Geo baker
Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Three huge wins have Rutgers thinking tournament.

With Major League Baseball locked out and the NFL season now in the books, sports fans are thinking about March Madness. We’re nearing the end of the regular season and teams are climbing into bubble status.

So… can we talk about what’s going on with Rutger’s hoops?

Last Saturday, they hosted Michigan State. They beat the 13th-ranked Spartans by 21.

Fluke?


They then hosted 16th-ranked Ohio State on Wednesday. They won that game by two.

Mojo rising?

On Saturday, they went to Madison and beat the 14th-ranked Wisconsin Badgers by eight.

So let’s all say it together: Rutgers hoops is for real.

And they’re doing it as a team.

Spreading the offense

Ron Harper, Jr. is leading the Scarlet Knights in scoring at 15.7 points per game, which ranks only 11th in the Big Ten. Geo Baker (12.5 ppg) is the only other Rutgers player in the Big Ten’s top 25 scorers.

Paul Mulcahy leads the Big Ten, averaging 5.4 assists per game. And Baker ranks tenth in the Big Ten, averaging 4.1 assists per game; they are the only Rutgers players in the conference’s top 25 assist men.

However, both Baker (second) and Mulcahy (eighth) rank in the conference’s top ten in assist-to-turnover ratio.

As a team, Rutgers ranks fourth in the Big Ten, averaging 10.5 offensive rebounds per game. They’re better than Michigan State, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Strong defense

Rutgers is allowing only 64.8 points per game, which trails only Indiana (63.8) in the Big Ten conference as a team.

Clifford Omoruyi ranks seventh in the Big Ten, averaging 7.9 rebounds per game. Harper (6.1 rpg – 17th) is the only other Scarlet Knight in the Big Ten’s top 25 rebounders. He also ranks fifth in the conference in blocked shots, averaging 1.3 per game.

Caleb McConnell leads the Big Ten, averaging 2.3 steals per game. Mulcahy (ninth), Harper (14th) and Baker (17th) also rank among the best in the Big Ten.

Signature Wins

Wisconsin has only lost on their home floor three times this year — to Providence on Nov. 15, Michigan State on Jan. 21 and Rutgers on Saturday. The Badgers were 11-2 in their previous 13 games before suffering the loss to the Scarlet Knights.

Ohio State has only played three games in February, but bracketed the loss to Rutgers with a 15-point home win against Maryland and an eight-point win against Michigan in Ann Arbor on Saturday.

And Michigan State won nine straight between a loss to Baylor on Nov. 26 and a stunning two-point loss to Northwestern on Jan. 15; the Spartans are 13-4 since the Baylor loss.

No other team in the Big Ten has wins against those three ranked programs on their resume this season.

Rutgers’ next test is another huge game; they host No. 13 Illinois on Wednesday night (on BTN).

The Scarlet Knights are 15-9 and have some work to do still if they want to cement their spot in the tournament. But the past week should put the country on notice that Rutgers basketball is for real.

 

 

Tab has written about MLB, the NHL and the NFL for more than a decade for publications including The Fourth Period, Bleacher Report and La Vida Baseball. He is the author of two books about the Chicago Blackhawks and has been credentialed for the MLB All-Star Game and postseason and multiple Stanley Cup Finals. He is the co-host of the Line Drive Radio podcast.