Previously: Purdue, Northwestern, Penn State, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Ohio State, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Michigan State, Wisconsin
With all the Big Ten teams reviewed, it's now time to take a look at the two league neophytes; this week, I'll take a very brief look at Rutgers, followed up by Maryland next week. After that, it'll be time to truly engage FOOTBALL MODE.
So what happened this season?
For the most part, not great things.
The Scarlet Knights finished 12-21, with a 5-13 record in the American Athletic Conference. They went 6-7 in the nonconference portion of the schedule, with losses: at UAB, at George Washington, and at home against Drexel, William & Mary, Fairleigh Dickinson, Seton Hall, and Princeton.
They went 3-17 against RPI top 150 competition, and added four more losses to sub-150 foes. To be fair, Rutgers finished 38th in SOS. Still, Fairleigh Dickinson finished 10-21 with a 6-10 mark in the NEC--that is an ugly loss. Princeton with a solid 21-9 record, but they were third in the Ivy. Drexel finished 16-14 (8-8) in the Colonial Athletic Association.
In short, there were quite a few bad losses, in terms of quality of opponents. Then, there were bad losses, even against solid competition. The prime example? Rutgers finished its season with an all-timer of a clunker. After defeating South Florida in the first round of the AAC tournament, the Knights lost 92-31 to Louisville. No, you didn't misread that. 92-31. Yes, Louisville is pretty good, but man. This also came a little less than a month after a drubbing at Louisville on Feb. 16, in which they lost 102-54.
On the bright side, Rutgers won't have to face Louisville anymore. On the not so bright side, the Big Ten is a major step up from the AAC.
- Rutgers finished with the second-worst PPP in the AAC (0.97). Defensively, only four AAC conceded more points per possession than Rutgers (1.11).
- With an eFG% of 45.4 percent, they were second-worst in the league. Again, only three teams were worse on the defensive side of that statistic (UCF, USF and Temple), as Rutgers allowed opponents to manage an eFG% of 51.7 percent.
- Second-worst in free throw rate (34.7).
- They shot 31.5 percent from beyond the arc; only UCF and and USF were more inaccurate. Meanwhile, opponents shot 36.4 percent from downtown against them.
- Offensive rebounding percentage: 30.8 percent, ahead of only Houston (30.7). On the defensive side, they were actually quite solid, with a DRB% of 67.9 percent, good for second-best in the AAC.
- Fifth in the AAC in turnover percentage (19.1 percent). Just for a point of reference, Minnesota finished with the second-worst TO% in the Big Ten this past year--they were at 19.5 percent.
The good thing is leading scorers Myles Mack and Kadeem Jack are both back; they averaged 14.9 and 14.3 ppg, respectively. Jack is a 6-foot-9 power forward, while Mack is a 5-foot-10 guard. However, third-leading scorer and Pitt transfer J.J. Moore is gone (11.2 ppg). He takes with him quite a few three-point attempts, but he only converted on 30 percent of those in 2013-14.
While the Mack-Jack attack is back (say that five times fast), Moore, Wally Judge and Jerome Seagears (transfer to UNLV) are gone. J'Von Campbell was also a transfer casualty, as was wing Craig Brown (Kent State). In terms of bodies, that's a not insignificant string of losses.
With former NBA coach (and member of the 1976 Rutgers Final team) Eddie Jordan heading into his second year, you would think things will start to stabilize vis-a-vis transfers.
With all those departures, naturally Jordan brought in a sizable 2014 recruiting class. No 4- or 5-star guys, but there's some size in there and they'll hope that one of the incoming Brooklyn shooting guards can form a decent backcourt with Mack.
The Mack and Jack pairing is a decent one to build upon; however, losing Moore and several players to the transfer wire is a difficult thing for a program joining a much stronger conference in the Big Ten. While I can't claim to have watched much Rutgers basketball this past season, on paper they didn't do a whole lot well. Again, Mack and Jack can play, and as we've seen with Nebraska (and to a far lesser extent, Penn State), a one-two punch can be enough to not only score the occasional upset win (see: PSU at OSU), but even crawl into the league's top 4.
With that said, that is probably not in the cards for Rutgers. Never say never, obviously--nobody saw Nebraska coming this past season. With that said, I'm not sure how many teams I'd currently slate them to outperform in the Big Ten this coming season.