Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
RU Could Still Win Big East; Teel Named Player of the Week
Amazing as it may seem after a 1-5 start, Rutgers could still win the Big East regular season title and could still qualify for a bowl game.
With Saturday’s 54-34 victory at No. 17 Pitt, the once-dead Scarlet Knights improved to 3-5 overall, 2-2 in the league.
“Certainly we want to win the league like everybody in the league does, but we’re just going to take it one week at a time,” Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said Sunday morning in a conference call.
Rutgers has a bye this week before its Nov. 8 meeting with Syracuse (1-6, 0-3) — which is embroiled in a coaching controversy.
The Knights play three of their final four games at Rutgers Stadium, including league tilts with Syracuse and Louisville (Dec. 4). They must travel to South Florida Nov. 15.
If Rutgers runs the table — including winning the tough South Florida game — it would finish 7-5 and 5-2 in the Big East. If the Knights simply win the home games with the Orange and the Cardinals, beat Army at home and lose at USF, they would be 6-6, 4-3, still good enough for their fourth straight bowl appearance.
“We like the fact that three of our four remaining games are going to be at Rutgers Stadium, and that’s always nice,” Schiano said. “That’s a good thing.”
West Virginia (2-0) remains the lone unbeaten team in the conference, but Pat White and the Mountaineers have a tough schedule. They play at Connecticut, at home against Cincinnati, at Louisville, at Pitt and then home against South Florida for the final game
UConn (6-2, 2-1) and Pitt (5-2, 2-1) both have one loss. South Florida (6-2, 1-2) owns losses to Pitt and Louisville after Saturday.
Pitt still has to take on Louisville and West Virginia at home, and plays on the road at Cincinnati and Connecticut.
In the week ahead, South Florida plays at Cincinnati on Thursday (ESPN, 7:30); West Virginia visits UConn Saturday at noon in the Big East Game of the Week, and Louisville visits Syracuse Saturday night on ESPNU. Pitt plays out of conference against Notre Dame Saturday afternoon on NBC.
“Certainly it appears that…any team in this league can beat any other team on any given Saturday,” Schiano said, “and it’s just a matter of who plays well, who gets the ball bouncing their way and I think it makes for very exciting football.”
SCHIANO HAPPY FOR TEEL
Schiano added that he was happy for Rutgers fifth-year QB Mike Teel, who threw 5 TDs in the first half and a school-record six in the game and on Monday was named Big East Player of the Week.
Teel was booed at home in last week’s 12-10 victory over UConn, and entered the game with 3 TDs and 7 INTs. Schiano had taken to putting backup Domenic Natale in for several series against both UConn and Pitt.
“It was [satisfying],” Schiano said. “I’m most happy for our football team that we’re moving the ball, that we scored points. But I am happy for Mike. He’s a tough young man and one that we all believe in.”
Asked if he felt validated for staying with Teel when some were calling for him to make a QB change, Schiano said:
“No, not really. The only thing that I concern myself with is, Am I doing what’s best for Rutgers football. And I believe in my heart that I am and I don’t have any problem with people questioning it. It’s not that I don’t listen and respect others’ opinions…I listen to everything because I think you can learn from everybody and everything. But in the end I just have to make the decision that I think is best for Rutgers football. And as long as I do that, I sleep well at night.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.