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Rutgers blocks out doubters as Big Ten play nears | The Catch and Shoot

Rutgers blocks out doubters as Big Ten play nears

NEW YORK — Rutgers is bad. Entering Sunday’s game against Manhattan at Madison Square Garden, the Scarlet Knights ranked No. 179 in Kenpom.

Rutgers plays in one of college basketball’s best conferences. Kenpom ranks the Big Ten third, and this is a down-year for the league. Each of the previous four years, the Big Ten topped Kenpom’s conference rankings.

That’s not a promising combination for a Rutgers program that has not had a winning record since the 2005-06 season.

The Scarlet Knights were unsurprisingly picked before the season to finish last in the Big Ten, and people have doubted if they would win a single game in conference play.

That’s unlikely, but the criticism and lack of respect is not unwarranted.

Rutgers (6-4) defeated Manhattan (2-6) Sunday, 63-55, in what was actually an upset. The Jaspers were a 2.5-point favorite.

“We were the underdog?” senior forward Kadeem Jack said after the game.

That’s right, the Scarlet Knights are oblivious, because they choose to be oblivious. They know people aren’t giving their program any respect, but they don’t care.

“We don’t even look at things like that,” senior guard Myles Mack said. “We just come out here and try to play the best basketball that we can. If we worry about that stuff, that’s just gonna be in our heads. Just keep poised and do what we do and try to get wins.”

Getting wins hasn’t been easy for Rutgers. 6-4 is about what you would expect from this team after their first 10 games, but whom they beat and lost is more surprising. The Scarlet Knights have solid wins against Vanderbilt and Clemson, but they also have an 18-point home loss to St. Peter’s.

Coach Eddie Jordan still has plenty of work to do preparing his team for its Big Ten opener Dec. 30 against Northwestern. That’s only 15 days from now, but Rutgers still has three non-conference games left to plug up its holes.

“The way we played tonight, the Big Ten schedule is like 20 years away for me,” Jordan said. “I’m looking to get better tomorrow in practice and work better against the pressure. We understand what the Big Ten schedule’s about, but there’s some games to play and some practices to get through. … I like where our defense is going to. We’ve shown to be resilient, disciplined and hard-working enough.”

Author: Jesse Kramer

Jesse Kramer is the founder of The Catch and Shoot. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. He has had work featured on SI.com, College Insider, The Comeback/Awful Announcing, and 247Sports.


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