In the first NET rankings of the college basketball season, the Rutgers men’s basketball team ranked No. 217 out of 358 eligible schools. The ranking is emblematic of a Scarlet Knights (4-4, 0-1) season that has been underwhelming up to this point.
The NET rankings replaced the rating percentage index (RPI) prior to the 2018-19 season. The new NET rankings system serves to add more components to a team’s ranking from the RPI’s previous method of solely using a team’s winning percentage, average opponent’s winning percentage and average opponent's opponent's winning percentage to determine rankings.
These new components are six in total and comprise of game results, strength of schedule, game location, scoring margin, net offensive, defensive efficiency and the quality of wins and losses.
Under this criteria, the Big Ten currently has four teams ranked inside the top 20 of the list. This includes Purdue, who is No. 1 in both the NET rankings and the Associated Press (AP) Top 25 for the first time in program history. Iowa is also ranked inside of the NET rankings’ top 10 at No. 9.
On the other end of the spectrum is Rutgers. The Knights are currently the lowest-ranked Big Ten team in the NET rankings, with the closest in-conference team to them being Nebraska at 192.
"I am concerned where our defense is, too. If we can't score, (then) they can't score. That has always been our motto," said head coach Steve Pikiell after Friday's loss to Illinois. "I will look at the tape. I think we did get a lot of layups. We got good looks. (Senior guard) Ron Harper Jr. had 23 points the other night, and he struggled tonight, but we have to get better."
Another aspect of the NET rankings is the use of quadrants when determining the quality of wins and losses. The quadrants range from Quadrant 1 games, which are against the best of opponents, to Quadrant 4 games, which are against the worst opponents.
For example, Rutgers’ upcoming matchup against the No. 1 Boilermakers (8-0, 1-0) will be a Quadrant 1 matchup while the program’s last-second loss to Lafayette earlier this season was a Quadrant 4 matchup. The lower the quadrant, the less impressive a win is, and the more damaging a defeat is.
So far this season, the Knights have one Quadrant 3 win, which was last week’s win against Clemson, and three Quadrant 4 wins. They are a combined 0-3 in Quadrant 1 and 2 games.
Despite the tough first month of the season, Rutgers will have plenty of opportunities to pick up quality wins, and it starts this week. In addition to Thursday’s tilt with Purdue, the Knights will travel up to Newark on Sunday to face their in-state rival Seton Hall in the Garden State Hardwood Classic.
Looking past this week, Big Ten play will offer the Knights copious chances to improve its NET ranking and make it back to the NCAA Tournament for a second straight year. For comparison, last season’s team finished the season at No. 40 on the NET rankings.
"We have to get better. We play in the best league in the country.” Pikiell said. “We need to get (senior guard Geo Baker) back. We could use his leadership.”
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