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Targum sports desk gives predictions for Rutgers men's basketball season

The Rutgers men's basketball team will be back in action on Monday when the team takes on Columbia in its season opener. – Photo by Evan Leong

Anticipation is at an all-time high as the Rutgers men's basketball team gears up to start its season this Monday at home against Columbia. The Scarlet Knights will be looking to make it back to the NCAA Tournament for a third consecutive time behind the leadership of senior guard Paul Mulcahy, fifth-year guard Caleb McConnell and junior center Clifford Omoruyi.

But, it will be a challenge. Rutgers lost its top two scorers and program leaders in Geo Baker and Ron Harper Jr. and will rely on a mix old and new players to make up for the losses of those two. With the season just days away, The Daily Targum sports editors and writers weigh in on their expectations for the coming season.

Dylan McCoy, head sports editor: "The Knights are in a very interesting position this year, where they return a lot of their starters in a noticeably weaker Big Ten. I think that Rutgers will take advantage and finish inside the top four, also making the program’s third straight NCAA Tournament. On an individual level, I think (Omoruyi) will take a big step forward and will be a top 5 player in the conference."

Jack Bisaha, associate sports editor: "What I'm most interested to see from this version of Rutgers basketball is how it will replace the scoring of (Baker) and (Harper). Their answer to this seems to have a lot to do with (Omoruyi), who was getting the ball early and often in the scrimmage against Fairfield.

"(Mulcahy) will be pivotal as the pick and roll maestro he is, and (senior guard Cam Spencer) will also be crucial as he provides Rutgers with a floor spacer they have never had. If you had to ask me today, I think Rutgers finishes within the four-to-eight range in a weaker Big Ten and does enough throughout the season to complete the three-peat."

Ellis Gordon, correspondent: "It will be a surprisingly good season for the Rutgers men’s basketball team. (Freshman guard Derek Simpson) will flash in limited minutes. (Omoruyi) will average a double-double, and (Spencer) will shoot over 38 percent from 3.

This will be good enough to make back to back to back NCAA tournaments for the first time in school history as a 10th seed."

Josh Meyers, contributing writer: "The Rutgers men’s basketball team will be No. 8 in the Big Ten by the end of the season, just a few steps down from their No. 4 position in the conference last year.

"The Scarlet Knights will lose a scarce number of games in the Trapezoid of Terror and will have some big away victories that help them earn the right to go back to the March Madness tournament for the third straight year. (McConnell) will step up even more and lead the team in points with newly acquired (Spencer) leading the team in three-pointers, and (Mulcahy) leading the team in assists."

Eddie Kalegi, contributing writer: "I think there’s serious potential for Rutgers to make their third run to the NCAA Tournament. In fact, I don’t think their play in conference will change very much without (Baker) and (Harper). I still expect some upset victories with the (Jersey Mike’s Arena on Livingston campus) crowd on their side, and some disappointing road losses. The key to their success hinges on the non-conference slate.

"The speed with which (Omoruyi), (Mulcahy), (McConnell) adjust to their new roles as team leaders and (Simpson) (Spencer) find their place on the team will determine whether they can avoid costly Quad III and Quad IV losses that hurt them severely last season."

Andrew Rice, contributing writer: "I believe Rutgers will take a step forward this year. Players like (Omoruyi) continue to grow and show that they will be a force for awhile. Rutgers will go 20-12 and qualify for March Madness. They will also make decent noise in the Big Ten Tournament."

Camden Markel, contributing writer: "I’m expecting another NCAA Tournament berth for Rutgers. With returning starters (Omoruyi), (Mulcahy) and (McConnell), the Knights are bringing back a lot of production and experience.

"Led by these three, I think they can consistently compete with just about anyone in the Big Ten. I believe Rutgers will finish its season right around 20 regular season wins and will secure a third straight March Madness appearance."

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

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