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Rutgers men's basketball 2022-23 season preview

Head coach Steve Pikiell looks to make program history as the Rutgers men's basketball team begins its quest for a third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance.  – Photo by Aaron Breitman / Youtube

On November 7, the Rutgers men’s basketball team will take the court at Jersey Mike’s Arena on Livingston campus to open its season against Columbia. The Scarlet Knights will be chasing history this season as they look to make three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances for the first time in school history.

As widely known, Rutgers will be without two familiar faces this season. After a historic five-year career on the Banks, star guard Geo Baker decided to retire from basketball while star forward Ron Harper Jr. declared for the NBA draft and is signed to a two-way contract with the Toronto Raptors.

The Knights return 12 players and three starters for the 2022-2023 season. Rutgers did not lose any players to the transfer portal, a fact that head coach Steve Pikiell was very happy to report at the team’s Media Day.

“I was just happy guys all feel valued and stayed. I think retention moving forward is going to be really, really important,” Pikiell said. “You'd like to take over programs, and your freshmen become sophomores, and your sophomores become juniors and juniors become seniors — now that’s not the case at a lot of places.” 

The Knights will be led by senior guard Paul Mulcahy, fifth-year senior guard Caleb McConnell and junior center Clifford Omoruyi. Last year, Mulcahy led the Big Ten in assists and scored 9 points per game (PPG).

McConnell led Rutgers on the defensive end and won Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year last year. He flashed his scoring prowess in the team’s NCAA Tournament game, leading the team with 23 points on 10 of 12 shooting against Notre Dame. Look for McConnell to assert himself more on the offensive end with Baker and Harper gone.

Omoruyi was selected to the Preseason All-Big Ten Team in anticipation of what should be a breakout junior campaign. Last year, Omoruyi averaged 11.9 PPG and 7.8 rebounds per game. This coming season, expect Omoruyi to continue shocking fans with thunderous dunks and big blocks on the defensive end.

“I want to average a double-double with two or three blocks," Omoruyi said. "I have to uplift my team defensively, too. I plan on winning the Defensive Player (of the Year).”

The Knights will also be joined by some new faces this upcoming season. Pikiell recruited freshman guard Derek Simpson and freshman forwards Antwone Woolfolk and Antonio Chol while getting senior guard Cam Spencer through the transfer portal.

“I like their blend of enthusiasm and their personalities going with our veteran guys that have been around a lot (and) know what the league is like,” said Pikiell on the freshman players.

Spencer will bring much-needed scoring help to the Banks. Last year, he was named to the All-Patriot League First Team and averaged 18.9 PPG. Spencer is a knockdown three-point shooter with a career average of 38.8 percent shooting from behind the arc.

Fans have shown palpable excitement for the upcoming season, as well. As of yesterday, three home games have already been sold out, and Rutgers has sold 5,923 season tickets, a program record that was recently set last year.

“We expect every game to be sold out," Pikiell said. "It's not a lot of tickets left for those other ones.”

The Knights’ first opponent will be the Lions. Head coach Jim Engles returns for his seventh season with the team after a 22-4 losing campaign last season. This year, the team is led by guard Geronimo Rubio De La Rosa, who was second in PPG and first in total assists and steals.

Rutgers vs. Columbia will tip off their seasons at 7 p.m with the game being broadcasted on Big Ten Network+ and 88.7 WRSU-FM.

“I'm excited about starting year seven. I'm thankful that when I took the job, I was the fifth coach in 11 years — so not good,” Pikiell said. “But to be here in year seven is a blessing. I’m very thankful for my staff and people around our program … A lot of great things (are) going on, so I’m thankful to be the head coach again.”


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


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