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Gaining perspective on Rutgers men's basketball season so far

The Rutgers men's basketball team has started off the season with a better record in its first 10 games than last year’s performance, which landed the team in the March Madness tournament. – Photo by @RUAthletics / Twitter

Despite losing its last two games, the Rutgers men’s basketball team is exceeding pre-season expectations after losing Geo Baker and Ron Harper Jr. this offseason.

The Scarlet Knights (6-4, 1-1) began the year with three straight wins before losing against Temple. After the loss, Rutgers bounced back and won two consecutive games before losing a close game to Miami. The Knights then began Big Ten play by defeating then-ranked No. 10 Indiana 63-48

It seemed Rutgers would pull off another upset on the road at the game against the formerly No. 25 Ohio State, but in the dying seconds of the game, the Buckeyes (7-2, 1-0) hit a buzzer-beater three-point shot to win the game. The game ended controversially as Tanner Holden stepped out of bounds before returning to the court, receiving the pass and scoring the game-winning shot. 

"The action of stepping out of bounds and being the first player to touch the ball after returning inbounds constituted a violation of NCAA Rule 9, Section 3, Article 1," said the Big Ten in an official statement that admitted there was an error with the call.

After the *** loss, the Knights returned home where they lost narrowly to in-state rival Seton Hall. Though Rutgers has four losses, it is playing exceptionally well.

This offseason, the Knights recruited freshman guard Derek Simpson and added senior guard Cam Spencer from the transfer portal. Both have made an immediate impact on the Banks as Spencer is averaging 12.5 points per game (PPG) and Simpson had an elite performance against the Hoosiers (8-2, 1-1). 

Head coach Steve Pikiell has formed a well-constructed roster that perfectly fits his scheme. Rutgers sits third in adjusted defensive efficiency this season. Junior center Clifford Omoruyi is averaging 14.4 PPG, nearly 10 rebounds per game and shooting 50.4 percent from the field. Omoruyi is emerging as one of the most productive players in the Big Ten.

Last season, the program had a seemingly more talented roster with Baker and Harper Jr., but the team's performance was wildly inconsistent. The Knights had a very high ceiling with a chance to pull off upset wins, but they also lost games that they should have easily won.

At this time last year, Rutgers was 5-5 with upset losses against DePaul, Lafayette and UMass. The Knights did beat No. 1 ranked Purdue in a massive upset, but through their first ten games, their hopes for March Madness looked all but dead. 

Despite being a longshot to make the tournament after its first 10 games, Rutgers rallied to end the season 18-12 and lost in the first round of both the Big Ten tournament and the NCAA tournament. Although the program had some success in big games, it was not consistent on a game-to-game basis which led to a lack of success in postseason play.

It is important to remember last year's roster when establishing perspective for this year's team. The Knights already have four losses on the season, but they are playing at a high level. It seemed like the 2022-2023 season would be one focused on rebuilding the team to prepare for wins in future seasons, but its current players have shown that they are primed to do some damage in the Big Ten.


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


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