The Rutgers men's basketball team will be markedly different this season than in years past. For the first time since the 2016-2017 season, the Scarlet Knights roster will not include one of former guard Geo Baker, former guard Paul Mulcahy, former forward Ron Harper Jr. or former guard Caleb McConnell.
These four players made up the core that brought Rutgers back to relevance, and now, the program, the fans and head coach Steve Pikiell must move on. With a new-look roster and a potentially new playing style, here are three things to expect from the Knights this upcoming season.
Need for speed
One of the biggest storylines surrounding Rutgers this offseason is how fast it has looked in practice. Fifth-year guard Noah Fernandes, sophomore guard Derek Simpson and freshman guard Jamichael Davis are all known for their speed and should be the primary ball-handlers for the Knights.
Rutgers has practiced scrimmaging with a 12- or 20-second shot clock to condition itself for the season and practice getting up and down the court in a hurry.
Though a lot has been written about the Knights' potential increased pace of play this upcoming season, fans will still be surprised by how different this team plays compared to the rest of Pikiell's teams in the past.
Stylistically, Rutgers will likely play a more fun brand of basketball and should average two to three more possessions a game.
Freshman will contribute
While many expected freshman guard Gavin Griffiths to contribute heavily this season, not many expected Davis to also make an impact. That said, both freshmen should get significant minutes this season.
Griffiths will likely start for the Knights due to his impressive shooting ability.
During Rutgers' exhibition game against St. Johns, Griffiths scored 14 points, shooting 3-8 from beyond the arc and corralling in five rebounds. Standing at 6-foot-8, Griffiths can cause matchup problems for opposing teams, and though Griffiths is not necessarily a ball-handler, expect Pikiell to find ways to generate touches for Griffiths.
"Definitely, shooting is one of my strengths," Griffiths said. "I have great teammates, so finding a way to play alongside my teammates is definitely going to be a strength for me too."
Griffiths should challenge Omoruyi as the Knights' scoring leader this season.
Davis was arguably the breakout player of the off-season. He was not a highly-rated prospect coming out of high school but has already started to prove recruiters wrong this off-season. Davis showcased his defensive prowess and his ability to get downhill during practice.
"Definitely getting downhill (and) getting my teammates involved," Davis said about his offensive strengths. "Trying to get them into good spots where they can get a good shot off and look for myself as well."
In Rutgers' exhibition match against the Johnnies, Davis had a breakout performance, playing 34 minutes, scoring 16 points, grabbing six rebounds, dishing out two assists and getting to the free throw line a remarkable 10 times.
While Davis will most likely not start, expect him to be a productive backup point guard in his first year on the Banks.
This might be one of Pikiell's deepest teams.
"I like the fact we can go 11-or-12 players deep this year," Pikiell said to reporters during the Big Ten media day. "We really haven’t had that kind of depth in recent years, so when we had an injury, it could hurt us."
With all of the Knights' depth, expect new and more rotations during games. Rutgers should have a nine-to-10-man rotation to start the season. The rotation will likely shrink, but for now, fans can expect to see plenty of players during the course of a game.
This should be exciting for the players as they will have a chance to establish themselves before conference play begins.
Rutgers will open its season against Princeton on Monday at the Cure Insurance Arena in Trenton. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on Peacock and 88.7 WRSU-FM.
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