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.
Rutgers Improves to 11-1 with Seton Hall Game Up Next
By: MIKE McCURRY
NEW YORK—With a resounding 68-53 win over Fordham on Sunday at Madison Square Garden, Rutgers improved to 11-1, establishing its highest single-season victory total since 2013-2014 before Christmas.
Next up for the Scarlet Knights? A Friday date at the Prudential Center against in-state rival Seton Hall. It’s time to see how Steve Pikiell’s team actually measures up against solid competition.
“We’re going to play a really good program with really good players—a team that’s beaten us the last few years, Pikiell said. “It’s a big challenge for us. We like challenges. I like challenges as a coach.”
Rutgers hasn’t had many challenges up to this point. Entering Sunday, RU’s strength of schedule ranked 311th out of 351 Division-1 teams, hence the gaudy record. The best win on the resume is probably at DePaul, a result that won’t exactly resonate greatly come Selection Sunday.
But maybe a cupcake-filled slate is exactly what the doctor ordered for a program bereft of any recent success.
One certainty is Rutgers’ confidence heading into the battle of New Jersey against Seton Hall, the defending Big East Tournament champion.
“We’re just going to prepare for a great team in Seton Hall,” said Mike Williams, who scored a game-high 19 points versus Fordham. “[Coach Pikiell] is going to have a great game plan, and the ball will go up on Friday night.”
Pikiell has lauded Rutgers’ returnees for their improvement and progression, with Williams serving as the poster child for that. The junior is also no stranger to the Rutgers-Seton Hall rivalry, which hasn’t gone the Scarlet Knights’ way of late.
Rutgers has lost three straight games versus Seton Hall, with the last two coming by an average margin of defeat of 28 points.
Will Pikiell, who already seems to have implemented a culture that Eddie Jordan could not manifest, be able to flip the script on Friday in a true barometer game for Rutgers?
We won’t know for sure until this weekend. But, according to Williams, the right man is strolling the sidelines for a suddenly revived Rutgers program.
“He’s brought his own energy, style and flair to this program,” Williams said of Pikiell. “As soon as he came in in April, he’s been ready to go. I just like playing for this man.”
Follow Mike on TwitterFollow Adam Zagoria on TwitterAnd like ZAGS on Facebook