Once again On The Banks site manager Aaron Brietman was kind enough to answer some questions about Rutgers for us.
Kevin: Besides the immature giggle the acronym can cause, what makes the RAC one of the more intimidating venues in the B1G? What is your favorite thing about the arena?
Aaron: The RAC has long been a difficult place to play and HOF coach Jim Calhoun has said it was the toughest place he ever coached at. However, due to Rutgers having struggled on the court in recent years, the environment wasn’t the same. We saw the resurgence of a homecourt advantage last season with five sellouts and this season it’s reached another level. This rematch against Nebraska is the fourth straight sellout and it’s likely every remaining home game will be.
What makes the RAC unique is the shape (nicknamed the trapezoid of terror), the acoustics due to high ceiling, and the seating right on top of the court really amplifies the noise in the building and on the court. This Rutgers team in particular seems to really feed off the energy and it can snowball in a positive way for them.
My favorite thing about the RAC is the student section behind the basket near the visitors bench. It’s positioning and height at the top really make it influential in creating energy and noise throughout the RAC.
Kevin: Rutgers has some great wins this season, particularly the Seton Hall and Penn State wins. However, they seem to have the same struggles most of the rest of the Big Ten has been having on the roads following losses at MSU, Illinois, and now Iowa. How do you forsee Rutgers doing in the juggernaut ahead with road games remaining at Maryland, tOSU, Wisconson, Penn State, and Purdue? Also, reading that schedule left, does Jim Delany hate the Scarlet Knights?
Aaron: I actually think Rutgers has played relatively well on the road this past month, as all three conference losses away from the RAC. They were tied with Illinois in the final two minutes and lost by 3, followed by missing a layup with 20 seconds to play at Iowa that would have tied it. I wouldn’t discount the win over Nebraska either, as they’ve beaten Iowa and Purdue at home. Rutgers won convincingly and it was the first game without captain Geo Baker. Defense travels and that’s been the biggest key as to why Rutgers is more competitive on the road.
As far as the rest of the road games on the schedule, it will certainly be a difficult task to win those games but I believe they’ll be able to win at least one. The fact remains if Rutgers can continue to win at home and get to 20 wins, their chances to make the NCAA Tournament would be strong in my opinion.
Regarding Delany, he definitely doesn’t hate Rutgers, as he is the biggest reason they are in the Big Ten. He is from New Jersey and without his wanting to add them, it never would have happened. The scheduling gods (maybe also Delany) certainly haven’t done Rutgers any favors, but hard to complain about it and it really doesn’t matter because every Big Ten game is a dogfight this season.
Kevin: When Rutgers came to Lincoln, they were missing Geo Baker. Should Husker fans be nervous about his return making this second game even uglier?
Aaron: This will be Geo’s fourth game back from his thumb injury, but he is still trying to regain his shooting form and has come off the bench in the first three contests. His importance to this team remains huge and despite not scoring as much, he made two keys steals in the win over Indiana that changed the game and hit a three against Minnesota that sealed the victory. Above all though his leadership on the court is probably the most important thing he adds to this team. So yes, be very afraid of the power of Geo.
Kevin: This is a fun aside question, and was a topic brought up in our slack channel last week, so let’s get your input. Who has the worst drivers: New Jersey, New York, Maryland/DMV, or Florida?
Aaron: I can only speak from experience, but I’ve found that most cab drivers in New York City where I work have the mentality of part NASCAR driver, part Blue Brothers chase scene, so even when walking on the sidewalk you need to keep your head on a swivel.
Kevin: Back to the serious stuff now. I mean this question with all due respect, but did anyone in the fan base really expect going into this season to be sitting tied for third over a third of the way into the conference season? After all, that is a great accomplishment so far, especially after losing Eugene Omoruyi to transfer.
Aaron: I don’t think anyone expected Rutgers to be tied for second place and one game behind the top of the Big Ten at the end of January. The hope and expectation was that Rutgers would produce its first winning season since 2006 and hopefully make the NIT for the first time since that year as well. I did predict a 19-12 record and 10-10 in Big Ten play, but I didn’t think that would get them into the NCAA Tournament. However, it’s been a strange college basketball season and now I think it would be enough. Rutgers looks on track to get there.
As for the loss of Omoruyi, there is no denying it was unfortunate to lose the leading scorer and rebounder from a year ago. That being said, I think his style of play doesn’t fit as well with how Rutgers as evolved this season and from a team chemistry perspective, his departure has brought the players closer together and made them a more unified group.
Kevin: Final question, let’s hear your score prediction?
Aaron: Saturday’s game for Rutgers will be its third in six days and they didn’t get back to campus until the early morning hours on Thursday after the tough loss at Iowa. I’m concerned about their focus and energy at the start of this game. I think Nebraska has enough talent to win if Rutgers doesn’t play well and Cam Mack could cause a lot of problems in transition. I foresee a pretty close game in the first half that Rutgers ultimately wins down the stretch after wearing Nebraska down with its depth and defense. Rutgers 69 Nebraska 59. Best of luck to you guys the rest of the season and take care of business at home, it would certainly help out Rutgers if you do!
Kevin: Thanks again to Aaron for taking the time to answer our questions. And regardless of the outcome tomorrow, Rutgers has my heartfelt wishes of nothing but utter dominance come their match-up next Saturday.
Be sure to check out On The Banks for some great Rutgers coverage before tomorrow’s game. And Go Big Red!