I've been a Syracuse Orange college basketball fan since the late 1970s, but I live in New Jersey. So I also follow the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, and Rutgers basketball has made some noise over the last 12 days.
Rutgers Beat Two Top 10 Teams in Nine Days
On Decmber 29, 2011, the Scarlet Knights beat the then ranked #10 Florida Gators at the Louis Brown Athletic Center (the RAC) in Piscataway, New Jersey. At 12-4, Florida is still ranked #19 in the country, and is almost certainly going to make the NCAA Tournament in 2012.
On January 7, 2012, the Scarlet Knights beat the then ranked #8 and defending national champion UConn Huskies at the RAC. At 13-3, UConn is still ranked #16 in the country, and the Huskies too are almost certain to be in the Big Dance this year.
But what about Rutgers? They just beat two of the top 16 ranked teams in the country, and both teams were in the top 10 when Rutgers beat them. Both Florida and UConn are very likely to make the NCAA Tournament in 2012. Can Rutgers make it the NCAA Tournament too in 2012?
The Scarlet Knights are just 9-7 so far this season. The two wins over Florida and UConn are the only quality wins Rutgers has to date. The only other team they beat with a winning record is the 8-6 Stony Brook Seawolves.
Rutgers Has Not Lost to Team With a Losing Record in 2011-12
The Scarlet Knights have yet to lose to a team with a losing record though. The seven teams that have beat Rutgers, 9-5 Miami, 11-4 Illinois State, 10-7 Richmond, 11-4 LSU, 9-7 Princeton, 9-7 USF, and 12-5 West Virginia, have combined records of 71-39 (.646). So Rutgers is not getting beat by terrible teams.
Rutgers Has Many Chances to Get More Quality Wins
Rutgers still gets to play many ranked teams like #11 Georgetown, #15 Louisville, my #1 ranked Syracuse team, and #24 Marquette. The Syracuse game is at the RAC on February 19, 2012, and my Orange team is currently undefeated. If Rutgers beats an undefeated and #1 ranked Syracuse team that would go a long way towards impressing the NCAA selection committee.
The Seton Hall Pirates are currently 14-2 and ranked #25 by the AP, but are not ranked in the coaches poll. I don't know exactly what the coaches are watching, because the Pirates have already beaten UConn, West Virginia, Dayton, Wake Forest, Auburn, Saint Joseph's and VCU this season. Every single one of those teams has at least 10 wins, and a bunch will make the NCAA Tournament in 2012.
Rutgers gets to play Seton Hall home and away this season in the Big East. The Scarlet Knights also play Notre Dame home and away, and can pick up quality wins against the Pirates and the Fighting Irish, as well as if they can beat Pitt or West Virginia in their next two games, both on the road. Almost any win going forward in Big East play will be a quality win.
Can the Rutgers Scarlet Knights Make the NCAA Tournament in 2012?
With 15 games left on the schedule, all in Big East play, to make the NCAA Tournament in 2012 Rutgers would probably need to go 10-5 the rest of this season. That would get them to 19-12. They might be able to squeeze in if they go 9-6 the rest of the way and upset an undefeated #1 ranked Syracuse team.
A couple of Big East Tournament wins would help too. Realistically, can Rutgers win 10 more games this season?
Two weeks ago I would have said no way, but the team beat two top 10 ranked teams since then. I don't think it's likely Rutgers will win 10 more games and make the NCAA Tournament, but you can't count out a team that has already pulled off two huge upsets this season. And freshmen Eli Carter is a player.