Rutgers basketball advances in rankings as team navigates pandemic protocols
After starting 3-0, the 21st-ranked Rutgers men’s basketball team is moving up three spots in the AP Top 25.
But the Scarlet Knights haven’t played since No. 29 as they get ready to host Syracuse on Tuesday.
“Our resolve on the backboards, our ability to defend three-point land, our patience on offense – a lot of different things will be tested,” says head coach Steve Pikiell.
Rutgers hasn't beaten Syracuse in their last 13 meetings. Besides the challenges Syracuse presents, Pikiell says pandemic worries are always present.
“I’m worried every day. They test every day. I’m worried until I get the OK. Game days are always, you don’t even know if you’re going to play until three or four hours… You’ve got to worry about the other team testing too,” he says.
The pandemic has made scheduling difficult and is part of the reason why the team has gaps between games. But Rutgers remains one of the few programs in the country that has not had to pause basketball operations.
“Ours is the most comprehensive in the country, which is great. Trying to keep our guys safe and the whole nine yards, so the other team has to do a lot of things. It’s not just them showing up and playing the game,” Pikiell says.
Rutgers has the fourth-toughest remaining schedule in the country. And while that schedule will certainly see more changes, Pikiell says his players are grateful to be playing.
“Try to keep their minds in good places and be positive and I think our guys have been that way and have done a great job navigating all the hurdles here,” Pikiell says.
Rutgers and Syracuse tip-off Tuesday in Piscataway at 9:30 p.m.