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Rutgers men's basketball to face off against Clemson in Big Ten/ACC Challenge

The Rutgers men’s basketball team will look for a repeat of its NCAA Tournament win as Clemson was announced as its opponent in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.  – Photo by Rutgers Basketball / Twitter

Rutgers men’s basketball will host Clemson next season as part of the 23rd edition of the Big Ten/ACC Men’s Basketball Challenge.

Taking place on Nov. 30, the contest will be a rematch of the NCAA Tournament game played between the two schools. Back in March, the Scarlet Knights ended the Tigers’ season with a narrow 60-56 win to advance to the next round.

In the win, Rutgers was able to secure its first NCAA Tournament victory in 38 years on the backs of big performances from players such as junior guard Caleb McConnell, who finished the game with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

“We respect Clemson a great deal. (Brad Brownell) is one of the best coaches in the country. We knew it would be one of these games,” said head men’s basketball coach Steve Pikiell, who earned his first NCAA Tournament victory with the win. “(McConnell) came off the bench, did some great things. Everybody that checked into the game, again, (did) some unbelievable things.”

In the schools’ upcoming meeting, there is an opportunity for a team to gain an edge in the all-time series between the two schools. The Knights currently lead the Tigers with a 2-1 record. Their other win came on Dec. 1, 2014, when they won 69-64.

As for the Big Ten/ACC Challenge at large, the early season meetings consist of 14 games that will take place over the course of three days. Other notable matchups in the challenge include Iowa at Virginia, Michigan at North Carolina and Duke at Ohio State.

Rutgers is 3-4 in the seven times the program has participated in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. In last year’s edition of the games, the Knights maintained their early season momentum by defeating Syracuse 79-69. In the win, Rutgers was led by junior guard/forward Ron Harper Jr., who finished with 26 points.

“Anytime you can beat a program like (the Orange), it's a good step for your program,” Pikiell said after the win. “We knew we'd be tested tonight, and we were, and Coach (Jim) Boeheim almost won a thousand games. I played against them when I was at UConn. I have a ton of respect for their program, and he makes winning 20 games look easy.”

With the season a little more than four months away, the Knights’ roster for next season is expected to become much clearer in the near future.

Similar to programs across the country, Rutgers saw several players transfer and enter the 2021 NBA Draft after the season. Among those players to enter the draft were Harper and senior guard Geo Baker, who both entered their names into the draft while retaining their college eligibility.

Harper and Baker have until July 7 to make the decision on whether to keep their names in the draft or to return to Piscataway for another season. If both players decide to remain in the draft, they will have forfeited their remaining NCAA eligibility.

“I’ve decided to enter my name into the 2021 NBA Draft while maintaining my eligibility and leaving the option to return to school for my (fifth) year,” Baker said. “To all the people who helped me get here and to all the fans who have supported me along the way: Thank you!”

For updates on the Rutgers men's basketball team, follow @TargumSports

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