Let’s hope the newcomers get adjusted quickly! Unlike recent years, Rutgers basketball team will be tested early this season. Game 3 is at home against old Big East foe St John’s. Twelve days later they start a stretch at Miami, home against #11 Michigan State, then they travel to Wisconsin. Four big challenges in the first eight games is not an ideal scenario for Steve Pikiell in his 3rd season guiding the Scarlet Knights. Last year’s leading scorers Corey Sanders and DeShawn Freeman have moved on. It’s now up to Geo Baker, Eugene Omoruyi and Issa Thiam to hold the torch.
But help is on the way. Highly touted recruits Montez Mathis and Ron Harper Jr. join transfer Peter Kiss who should help Rutgers improve where they need it most, scoring for goodness sake! While Pikiell has developed formidable defensive teams since he’s arrived on the banks, the ball has not gone in the bucket. Rutgers has been toward the bottom in the nation in most offensive categories in the Pikiell era.
That can change this season. All three newcomers are shooters and that is what Rutgers needs, improvement from the floor, from 3 point range and foul shooting. This will likely take time as the team learns to play together. Progress also needs to be seen from the incumbents. Geo Baker is ready to step up and become the leader of this team now that Sanders opted to forego his senior season. Eugene Omoruyi has skill and a lot of up side so he must continue to develop. Issa Thiam’s shots have to go in during a game like they do in practice. Shaq Doorson has the size, let’s see if he added some moves and a little touch in the low post.
The potential is there but it will be challenged right away. The soft opening schedule of past seasons is not there this season. So once again patience is in order for Rutgers fans. Pikiell will have the team ready to play and the defense will be there. The offense may take some time but it has to arrive at some point if RU wants to emerge from the bottom of the Big 10.