Saturday, October 14, 2023

Exclusive interview with Richard Kent (10/13/23)


Rutgers Hoops Insider interviews college basketball insider Richard Kent on the upcoming 2023-24 season for Rutgers men's basketball.

Richard Kent provides us his thoughts and opinions on Rutgers great Phil "The Thrill" Sellers, future recruiting and the rumor mill, expectations for 2nd year players Antwone Woolfolk & Derek Simpson, Aundre Hyatt's role, the Big Ten schedule, Rutgers-Indiana rivalry debate, and the Rutgers-St. John's exhibition game.

To listen to the 40 minute interview please visit our SoundCloud page by clicking here.

Friday, October 6, 2023

Underdogs of the Big Ten

photo courtesy of NJ Advance Media

The college basketball world is down on Rutgers for the upcoming season, and the Scarlet Knights are prepared to take on the role of the underdog.

by Mark Remsa

Steve Pikiell and his staff went on a mission this summer to find the right players that would fit perfectly on a roster that faced a lot of turn over. Pikiell and his staff secured commitments in the transfer portal from experienced players in Noah Fernandes, Austin Williams, and Jeremiah Williams, and also added freshmen sharp-shooter Gavin Griffiths and the speedster Jamichael Davis this past off-season.

Despite making solid additions to the roster, the college basketball world is down on Rutgers for the 2023-24 season.

Several major college basketball media outlets, including The Almanac, Blue Ribbon, and Lindy’s, have forecasted Rutgers to finish 9th place or worse in the Big Ten for the 2023-24 season. In the most recent preseason poll by the conference itself, the Big Ten projects Rutgers to finish 10th. New Jersey’s own college hoops guru Jerry Carino, writer for the Asbury Park Press, projects this year’s team to finish 8th place in the Big Ten standings.

In another early-season Big Ten basketball preview, David Klein of Spartans Illustrated chose Rutgers to finish in 9th place as a “fringe” tournament team, claiming Pikiell “will have his work cut out for him to make the tournament with their current roster shape.”

However, despite the losses of Cam Spencer and Paul Mulcahy there is plenty of upside to the current roster. As many media outlets have reported Spencer and Mulcahy as “big losses” for the Scarlet Knights, they are naturally inclined to be down on Rutgers, giving the fan base the illusion of hopelessness entering the upcoming season.

But Pikiell and his teams have always embraced the role of the underdog, and Pikiell has always had his teams prepared for what’s ahead, even when they have lost quality players from the program. It’s situations like this when Rutgers usually rises to the occasion and plays at its best with their backs against the wall.

In the previews leading up to the 2019-20 season, many analysts and media outlets projected Rutgers to finish near the bottom of the conference. Sports Illustrated projected Rutgers to finish 11th in the conference after their leading scorer and rebounder Eugene Omoruyi transferred out. How did Rutgers respond? The Scarlet Knights finished 11-9 in the Big Ten and 20-11 overall as they were bound to clinch their first NCAA Tournament berth since 1991 before the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly ended the season.

In the previews leading up to the 2021-22 season, analysts again were low on Rutgers and projected the Scarlet Knights to finish in the bottom half of the conference after Myles Johnson, Jacob Young, and Montez Mathis announced their departures. Rutgers defied the odds, finished 4th place in the Big Ten, 18-14 overall, earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1991, and became the first unranked team in college basketball history to defeat four ranked opponents in a row.

While Pikiell has brought Rutgers from the dungeons of the Big Ten to respectable in the college hoops world, it wasn’t accomplished with five-star studs and four-star recruits. It was accomplished with three-star players and under-the-radar recruits that had incredible work ethic, were receptive to learning, played selfless basketball, and a never quit mindset.

It’s easy for the casual fan or college hoops analyst to dismiss this year’s Rutgers team, but Pikiell will have his team prepared. He’s molded together an intriguing team that will likely play a different style of basketball fans haven't seen in a long time, but most importantly he put together a roster that has built strong unity and team chemistry this past off-season. When a team has strong unity and team chemistry, it will fuel player performance and this team will be capable of achieving great success.

Note: Article updated as of 9 October 2023 due to the recent release of the Big Ten preseason polls ahead of media day.