I wanted to purchase a Rutgers quarter-zip and wear it every day for the rest of the calendar year. I wanted to see Henry Bushnell pack a U-Haul and leave Evanston in favor of cornfields. I wanted to see Tristan Jung write the next New York Times bestseller. Above everything else, I wanted to see Ian's Rutgers-inspired polar plunge.
Much like Rutgers' 2015-2016 season, my hopes suffered a devastating blow very early. Northwestern jumped out to the lead and when Rutgers failed to get a shot off on their first possession, air-balled a three on its second possession, and committed a turnover on its fourth possession, the tone was quickly set for this game. Northwestern was up 48-18 at the half. The Wildcats won 98-59, amassing a school-record 33 assists, and their 17 threes were the most made in a Big Ten game by Northwestern ever.
I've been to a handful of Northwestern non-conference games, frequently against very poor opponents. Mid-majors Fairfield and Loyola-Maryland both gave Northwestern significantly more competitive games than the Scarlet Knights did Saturday. I have absolutely nothing against Rutgers, but it is hard to believe that the basketball team the school is currently fielding competes in the Big Ten conference.
To be fair, head coach Eddie Jordan has dealt with a number of unfortunate breaks. He lost his two top scorers from last season Myles Mack and Kadeem Jack, forward Junior Etou transferred to Tulsa, four-star center Shaq Doorson has been injured all season, and top scorer Corey Sanders is suspended. What is Jordan supposed to tell his players in the locker room when they're down by 30? He has to be missing the days of his head coaching tenure with the Wizards from 2003-2008.
The offense that Rutgers runs is indescribable. If the Scarlet Knights do make it past half-court without turning the ball over, the guards will likely pick up their dribble 35 feet from the basket. After nearly turning it over for a second time, they begin to run their offense with around 15-18 seconds remaining in the possession. This consists of the ball being passed around the perimeter for approximately 12 seconds, and concludes with a contested jump shot that fails to go in.
Often times, the Scarlet Knights would fail to even get a shot off. Their play was reminiscent of a high school team or a glorified intramural squad. Northwestern looked like the varsity team playing against a JV squad. The Rutgers players looked lost, sometimes disinterested, and poorly coached.
Defensively, Rutgers made Northwestern's offense look like Indiana's when the Hoosiers get hot. They continuously left Tre Demps open from beyond the arc and, like most Big Ten shooting guards do, Demps knocked down open threes. Rutgers repeatedly left Aaron Falzon open in the corner, the one place where Falzon has consistently hit from. Northwestern's big men had their way down low and were met with little resistance. The Wildcats poured in 17 threes, almost all of them uncontested, and had 18 offensive rebounds.
Having never seen them play before today, I knew Rutgers was bad. It isn't easy to be 6-23 overall and 0-16 in conference play. But after watching the hapless Scarlet Knights play for a merciful 40 minutes, I can conclude with conviction that they are far and away the worst product of Big Ten basketball I have ever witnessed. With games against Michigan State and Minnesota remaining on the schedule, Rutgers is just two losses away from being the first Big Ten team to go winless in conference play since 1999-2000 Northwestern. If today was any indication, the Scarlet Knights are well on their way.