A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Rutgers football team’s rise to respectability under Greg Schiano. Well, now it’s time to give some attention to the Rutgers men’s basketball team which has exceeded respectability into the rare air of national rankings.

The Scarlet Knights had risen to No. 11 in the AP poll before a road loss to Ohio State dropped them to No. 14. Already in the young season they have impressive wins over pre-season conference favorite Illinois, on the road against Maryland and currently sit at 6-1 overall and 2-1 in the tough Big 10 conference.

Last season was a breakthrough for the team as they won 20 games and seemed poised for an NCAA tournament run when it was canceled due to the pandemic, as was the conference tournament. The Scarlet Knights were particularly tough at home going 18-1 at the RAC and were ranked in the Top 25 for the first time since 1979. They tied for fifth in the Big Ten with a conference mark of 11-9.

The architect of the turnaround is Steve Pikiell, the head coach who was hired in 2016. He has slowly built the Scarlet Knights to national prominence while compiling a 70-65 record. This year’s squad is led by junior Ron Harper, Jr., who is averaging over 23 points a game and junior Myles Johnson, who leads the team in rebounds and blocked shots. Hopefully, this season will be able to be completed and the NCAA tournament held so we can find out just how well the Scarlet Knights stack up to the best in the country.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Bill Doyle. Any opinions expressed are Bill Doyle's own.

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