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.
As Mike Teel and his fellow Rutgers seniors head into their final home game Thursday against Louisville, Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano knows emotions will be running high.
The senior Scarlet Knights will play their final game at Rutgers Stadium and as if that weren’t enough, the game will be televised nationally on ESPN and it also holds heavy bowl implications.
“Sometimes I’ve seen guys get too emotional about their final game and then the only emotion that they’ll have the rest of their life is regret because they didn’t play well in their final game,” Schiano said Monday in his weekly press conference on SNY. “I’m going to encourage the guys to keep it to the game at hand.
“I don’t want anyone to live with regret because they were too emotional about it and it made the game go haywire,” he added.
Rutgers (6-5, 4-2 Big East) is riding a five-game winning streak and would insure its fourth straight postseason appearance with a victory.
Rutgers could be headed to either the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte, N.C., or the PapaJohns.com Bowl in Birmingham, Ala.
If Rutgers wins, Notre Dame would also miss out on the Big East’s runner-up position in the Sun Bowl in El Paso.
Lousville (5-6, 1-5) comes into Piscataway riding a four-game losing streak and needing a victory to become bowl eligible.
The last time these teams tangled on Thursday night, Rutgers emerged with a dramatic 28-25 victory over the then-No. 3 Cardinals in 2006 on ESPN that helped catapult the Scarlet Knights to an 11-2 campaign.
“I’m excited to play another game,” Schiano said. “It’s been a while. It’s only been a week and a half, but it feels longer than that with the holiday.”
Schiano said he would prefer to to play all games on Saturday afternoons at 1, but understands the importance of prime-time games.
“Thursday night football has become the college version of Monday Night Football,” Schiano said. “On Monday Night Football, you knew what you were doing. You were going to find a TV and watch that game. And you knew who was playing. I think Thursday night college football has become that in the college game. I know college coaches and players, everybody watches that Thursday night game, so your contemporaries are going to be watching you.
“We need to get exposure for our program like any program, so the more you can be on national television, the better.”
Schiano said Louisville will present challenges both offensively and defensively.
“I think they have really good running backs,” he said. “And that’s evidenced by their production in the run game. They have big strong-armed quarterback [Hunter Cantwell] who can make every single throw in the book. And they have probably the best center [Eric Wood] in America. That’s a pretty good place to start right up the middle, center, quarterback, tailback…They have speed at the receiver position and they have some great size.
“Defensively, they are very stout up the middle. It reminds me of [North] Carolina a little bit with those huge inside tackles guys and then their secondary can really run. They have great speed in the secondary and schematically they present a lot of problems because they have several different blitz packages that you don’t really know what you’re going to get….They’re certainly going to be a challenge.”
With a victory, Rutgers will be headed to yet another bowl game.
“Hopefully we have two more games, that’s what you’re hoping for,” Schiano said.
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.