Rutgers shook Big Ten faster than anyone expected


The three Rutgers captains looked at each other and smiled as they listened to coach Steve Pikiell. They reminded the media on Wednesday night exactly where the Scarlet Knights should end this season in the Big Ten from his respected colleagues at one of college basketball's multi-year power conferences.

Players had probably heard this line dozens of times since the traditional New Jersey floor mat program came up to expectations with an impressively tough win after another.

Pikiell, in his fourth year in Piscataway, after a successful department for small schools that I run in Stony Brook, tells about it during daily practice exercises. He reinforces it during the timeout.

He probably even reminds her regularly at breakfast.

"You know, we were selected to take 12th place in the Big Ten," said Pikiell again after Rutgers raised his program 59:50 against Indiana to a surprising 4-2 record for conference play and to open a 12-0 mark at the rattling RAC in Sunday's home game against Minnesota.

Yes, coach. You know.

Rutgers, who has not competed in the NCAA tournament since 1991 and has not been included in the AP survey since the 1978/79 season, is nearing one or both of these goals.

Sports director Pat Hobbs admits that the Pikiell Hoops squad, which ended in 2016 after Eddie Jordan's overcrowded squad hopelessly showed a 3:33 combination in the conference game in the first two seasons, "likely." slightly earlier than planned "is the Big Ten.

Ron Harper Jr. celebrates after a recent Rutgers win.
Ron Harper Jr. celebrates after a recent Rutgers win.AP

Pikiell made it last four times in a row to the last place in the praised 14-man league, but when a 7:13 conference promised a promise a year ago, there was an enormous improvement this time – with impressive home wins against Wisconsin and the nationwide Seton Hall and Penn State – offers a dose of scarlet fever throughout Garden State.

"I knew Rutger's basketball and the reputation he had. I knew it would be a challenge to work our way up, ”said second striker and top scorer Ron Harper Jr ..“ People doubted us. We were voted 12th in the league. Coach always reminds us of this in practice. We carry this chip on our shoulders every day.

"But we have all accepted this challenge. We will only try to maintain it and change the reputation of Rutgers basketball."

Harper's father naturally won five NBA titles with the Bulls and the Lakers during a remarkable 15-year professional career. His son was also a four-star recruit and two-time national champion at Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, New Jersey, but many questioned his decision to stay in the country and visit Rutgers.

"People said," Why, Rutgers? "And I said," You'll see, "said Harper," I feel like we're doing just that. "

Junior Guard's father Jacob Young, Michael, was also a former first-round goal in the NBA in the 1980s after playing on the famous Houston "Phi Slama Jama" teams with Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler.

In addition to these squad bloodlines, Pikiell is part of Jim Calhoun's first recruitment course in Connecticut in 1986. The former security guard was later an assistant coach on program changes in Central Connecticut and George Washington before completing his first head coaching concert at Stony Brook in 2005.

Steve Pikiell used the fact that Rutgers was selected to finish 12th in the Big Ten as a motivation for his team.AP

Pikiell, who led the Seawolves to the 2016 NCAA tournament, still speaks regularly to 77-year-old Calhoun. The Hall of Famer won his 900th college career game earlier this month in his last job at Division III Saint Joseph in West Hartford, Conn.

"I just think that's part of what you sell. The excitement. The tradition of attending a conference like this," said Pikiell. "I remember when I arrived at UConn, coach Calhoun sold:" You will playing at Carrier Dome and against John Thompson in Georgetown and Rick Pitino in Providence and St. Johns in the garden.

"This is our conference right now. This league is like a glove every night."

In fact, astonishing 11 of the 14 teams in the Big Ten – including Rutgers – received votes in the AP Top 25 poll last week. After his team was suffocated by the suffocating defense of the Scarlet Knights, Indiana coach Archie Miller described them as "one of the best teams in our league, they really are."

Miller was also very impressed with the atmosphere in the RAC, the 43-year-old relic that has suddenly had a rough sell-off in recent years that has been largely invisible. Pikiell's team is perfectly at home 12-0 this season, and although the coach refused to say so after the game in Indiana, Harper admitted that the players' goals are now to "fear every team, to come here "and" stay unbeaten "at the RAC" this season.

"I keep telling them: remember where we were selected," said the 52-year-old Pikiell. "We also have to constantly remind them that you are only as good as the last game. If you win, it does not help you to win the next one.

“If you look down the street in a league like this, you know that the next challenge always comes. In our entire league, it is the most difficult league in the country to win on the street. And now Rutgers is also a very competitive venue on the street. We're unbeaten at home, we had tremendous fan support and the student department was very loud and supportive. We managed to do that in a few years. But we have to keep going. "

The sports department, which had its hands full at the beginning of the school year with another catastrophic football season that led to the return of former coach Greg Schiano, did its part to build a state-of-the-art exercise facility worth $ 117 million Pikiell believes that this will continue to support the recruitment efforts that are needed to make even more of a statement in a conference that has been praised in this way.

“We feel like being in the Big Ten is like winning the Golden Ticket. It's a good time for Rutger's athletics, ”said Hobbs. “I think people really see the signature of a Steve Pikiell team. A lot of hustle and bustle, defense, selfless play, and fans and students really buy this identity.

"Rutgers hasn't contested the NCAA tournament in almost 30 years, and it's still a long way to go, but it was fun to experience so much excitement in the team across the university."