Looking back at Rutgers' season openers since 2014
Since joining the Big Ten, the Rutgers men’s basketball team has not had a winning conference record. Having a total conference record of 16-76 during their tenure in a new conference, ironically, within the past five home openers, the Scarlet Knights posted a 4-1 record.
Starting off strong seems like the approach Rutgers takes when coming into a new season. It seems that the teams have a hard time keeping this momentum when going into games on the road. Ever since joining the Big Ten, the Knights have totaled a record of 9-49 on the road.
After starting strong at home, they seem to have a hard time to find a groove going on the road. Not only finding a grove on the road, but Rutgers also had a total of 16-76 since joining the Big Ten. Regardless of what happened during home openers, the Knights have a hard time translating these wins into more wins against the games that will make or break their season.
Rutgers opened the 2014-2015 season up against George Washington. The Colonials won in a blowout at the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC) 70-53. After losing this home opener, the Knights posted a 6-10 record at home. They also ended the season on a 15-game losing streak, with six of those losses coming from home games.
If you thought it couldn’t get any worse, you are wrong. The following season, despite winning its home opener in a nail-biter versus Central Arkansas (87-84), Rutgers posted a 7-25 overall record, 1-17 in conference and 0-11 when on the road. This was the team's most miserable season in decades.
The season seemed like a never-ending nightmare. As expected, former head coach Eddie Jordan was relieved of his head coaching duties. The Knights were hoping to look for a fresh start after having their worst overall record since the 1963-1964 basketball season.
In the 2016-2017 season, head coach Steve Pikiell was introduced as head coach. Rutgers' goal going into that season was just to improve from the previous year. The Knights blew out opponent Molloy (86-57) in the team’s home opener. All though they went 3-15 within a very tough conference, the team still displayed resilience from the year before in posting a 15-18 overall record.
In the 2017-2018 home opener, Rutgers toppled St. John’s 80-78. In Pikiell’s second year as head coach, he wanted to display once again that this team improved. With posting identical numbers from the previous year, the Knights were still stuck with a poor road record (0-9) and conference record (3-15). There was one thing on the program's mind going into next season: improvement.
Rutgers started the 2018-2019 season on a strong note in a statement win against Farleigh Dickinson (90-55). The Knights started that season 5-5 through their first 10 games.
This season was different though. Despite have a record of 14-17 (7-13), Rutgers had its best record within conference since their Big East days back in the early 2000s. From this season, you can tell that Pikiell’s culture change was starting to make its way into the locker room. Chipping away by becoming a better team has been the storyline for this team since Pikiell’s arrival.
The Knights have had a habit of blowing out teams in home openers and not capitalizing on their momentum going into the seasons of past.
Regardless of posting a losing record within the past five seasons, Rutgers has improved since Pikiell’s arrival. In a tough conference, becoming a winning team isn’t something that happens overnight. Patience is a huge thing with this program.
You can look at any college basketball program before they were successful. Take teams like Texas Tech, Villanova and Baylor, for example. All three of these programs struggled at some point before turning into March Madness powerhouses.
Success doesn’t happen overnight, and behind Pikiell, this team has only improved in past seasons. It’s only a matter of time until a culture change sets in, and the Knights can achieve great accomplishments as a team.
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