The college basketball season begins in early November, so next month we’ll take a closer look at the entire conference, not just the Indiana roster. Today, our team’s preview continues to look at Rutgers.
In 2020, Steve Pikiel was on the verge of the first NCAA tournament berth since 1991, when the season suddenly ended with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last season he had the Scarlet Knights cross the hump into the tournament. After defeating Clemson in the 64th round, Rutgers fell to Houston and advanced to the final four.
In his sixth season at Piscataway, Pikiel has transformed Rutgers from a laughing stock into a legitimate Big Ten program. This year’s Rutgers team will need to rejoin the NCAA tournament.
Rutgers will return two of Geo Baker and Ron Harper Jr.’s Big Ten Best Guards who tested the NBA Draft process last spring.
The 6-foot-4 baker averaged 10.2 points, 3.2 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game last season. He shot only 40.9 percent from the field, but is known for making difficult shots. With Jacob Young’s move to Oregon, Baker could become more distributor in his fifth season. Last season’s assist rate was 19.1%, the lowest since the freshman season.
The 6’6 Harper Junior is a matchup issue for most big ten guards. He’s too big for a small defender and has the ability to step around, making it a difficult cover for front court players.
As a junior, Harper Jr. averaged 14.9 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game. He shot 52.4% in 2 seconds in Big Ten Play. His three-point shooting dropped from 35.2% in sophomore to 31% last season, but he still played six games and made more than four attempts to score three or more.
The duo could start with Paul Markay and Caleb McConnell. The 6-foot-6 Markay shot nearly 40% in 3 seconds last season. He must continue the open look with the opposite defense keying Baker and Harper Jr. The 6’7 McConnell isn’t a very aggressive threat, but it led the Big Ten with a steel percentage last season.
With Myles Johnson moving to UCLA, Cliff Omorui could take over fifth. At 6 feet-11, Omoruyi can be a paint and destructive defender. A former Top 50 new hire, Omorui is more aggressive than Johnson, who turned his back on the basket and played rigorously with paint.
“I’m really excited about Cliff’s development,” Pikiel said at Big Ten Media Day last week. “He’s a special player, and first and foremost, a special person. He was as good a worker as I was in the program, and there were some really good workers.”
Both the Ondre Hyatt and Ralph Lauren transfers must compete for rotation.
The 6-foot-5 Hyatt arrived from LSU and started 15 games last season. He reports a wingspan of 7 feet 5 and the Tigers average rebounds last season were 4.2 and 3.1. Hyatt must be able to play multiple positions. Age arrived from San Jose, averaging 11.1 points and 5.2 rebounds last season. The 6’8 forward shot is nearly 57% off the field.
Others who can compete for a few minutes include the freshman point guard Jalen Miller, who has the potential to become a starter in the future. He was rated 28th point guard in the 2021 class by 247Sports. 6ft 8 sophomore Jayden Jones was a 4-star freshman who joined the program mid-season and graduated from high school. And the 6’7 Australian Mawot Mag has a lot of potential defenses. Second graders played 12 games last season and could be mixed for a few minutes if Piciel had a deeper rotation than last season.
Conclusion: Despite the success of the 2020-21 season, Rutgers is back to be chosen to finish in the lower half of the league. The defeats of Young and Johnson are influential, but there is plenty of room for Piciel to reach the NCAA tournament again. Rutgers has an experienced back court that can protect and carry out its playing style. The key is Omorui, who needs to stay healthy and provide a presence that blocks shots on the rim.
Can be quoted: “I love backcoats. It was by far the most cohesive backcoat I had. Geobaker is a fifth year man who can make and shoot big shots. Paul Markay Has been improving in the league as ever and has played for minutes. From day one, Caleb McConnell has been a man who brings great energy to multi-position guys and is all-defensive at our conference. I think I have a chance to be a team player. I love their experience. “-Pikiel, a guard on Big Ten Media Day.
– NBA Sports
2021-22 ITH Season Preview: Rutgers Scarlet Nights-Inside the Hall
https://www.insidethehall.com/2021/10/12/2021-22-ith-season-preview-rutgers-scarlet-knights/ 2021-22 ITH Season Preview: Rutgers Scarlet Nights-Inside the Hall