The trail to return to the NCAA Event

Rutgers basketball will enter the 2022-23 season on the strength of two straight NCAA Tournament appearances. The road back to the big dance won’t be a cakewalk, but it’s something this team is capable of accomplishing. Here is a look at a likely scenario of what it would take for Rutgers to make another trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Take care of business early
Rutgers has a slate of seven out-of-conference games through the first two months of the season against mid-major and low-major teams. That slate is as follows:
Sacred Heart
Coppin State
Central Connecticut State

There is no reason Rutgers should not conduct a clean sweep here. Rider looks to be the toughest matchup but the talent gap alone should be enough to secure a Rutgers victory. The Scarlet Knights learned all too well how much one of these types of losses can loom like a dark cloud when it dropped an early-season game to Lafayette last November. Follow-up losses to UMass and DePaul also did not help but they were not of the same caliber as the defeat at the hands of Lafayette. Going 7-0 against this lineup will be the first step on the road back to the NCAA Tournament. Lose any one of these games and it is going to create an obstacle that will remain all season.

Split the other four out-of-conference games
Rutgers will face four more out-of-conference foes and winning two of the four will be a goos tarting point towards another run at March Madness. Of course, more than two wins would help but it is realistic to expect a split against the following opponents:
Wake Forest

Rutgers will host Wake Forest and Seton Hall and the home crowd will definitely provide an advantage there. Temple will be played at a neutral site at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut while the Miami contest will take place on the Hurricanes’ home court. This sets up for a tougher four-game set but one in which Rutgers could conceivably split. Rutgers should be in each game and will have a chance for a sweep but two wins should be a minimum in this batch of contests. Win two here, combined with seven victories over the previously mentioned opponents and Rutgers is in good shape heading into conference play.

Go .500 in the Big Ten
Rutgers will play 20 games against conference opponents once again. If Rutgers can bring a 9-2 record into conference play, then a split of these 20 games should be enough to convince the selection committee that Rutgers deserves another invite to the big dance. It would give Rutgers an overall record of 19-12, which should be good enough to make it into March Madness. That is not too tall of an order with the following schedule:

Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska

Illinois, Purdue, Wisconsin

Indiana, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Iowa, Michigan State, Penn State

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