Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Offensive woes plaguing Rutgers this season

photo courtesy of Rutgers Athletics

Rutgers' offensive woes have cost them dearly in big games this season. At some point, the shots have to start falling.

by Mark Remsa

During the entire offseason, many college hoops sports writers and analysts harped on this year's Rutgers hoops team as an ‘improved offensive group’, offering more speed and improved shooting, despite losing high-impact players Paul Mulcahy and Cam Spencer to the transfer portal and a decommitment from Baye Ndongo.

After all, there were a lot of positives coming out of the Rutgers camp from the summer workouts, overseas trip, and September exhibition games against St. John's and DePaul.

With a smaller backcourt than the proto-typical Steve Pikiell team, many felt Rutgers was going to play a different style of basketball this year where the speed of the game was going to be injected with a high-tempo offense and more three-pointers were going to swish through the nets.

Now, Rutgers is at least 19 games into the current season, and this year's team is on pace to being one of the worst offensive teams since Pikiell first took over the program in 2016. The shots are not falling, the tempo is slow, and at times the ball movement is sloppy.

This year's team is an offensive mess.

Continue reading this article on The Knight Report on Rivals.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

"On The Call" with Alec Crouthamel & Ellis Gordon (from WRSU Sports Rutgers Radio)

Stream the latest episode of "On The Call" with Alec Crouthamel and Ellis Gordon (from WRSU Sports Rutgers Radio) on YouTube or Spotify.

  • "On The Call" with Alec Crouthamel & Ellis Gordon - Episode 7, 1/23/2024 - Rutgers Hoops Insider interviews special guests Alec Crouthamel and Ellis Gordon of WRSU Sports Rutgers Radio to discuss the second blowout loss to Illinois, takeaways, offensive woes, Cliff Omoruyi's performance, Gavin Griffiths' struggles, upcoming game against #2 Purdue, the February stretch, expectations going forward, and much more.

Friday, January 19, 2024

Derek Simpson emerging as Rutgers' facilitator

photo courtesy of Rutgers Athletics

In his last few games, Derek Simpson has stepped up his role as "the facilitator" in the backcourt, but can he continue to do so for the rest of the season?

by Mark Remsa

Although Cliff Omoruyi's dominant performance was the highlight of Rutgers men's basketball's massive 87-82 overtime win over Nebraska this past Wednesday, Derek Simpson was the facilitator in the second half that helped steady the ship across the finish line to victory.

With Rutgers down 63-51 and under nine minutes remaining in the game, Simpson stepped up and answered the call. It wasn't Simpson's scoring ability that helped propel Rutgers to victory, it was rather his passing ability.

In those last nine minutes of the second half, Simpson was meticulous in finding ways to feed Omoruyi in the post as he was able to thread the needle through a tight window in the lane to find Omoruyi for a few scores to help erase the Cornhuskers' lead.

Throughout most of the season Rutgers has struggled to generate plenty of assists mainly from the backcourt, and while 16 total team assists from Wednesday's game doesn't capture your attention, what should capture your attention is Derek Simpson's ability to create half of his team's total assists.

According to KenPom metrics, Simpson currently ranks 9th in the Big Ten for assist rate, only slightly behind Michigan's star guard Dug McDaniel and Michigan State's sharp-shooter Tre Holloman.

Instead of forcing himself to take shots from poor looks on Wednesday, Simpson opted to create plays though his passing and to feed his teammates when they had better opportunities to score. Despite shooting just 24% from the field, Simpson was clutch down the stretch in overtime as he converted his free-throws and finished 85.7% from the line.

Simpson has also cleaned up the turnovers as he's only committed two in his last two games.


Throughout this past November and December, it was pretty clear Rutgers did not have a true facilitator in the backcourt and Simpson was certainly part of those early season struggles.

Entering the season, expectations were somewhat modest of the backcourt after head coach Steve Pikiell brought in transfers Noah Fernandes and Austin Williams and freshman recruit Jamichael Davis to join sophomore Simpson in the backcourt to help provide a lift after Pikiell was blindsided by Cam Spencer's and Paul Mulcahy's untimely decisions to enter the transfer portal this past summer.

Pikiell had initially tailored the roster around Spencer and Mulcahy for success, but when they decided to transfer Rutgers immediately lost a lot of experience in the backcourt and their true facilitator in Mulcahy, who was the primary ball handler and assist generator.

Last year, Simpson emerged as a promising freshman after he had a breakout performance when he single-handily took control of the game against #10 Indiana and scored 14 points. Rutgers would go onto claim a decisive 63-48 victory over Indiana. 

Simpson would go on to have a high impact on other big games throughout last season, and fans began comparing his style of play to that of recent Rutgers great Geo Baker. It was Simpson's ability last season to take over games, beat defenders off-the-dribble, and score points that really caught each fans' eye. So, when Rutgers needed a spark in several games last season, Pikiell turned to the freshman to do so.

It was never Pikiell's intent to use Simpson as the primary guard in the backcourt for the current season because Simpson still had a lot more learning and development to undergo, but when Pikiell lost his two most experienced guards, he had no choice but to thrust Simpson into a larger and more responsible role.

The question begged itself in the offseason: Can Simpson take his game to the next level this season and is he ready to become the facilitator? This would mean other than just scoring, Simpson had to be ready to handle ball security and distribution for the upcoming season.

Simpson's 2023-24 campaign got off to a rocky start as he committed 13 turnovers in his first six games, shot very poorly in several big out-of-conference contests, and registered few assists.

At times in the early going of this season, it almost felt as if Simpson was attempting to recreate some of the magic he had from last season when he would single handily takeover games. Simpson started this season playing more isolation basketball, forcing contested shots, and second guess his decision making.

However, as of lately, Simpson has been instrumental in playing more team basketball. His ball security has greatly improved; his passing and ball distribution has been more efficient; and he's been reliable down the stretch of games by converting on his free-throws (85.2% on the year). According to KenPom, Simpson had his second most efficient offensive rating of the season against Nebraska.


With a difficult slate remaining in January, can Simpson continue to be the facilitator Rutgers needs in the backcourt? 

Although it's taken almost two months for many of the players on this team to come into their roles, one thing is clear, this is Simpson's team. Simpson has been unafraid on the court to mitigate risk and to try to help his team win games, but for the remainder of the season Rutgers will need consistency out of Simpson. 

Even though Simpson is still developing and learning to hone his new role, he can certainly provide a serious boost for Rutgers by being the facilitator this team desperately needs.

If Simpson can continue to orchestrate plays and efficiently find ways to deliver the ball to his teammates, mainly Omoruyi, Williams, Hyatt and Mag, Rutgers will be dangerous in the Big Ten and can be successful.

"On The Call" with Camden Markel (from The Daily Targum)

Stream the latest episode of "On The Call" with Camden Markel (from The Daily Targum) on YouTube or Spotify.
  • "On The Call" with Camden Markel - Episode 6, 1/19/2024 - Rutgers Hoops Insider interviews Camden Markel from The Daily Targum and discusses Rutgers resounding victory over Nebraska, Cliff Omoruyi's dominant performance, Steve Pikiell's technical foul, team cohesion, Derek Simpson stepping up in the backcourt, the next upcoming five games, and much more.
All episodes of "On The Call" by Rutgers Hoops Insider are now streaming on YouTube and Spotify. As a reminder, tune in weekly to "On The Call" for the latest discussion of Rutgers Men's Basketball.

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Rutgers Basketball's identity remains its defense

photo courtesy of The Associated Press

It may be hard to believe, but this year's Rutgers team is on pace to becoming one of Steve Pikiell's best defensive teams.

by Mark Remsa

For almost the entirety of the season, people have been wondering what is this year’s Rutgers Men’s Basketball team’s identity? In previews leading up to the season, many sports writers felt Rutgers either had no identity with many new faces to the program or this team was going to be a fast-paced offensive team with a smaller backcourt.

It turns out, their identity is still defense.

Last year, I wrote an article describing the identity of last season’s team as one of the best defensive units in the country and so far, the current team is following suit.

According to KenPom, Rutgers currently ranks in the top 15 nationally in multiple defensive efficiency categories, including 7th in adjusted defensive efficiency, 13th in defensive effective FG%, 14th in defensive turnover %, 13th in defensive 2PT %, 3rd in defensive block %, and 2nd in forced turnovers.

Believe it or not, this year’s team is actually on pace to becoming one of Steve Pikiell’s best defensive units since he took over the program in 2016, according to KenPom.

Continue reading this article at The Knight Report on Rivals.

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Weekly Big Ten Power Rankings Challenge (thru 1/7)

The teams at Rutgers Hoops Insider and Gopher Crew continue their season-long Weekly Big Ten Power Rankings Challenge. Currently, Rutgers Hoops Insider leads Gopher Crew (@GopherCrew) in the challenge, 5-2.

Each week on every Monday, Rutgers Hoops Insider will post the rankings to the Rutgers Hoops Insider Twitter account. Please vote for which power rankings you prefer.

This is the eighth set of published power rankings by the Rutgers Hoops Insider and Gopher Crew.

Sunday, January 7, 2024

Rutgers Hoops Insider launches Online Store


Rutgers Hoops Insider launches Online Store

Please visit the Rutgers Hoops Insider Online Store for the latest and coolest gear. Powered by Bonfire.

All proceeds from merchandise sales will be donated to an NIL collective to help Rutgers men's basketball.

Click here to visit the store:

NET Rankings of Rutgers' Opponents (thru 1/7)

photo courtesy of Rutgers Athletics

NET Rankings of Rutgers' Opponents (thru 1/17)

Here are the NET Rankings of Rutgers' opponents for games played through January 7th. Rutgers currently sits at 95 in the NET Rankings as they are 8-6 overall and are in last place in the Big Ten at 0-3. Rutgers will have many more opportunities to salvage their season but at this point in the season the Scarlet Knights are fighting just to pick up a win in the Big Ten. The Scarlet Knights have an opportunity to pick up their first Big Ten win of the season against Indiana on Tuesday, January 9th (7 PM, Peacock).

Currently, Rutgers has seven Quadrant 1 games remaining on their schedule. Of the seven Quadrant 1 games that remain, only two of them are at home (1/28, Purdue; 2/10, Wisconsin). Rutgers picked up its first Quadrant 1 win of the season against Seton Hall back in early December.

Rutgers has five Quadrant 2 games remaining on their schedule with two of the five at home (1/17, Nebraska; 3/10, Ohio State).

Rutgers has five Quadrant 3 games remaining on their schedule with all five at home (1/9, Indiana; 1/31, Penn State; 2/13, Northwestern; 2/25, Maryland; 2/29, Michigan).

Rutgers has zero Quadrant 4 games remaining on their schedule.

For a complete listing of the NET Rankings please click here.

Rutgers' Record in Each Quadrant
  • Quadrant 1: 1-6
  • Quadrant 2: 0-0
  • Quadrant 3: 0-0
  • Quadrant 4: 7-0
NET Rankings of Rutgers' Opponents
Nov. 6, vs Princeton*, L (28, Q1)
Nov. 10, Boston U.*, W (277, Q4)
Nov. 12, Bryant*, W (166, Q4)
Nov. 15, Georgetown*, W (211, Q4)
Nov. 18, Howard*, W (258, Q4)
Nov. 27, Saint Peter's*, W (165, Q4)
Dec. 2, Illinois, L (10, Q1)
Dec. 6, at Wake Forest*, L (47, Q1)
Dec. 9, at Seton Hall*, W (73, Q1)
Dec. 16, Long Island*, W (340, Q4)
Dec. 23, vs Mississippi State*, L (33, Q1)
Dec. 30, Stonehill*, W (353, Q4)
Jan. 3, at Ohio State, L (44, Q1)
Jan. 6, at Iowa, L (67, Q1)
Jan. 9, Indiana (98, Q3)
Jan. 14, at Michigan State (23, Q1)
Jan. 17, Nebraska (59, Q2)
Jan. 21, at Illinois (10, Q1)
Jan. 28, Purdue (2, Q1)
Jan. 31, Penn State (139, Q3)
Feb. 3, at Michigan (81, Q2)
Feb. 6, at Maryland (126, Q2)
Feb. 10, Wisconsin (13, Q1)
Feb. 15, Northwestern (80, Q3)
Feb. 18, at Minnesota (88, Q2)
Feb. 22, at Purdue (2, Q1)
Feb. 25, Maryland (126, Q3)
Feb. 29, Michigan (81, Q3)
Mar. 3, at Nebraska (59, Q1)
Mar. 7, at Wisconsin (13, Q1)
Mar. 10, Ohio State (44, Q2)
Q1 home games are highlighted in yellow
Q1 road games are highlighted in green
Q1 neutral site games are highlighted in blue
* non-conference game

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Aundre Hyatt showing significant improvement as Rutgers' best player

Photo courtesy of Rutgers Athletics

The veteran forward is showing significant improvement and has emerged as one of Rutgers' best players on the hardwood this season.

by Mark Remsa

Although Rutgers played poorly and averted disaster this past Saturday against Stonehill, one of the brightest spots in the game was Aundre Hyatt. As a matter of fact, Hyatt has been the brightest spot for Rutgers almost nearly the entirety of the season, and it shouldn’t surprise many because he’s steadily improved his game this year.

Before the start of the 2023-24 season, there was very little mention of the Bronx native as a breakout player for Rutgers and analysts across college basketball questioned whether he could be a sparkplug in place of the previously injured Mawot Mag and perform consistently from a game-to-game basis.

So far, Hyatt is proving doubters wrong as he currently leads Rutgers in several categories, including scoring, three-point percentage, and three-point field goals made.

Continue reading this article at The Knight Report on Rivals.