida State (221, Q4); 3/1, at Notre Dame (186, Q3)
  • Interesting Note: Pittsburgh has zero Q1A wins and has the worst SOR among the projected teams to make the field. Pittsburgh lost by 31 to Michigan earlier in the season as well as a 25 point loss to West Virginia and 27 point loss to Duke.
ARIZONA STATE (22-12; 13-10)
  • Latest Seed Projection: 11 (Last Four In)
  • Appearing In Total Brackets: 95 out of 118
  • NET Rankings: 66
  • KenPom Rankings: 68
  • NET SOS: 54
  • NC SOS: 188
  • Home Record: 10-5
  • Away Record: 7-6 (includes three Q1 wins)
  • Neutral Record: 5-1 (includes two Q1 wins & two Q2 wins)
  • SOR: 47
  • Quadrant Record:
    • Q1: 5-6
    • Q2: 4-5
    • Q3: 5-0
    • Q4: 8-1
  • Best Wins: 11/16, vs VCU (61, Q2); 11/17, vs Michigan (58, Q2); 12/1, at Colorado (70, Q1); 12/12, vs Creighton (16, Q1); 1/12, at Oregon (47, Q1); 2/25, at Arizona (10, Q1); 3/4, vs USC (50, Q1)
  • Bad Losses: 11/13, at Texas Southern (302, Q4)
  • Interesting Note: Arizona State has a very good neutral record but picked up two additional neutral wins in the PAC-12 Tournament. The Sun Devils lost to San Francisco by 37 points in December, their largest margin of defeat for the season. Majority of Arizona State's Q1 wins are low Q1 wins except for their wins over Arizona and Creighton.
  • Latest Seed Projection: 11 (Last Four Byes)
  • Appearing In Total Brackets: 102 out of 118
  • NET Rankings: 45
  • KenPom Rankings: 55
  • NET SOS: 78
  • NC SOS: 244
  • Home Record: 15-2
  • Away Record: 4-6
  • Neutral Record: 4-2
  • SOR: 40
  • Quadrant Record:
    • Q1: 1-6
    • Q2: 7-4
    • Q3: 5-0
    • Q4: 10-0
  • Best Wins: 11/24, vs Dayton (76, Q2); 12/17, vs Vanderbilt (79, Q2); 1/4, Duke (17, Q1); 1/7, at Virginia Tech (78, Q2); 1/14, Miami (35, Q2); 2/19, North Carolina (46, Q2); 3/8, vs Virginia Tech (78, Q2)
  • Bad Losses: None
  • Interesting Note: NC State has only one win against Q1 teams but zero Q3/4 losses.
NEVADA WOLF PACK (21-10; 12-7)
  • Latest Seed Projection: OUT (First Four Out)
  • Appearing In Total Brackets: 28 out of 118
  • NET Rankings: 37
  • KenPom Rankings: 41
  • SOS: 70
  • NC SOS: 134
  • Home Record: 13-1
  • Away Record: 6-7 (includes one Q1 win & two Q2 wins)
  • Neutral Record: 2-2
  • SOR: 53
  • Quadrant Record:
    • Q1: 4-5
    • Q2: 3-3
    • Q3: 11-2
    • Q4: 3-0
  • Best Wins: 11/28, Sam Houston State (65, Q2); 12/28, Boise State (27, Q1); 1/13, Utah State (19, Q1); 1/23, New Mexico (53, Q2); 1/31, San Diego State (14, Q1); 2/7, at New Mexico (53, Q1)
  • Bad Losses: 2/27, at Wyoming (172, Q3); 3/4, UNLV (91, Q3)
  • Interesting Note: Nevada is lacking in quality road wins. The Wolf Pack only have one Q1 road win on the season but it comes against a lower rated Q1 opponent.
  • Latest Seed Projection: OUT (First Four Out)
  • Appearing In Total Brackets: 31 out of 118
  • NET Rankings: 45
  • KenPom Rankings: 38
  • NET SOS: 8
  • NC SOS: 192
  • Home Record: 11-5
  • Away Record: 4-7 (includes three Q1 wins)
  • Neutral Record: 3-3 (includes one Q2 win)
  • SOR: 44
  • Quadrant Record:
    • Q1: 6-12
    • Q2: 4-2
    • Q3: 3-1
    • Q4: 5-0
  • Best Wins: 12/6, Sam Houston State (65, Q2); 1/2, West Virginia (24, Q1); 1/18, Oklahoma (68, Q2); 1/21, Iowa State (20, Q1); 2/1, at Oklahoma (68, Q1); 2/11, at Iowa State (20, Q1); 2/4, TCU (28, Q1); 2/8, Texas Tech (64, Q2); 3/4, at Texas Tech (64, Q1); 3/8, vs Oklahoma (68, Q2)
  • Bad Losses: 11/10, Southern Illinois (120, Q3)
  • Interesting Note: The Cowboys have played one of the toughest schedules in the country; however, they only have one Q1A win on the season. The Cowboys are 4-10 against high Q1 competition.
CLEMSON TIGERS (23-10; 15-7)
  • Latest Seed Projection: OUT (First Four Out)
  • Appearing In Total Brackets: 3 out of 118
  • NET Rankings: 60
  • KenPom Rankings: 64
  • NET SOS: 102
  • NC SOS: 334
  • Home Record: 15-1
  • Away Record: 5-6 (includes two Q1 wins & one Q2 win) 
  • Neutral Record: 3-3 (includes one Q1 win)
  • SOR: 54
  • Quadrant Record:
    • Q1: 4-4
    • Q2: 3-2
    • Q3: 7-2
    • Q4: 9-2
  • Best Wins: 11/29, Penn State (49, Q2); 12/30, NC State (45, Q2); 1/4, at Virginia Tech (77, Q2); 1/7, at Pittsburgh (67, Q1); 1/14, Duke (16, Q1); 2/25, at NC State (45, Q1); 3/9, vs NC State (45, Q1)
  • Bad Losses: 11/11, at South Carolina (234, Q3); 12/10, vs Loyola-Chicago (267, Q4); 1/31, at Boston College (168, Q3); 2/18, at Louisville (315, Q4)
  • Interesting Note: Clemson has zero high Q1 wins and has a total of four Q3/4 losses with their worst coming towards the end of the season against Louisville.

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Rutgers must address their non-conference scheduling strategy going forward

photo courtesy of Getty Images

Rutgers must re-assess their non-conference scheduling strategy after having a non-conference schedule that rated one of the worst in all of college basketball.

by Richard Kent & Mark Remsa

Rutgers Hoops Insider contributors Richard Kent & Mark Remsa suggest Rutgers must take a hard look at scheduling considerations for their future non-conference schedule after it was rated 308th in the NET Rankings and 340th per KenPom for the 2022-23 season.

As the 2022-23 regular season has come to a close and the Big Ten Conference Tournament is about to begin, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights find themselves in a very difficult situation, one that was unfathomable only a month ago. 

Rutgers was primed to make the NCAA Tournament as a single digit seed, but after dropping six of their last eight games and losing one of their best players Mawot Mag to an ACL tear for the year, the Scarlet Knights are currently projected by a majority of experts and bracketologists to be an 11-seed in the NCAA Tournament. As a matter of fact, many experts and bracketologists feel that because of the major slide Rutgers has suffered at the end of the season, the only way the Scarlet Knights will hear their names called on Selection Sunday is if they beat Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament.

It's not only losing six of their last eight games of the regular season that has hurt Rutgers' chances of making the NCAA Tournament but it's also an issue of scheduling weak, low-level out-of-conference opponents.

The 2022-23 Non-Conference Schedule

Rutgers Hoops Insider conducted a deep dive evaluation of the 2022-23 non-conference schedule back in June and determined that although the Scarlet Knights slightly tweaked their non-conference scheduling strategy, there were not enough quality opponents to bolster their non-conference schedule and Rutgers continued their trend of playing lower-level opponents.

Prior to the 2022-23 season, Rutgers added what was considered to be "two more quality programs" to the non-conference schedule as compared to the 2021-22 season. Unfortunately, to Rutgers no fault of their own, the so-called "quality" opponents, Wake Forest and Temple, added to the non-conference schedule this season ended up becoming Quadrant 3 (Q3) teams when they were projected before the season to likely be Q2 caliber teams. Many felt this was Aaron McKie's best team at Temple and they failed to live up to the hype. Things were going in the right direction for Wake Forest under Steve Forbes, but unfortunately the season unraveled mid-way through the year and the Demon Deacons finished in the middle of a bad ACC Conference.

The Miami Hurricanes were the only Q1 foe on Rutgers' non-conference docket, and even then, the only reason why the Scarlet Knights faced the Hurricanes was because the 'powers that be' paired them together for the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

At least nine of the eleven non-conference opponents Rutgers faced this season were Q3/4 opponents with Seton Hall rotating back and forth between Q2/3 status due to a down year under first year coach Shaheen Holloway. Also, six out-of-conference opponents Rutgers faced this year were Q4 opponents and five of the six were rated 298 or worse in the NET Rankings.

Despite there almost being no benefit in playing low-level opponents in the non-conference portion of the regular season, Rutgers did benefit by blowing out every Q4 opponent by 30 or more points this season. This metric helped Rutgers boost their NET rating; however, if you start to lose more quality games in your conference schedule and it comes down to slight differences on your NCAA Tournament resume, Selection Committee members may value another team's tougher non-conference schedule over another team's softer non-conference schedule.

Rutgers did adhere to the advice of several experts in scheduling a neutral site game in their non-conference schedule. Rutgers played a neutral floor game with Temple at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, but squandered the opportunity to add a neutral floor win to their NCAA Tournament resume by losing to the Owls, which ended up hurting the Scarlet Knights because it was a Q3 loss.

Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park Press was one of the first to report that Rutgers had tried to schedule Gonzaga for the 2022-23 season, but the game was nixed due to Gonzaga wanting to play on an aircraft carrier against Michigan State to start the season. Also, a source close to the program shared a Rutgers-Providence game at the Mohegan Sun was considered this season, but never developed.

Addressing the Strategy Going Forward

There's no question Rutgers must address their non-conference strategy going forward, and playing too many low-level opponents is a problem, especially when it comes down to Selection Sunday when the Selection Committee is comparing resumes. 

Every Power 5 basketball team plays its fair share of low-level opponents in their non-conference schedule and we are not suggesting Rutgers fills its entire schedule with Q1/2 opponents, but this year's Rutgers team would be solidly in the field if it had played a better non-conference schedule against a one to two more higher level opponents, two more road contests, and/or one  to two more neutral floor games. 

Over the years, Rutgers has played too many home games against low-level opponents and while that's a good thing for the Rutgers community, it hurts this team in the long run because it doesn't bolster their resume.

Everyone must understand though, there are a lot more difficulties in today's college basketball world in scheduling out-of-conference opponents. In an interview with Aaron Breitman of The Scarlet Faithful prior to the 2022-23 season, head coach Steve Pikiell stressed that it is not easy to scheduling opponents, and that you cannot just call another team's coach and ask to play them. There are many factors at play when it comes to scheduling but most importantly it boils down to timing and logistics.

This year's Rutgers team had a non-conference schedule rating of 308 compared to Michigan State's schedule rated 39 which was the toughest in the Big Ten, according to the NET Rankings. Rutgers had the weakest non-conference strength of schedule in the Big Ten. It's no secret Pikiell is bringing in top-level talent, with visions of Ace Bailey, Dellquan Warren, Gavin Griffiths, Baye Ndongo, and possibly Dylan Harper running the floor, it's time to render the shibboleths nugatory and to visualize a non-conference schedule that looks more challenging for 2023 and 2024.

Future Non-Conference Schedule Suggestions


Rutgers fans for a long time have wanted to see the Scarlet Knights play in a multi-team event (MTE) such as the Maui Jim Invitational, Legends Classic, Myrtle Beach Invitational, Jimmy V Classic, etc. because it offers the opportunity for the Scarlet Knights to play good competition on a neutral floor. The Selection Committee highly values neutral floor games. In the seven years under Pikiell, Rutgers has yet to participate in a MTE.

We urge Rutgers to participate in an MTE. If travel is a concern that is preventing Pikiell from having Rutgers play in an MTE, this team can try to participate in one that is close to home in New York or in the Northeast.


One thing is likely to be a guarantee moving forward, and that is the Garden State Hardwood Classic. This is the college basketball rivalry of New Jersey and it pits Seton Hall and Rutgers against one another. This is a non-conference game that must occur every year. 

After Kevin Willard decided to play Penn State instead of Rutgers during the 2020-21 season because he was fearful Seton Hall would lose a home crowd due to COVID, it only added a bitter taste to Rutgers' fans mouths and heated up this rivalry even more. Steve Pikiell and Seton Hall head coach Shaheen Holloway have both agreed they love the importance of this rivalry game and to keep tradition moving forward.


According Richie Schnyderite of The Knight Report and a source close to the program, Rutgers has made an effort to schedule a neutral floor game for 2023 at Madison Square Garden, and there are currently three opponents interested in playing the Scarlet Knights, including Gonzaga, Providence, and St. John's. 

In one of our previous articles from February, we suggested Rutgers play a future neutral floor game against Providence at The Garden; however, this does not mean they will play Providence in 2023 as it was a mere suggestion and Providence is just one of the candidates for next year's non-conference schedule.

One can appreciate Rutgers is making an attempt to play quality opponents in a neutral floor setting. A game against St. John's would certainly be exciting with both a large Scarlet Knights-Red Storm contingent at the world's most famous arena.

A potential matchup with Gonzaga would certainly elevate Rutgers' non-conference schedule as the Bulldogs have become a top perennial power in college basketball.


Rutgers needs to play in this game, and it's what all of the fans want. Jim Valvano played and coached at Rutgers, and it would certainly be a wonderful treat to see the Scarlet Knights play in this game and honor him at Madison Square Garden.

It would certainly be feasible to see Rutgers play UConn in this game. Steve Pikiell played at UConn and coaches in New Jersey. Dan Hurley is from New Jersey and coaches at UConn. The atmosphere and magnitude of this game would be off the charts, and would be an instant sellout.

If Rutgers were to play in this game at The Garden and are unable to draw UConn, Pikiell should work hard to play UConn in a possible home-and-home series. It would be great for not only both programs, but it would be great for college basketball in The East.

Another attractive opponent that could bring meaning to the Jimmy V Classic would be NC State. Jim Valvano coached at NC State and won a national title there. NC State is a program on the rise under Kevin Keatts, and if the Wolf Pack faced off against the Scarlet Knights it would be two programs that Jim Valvano had impact on.


Rutgers is already scheduled to play Wake Forest for the 2023 season, but the Scarlet Knights should try to play more ACC opponents. With the ACC-Big Ten Challenge getting battle axed for the future, Rutgers could try to schedule a home-and-home series with NC State, Pittsburgh, and Virginia or continue its series with Wake Forest. 

It would certainly be a dream come true if Rutgers could schedule games against North Carolina or Duke, but that appears to be unlikely since both programs would probably not want to play at the ever-so hostile RAC.


One way Rutgers can bolster their schedule is if they could schedule a game against a higher level SEC opponent. In the past Rutgers has played against SEC opponents with some success, but they do not play SEC opponents enough. One suggestion would be to possibly play a home-and-home series against Auburn. Bruce Pearl is a polarizing, charismatic coach at Auburn, and it would certainly make for a wonderful series between the two programs.  

As challenging as a place The RAC has become, some SEC opponents might be reluctant in visiting the Scarlet Knights but Auburn has not been afraid to go into hostile environments.


In an interview Jaden Daly of A Daly Dose of Hoops, we asked if we will ever see Rutgers go on the road and play at a mid-major program's building and Jaden said it appears to be 'unlikely'; however, we believe there is one mid-major worthy of Rutgers playing on the road and continuing tradition and that is Princeton.

It's time. Oh, it's time to reinvigorate the one true traditional rivalry Rutgers has had in its basketball history, which dates back to the 1916-17 season. Only 16 miles separates these two programs. Princeton no longer plays the slowdown style which Hall of Famer Pete Carril instilled. This is a team that plays quick and fast, and they run the floor under Mitch Henderson. After all, Princeton finished at the top of this year's Ivy League standings.


As stated earlier, we all know Rutgers cannot fill their entire non-conference schedule with Q1/2 opponents, so it is likely the Scarlet Knights will continue to play mid-major opponents from within the region but they need to limit the number of mid-majors appearing on their schedule to possibly five or six.

It would be wise if Rutgers can continue playing mid-majors from across the region whether they are from the Ivy League, Patriot League, Atlantic 10, CAA, MEAC, NEC, and/or American Athletic.

As we suggested earlier, Rutgers should probably play a few weak mid-major opponents (Q3/4) but should probably schedule at least two decent or better mid-major programs (Q2/3).

There are many attractive options across the Atlantic 10, but if Rutgers could schedule a game against George Washington they could renew what once was a traditional Atlantic 10 rivalry. Current Rutgers assistant Karl Hobbs was once the head coach there with Steve Pikiell serving as his assistant.

Steve Pikiell does have a continued relationship with Central Connecticut State and it's likely we will see the Blue Devils appear on future schedules. Pikiell was once an assistant coach at Central Connecticut State.

Although it's not a rivalry game, the Monmouth Hawks could be an attractive mid-major solution to their non-conference schedule. The Hawks had a  down year this season but King Rice has had Monmouth playing competitive basketball during the course of his coaching tenure. Monmouth is also located in New Jersey and it wouldn't be a difficult trek for them to make logistically to The RAC. Other possible New Jersey mid-majors to consider include Rider, Farleigh Dickinson, and St. Peter's.

It might be wise for Rutgers to schedule a decent HBCU program. This year Rutgers played Coppin State (MEAC) at home but the Eagles were rated near the bottom of college basketball. Howard and Norfolk State have experienced better seasons in year's past, and they could be viable options for Rutgers.


Let's not forget about the annual Gavitt Games which pits Big Ten teams against Big East teams. Rutgers was left out of the mix this year but will probably play in this annual event for the next couple of seasons. 

While it is out of Pikiell's control of who Rutgers faces in the Gavitt Games, he and his staff should become more vocal and try to press the issue that Rutgers needs to play the upper echelon of the Big East rather drawing DePaul each season. Hopefully, Rutgers can draw Villanova, UConn, or Providence in future Gavitt Games.


Whatever happens going forward, we know one thing is absolutely certain. Rutgers must address their non-conference scheduling strategy and improve the non-conference schedule. It appears as if the Scarlet Knights are trying to improve it by playing on the road at Wake Forest and attempting to schedule a neutral floor game (possibly against Gonzaga, Providence or St. John's) at Madison Square Garden for 2023. Also, it will be Rutgers turn to play at Seton Hall next season for the Garden State Hardwood Classic. For now, those contests will be Q1/2 games for next season.

If they continue the trend of playing too many weak opponents, it will bring down their non-conference strength of schedule rating which could hurt them when it comes down to evaluating NCAA Tournament resumes.

** NOTE: The NCAA uses a metrics-based system known as the NET Rankings to evaluate and quantify a team's schedule, strength of schedule, performance, road wins/losses, and quality of wins. It is just one of a few tools to assist the NCAA Selection Committee in selecting teams for the NCAA Tournament.

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Q&A with JBR Bracketology, Round 2

The 2022-23 college basketball regular season has come to a close and conference tournaments have already begun. This year's bubble picture seems more unclear than many can remember with so many teams fighting to earn a bid into the NCAA Tournament. Rutgers is among several bubble teams fighting for their right to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament. 

I last conducted a Q&A with JBR Bracketology on February 12th, and Rutgers was in prime position to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament but since then the Scarlet Knights have gone 2-6 in the closing stretch of the season, lost defensive stalwart Mawot Mag to an ACL tear, suffered a stunning defeat to lowly Minnesota, plummeted to 41 in the NET Rankings, and finished 18-13 overall and 10-10 in the Big Ten Conference. It really has been a disappointing finish to a really promising season for the Scarlet Knights.

After dropping their last game of the season to Northwestern, Rutgers earned a 9-seed in the Big Ten Tournament and will face 8-seed Michigan in Chicago on Thursday, March 9 at 12 PM (BTN). Rutgers and Michigan last met on the hardwood earlier in late February as the Wolverines marched on to 58-45 victory.

Now, Rutgers finds themselves in familiar territory. With their backs against the wall in a do-or-die situation, Rutgers must find a way to beat Michigan to potentially save their season and earn what would be their third consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament.

I reached out to Jason R. of JBR Bracketology again to get his take on what he feels Rutgers needs to do to get into the NCAA Tournament and the potential scenarios for the Scarlet Knights. I also asked Jason a few questions about other teams in the Big Ten, and how he feels about their chances as well.

Please follow and support JBR Bracketology on Twitter @ JBRBracketology. Jason updates his brackets every few days during the week but he is active on Twitter so if you have a question for him do not hesitate to reach out to him.

Rutgers Hoops Insider (RHI): Jason, thanks for doing this Q&A with me on such short notice. The NCAA Tournament is looming right around the corner and with conference tournaments under way with bubble teams needing an extra win or two to impress the Selection Committee, which teams are your bubble teams? Who are your Last Four In? Last Four Out? Next Four Out?

Jason R. (JBR): No problem. This is always an incredibly exciting but anxious time. My Last Four In are currently NC State, Rutgers, Pittsburgh, and Nevada. First Four Out is Oklahoma State, Wisconsin, Arizona State and Michigan. And my Next Four Out is North Carolina, North Texas, Oregon and Oklahoma.

RHI: After losing their last two games of the regular season, Rutgers has dropped considerably in the Field of 68 projections. They were once dreaming of possibly earning a protected 4-seed but have since then gone 2-6 in the closing stretch of the regular season and are now faced with the reality that they might be headed to Dayton again as an 11-seed. Just how damaging was that loss to Minnesota last week to this team?

JBR: That loss was brutal. Most bracketologists were ready to "lock" Rutgers with that win. I was on the fence whether I was going to officially lock them, but regardless of the "lock" status, Rutgers was looking at a 99%+ chance at a bid had they won at Minnesota.

RHI: Many analysts and bracketologists feel Rutgers "must win" against Michigan on Thursday in the Big Ten Tournament to save their season and earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Is this true? If Rutgers were to lose to Michigan on Thursday and other bubble teams lose their conference tournament games, does Rutgers still have a chance?

JBR: Do they still have a chance? Yes. But I don't think Rutgers gets in without a win vs Michigan. Between 1-3 bid stealers and some other bubble teams playing their way in, I think Rutgers gets left out.

RHI: Rutgers is currently 41 in the NET with a combined nine Q1/2 wins. They also have two Q1A wins on the year along with three Q1 road wins (Purdue, N'western, Penn State), potentially a fourth if Wisconsin beats Ohio State on Wednesday, and zero Q4 losses. As these appear to be very strong metrics, I also understand that Rutgers suffered three Q3 losses, poor strength of record (62nd), and a weak non-conference strength of schedule (313th). Do the negatives outweigh the positives for Rutgers in this case? Explain.

JBR: It's a balance. The Committee is going to look at the full body of work. My concern over the past month when it comes to Rutgers has been the two resume metrics - KPI and SOR. These are the two most important metrics in determining entry into the NCAA Tournament, whereas the NET and predictive metrics (KP/ Sagarin/ BPI) helps to round the teams into seeds more reflective of how "good" that team is. Rutgers currently sits at 58.0 resume average. The worst at large team to get in over the past five years was 2022 Rutgers at 57.5. A loss to Michigan likely pushes that resume average into the 60s and the NET into the mid 40s. At that point, I don't think the positives will be enough to overcome the negatives.

RHI: Aaron Breitman of The Scarlet Faithful first reported on Twitter, the NCAA Selection Committee will take into account that the Big Ten officially said the winning shot for Ohio State against Rutgers back in December should not have counted and the play should have been ruled dead. If Rutgers had won the game, it would have counted as a Q1 win for Rutgers making their record against Q1 opponents 6-6. Does this news change the current projection for Rutgers? If used as a tiebreaker among bubble teams, would this win be enough to push Rutgers into the field?

JBR: I don't think it changes much should Rutgers lose to Michigan. At that point, I still feel confident Rutgers would be out of the field. However, it does make me more confident that Rutgers gets an at-large spot should they beat Michigan and lose to Purdue.

RHI: Where do you currently have Rutgers in your projected bracketology? Explain why.

JBR: I have Rutgers #44 on the seed list, with the final at large team currently #46. The 7 losses outside of Quad 1, including 3 of them in Quad 3, really hurts. The NET and predictive metrics are good, but the volume of losses, especially outside of Quad 1, is really dragging this resume down. I would put at-large chances at about 85% with a win over Michigan and about 10% with a loss to Michigan. That's how close the margin is here.

RHI: Penn State has been on the bubble the entire season but they have turned things around despite blowing a 19-point lead at home last week to Rutgers. The Nittany Lions are 19-12 overall and 10-10 in the Big Ten. They are 56th in the NET with almost similar metrics to Rutgers, except they have only one Q3 loss on the season. Penn State is currently projected as a 10/11-seed by other bracketologists. In your opinion, is Penn State safely in the field or should they still be concerned about their chances of making the NCAA Tournament?

JBR: Penn State has a sneaky impressive resume, and has really shot up my seed list over the past couple weeks. I now have Penn State as Last Four Byes. Penn State would be pretty much a lock with a win on Thursday over Illinois, but I still like their chances even if they lose that one. Their NET is comparatively worse than Rutgers', but both of their resume metrics are much stronger, contributing to their 45.0 resume average.

RHI: You've locked in many teams from the Big Ten to make the NCAA Tournament already. How come Iowa is locked in and not sweating it out after suffering two Q3 home losses and a Q4 home loss to Eastern Illinois (344)?

JBR: Iowa has a bit of an odd resume for sure. But they have a strong collection of wins, and are currently 9-6 vs the projected field with two true road wins. Their metrics are much better than Rutgers' (33 NET and 38.5 resume average) and I believe the committee will give them a little bit of a pass for the Eastern Illinois loss that came without Murray, though of course that game does still count.

RHI: Michigan has been a Jekyll-Hyde team this year in the Big Ten. There are days the Wolverines look great, some days they look okay, and other days they look bad. Michigan only has three Q1 wins on the season and one Q4 loss (Central Michigan, 329); however, they do have five Q2 wins and zero Q3 losses. Does Michigan have a fighter's chance at making the NCAA Tournament with a win over Rutgers on Thursday, or do they need to win the Big Ten Tournament to get into the Field of 68?

JBR: I think Michigan is in with a win over Rutgers and Purdue. But I think they have to win both. I think they are too far back to get in with just one win here vs Rutgers (or 0 wins).

RHI: When it is all said and done, how many teams total from the Big Ten do you have going to the Big Dance? Which teams?

JBR: 9 teams get in. Purdue, Indiana, Northwestern, Michigan State, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Penn State and one of Rutgers/ Michigan.

RHI: Jason, once again, thanks for doing this on such short notice.

JBR: You are welcome. Good luck today!