Connect with us


Rutgers’ March Madness Dreams Are on Hold But Far From Over

With the core of the Rutgers lineup set to return, fans might also expect to see the on-court characteristic that defined everything they were able to accomplish last season: resolve.

In 2020, college basketball lost a piece of its history. When the COVID-19 outbreak forced the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament and several Division 1 conference tournaments, thousands of student-athletes were robbed of the fruits of their regular season labor. Fans were left without a conclusion to the story of their team’s season. For the Rutgers men’s basketball team, the chance to end a 19-year drought was lost in the chaos of a global pandemic. Unfortunately for New Jerseyans, that wouldn’t even be the harshest hit from the virus, as their state would see the second-most infected cases in the country by March 23. 

Sports can often serve as a unifying medium in times of crisis. It can offer fans a distraction from the horrors of the world. However, that wasn’t the reality for Rutgers fans. When they could have used a distraction most, the climax of a historic season was another casualty of the virus. Rutgers fans, though, aren’t a soft bunch. They endured two decades of dwelling in the college basketball basement before head coach, Steve Pikiell, sparked a resurgence in 2016. These hard times only made their 2019-20 season that much more emphatic in the landscape of history. 

When those fans see the light on a new season in November, the hardship of the COVID-19 outbreak and their lost March Madness berth will only make their teams’ return shine that much brighter. The team that came within a Selection Sunday of breaking the 19-year NCAA Tournament drought will return to the RAC to give fans the resolve that they displayed so many times in the 2019-20 season. They will do so with nearly all of the same players.

The once-young Knights roster will hit their peak in the 2020-21 season. Point guard Geo Baker and center Myles Johnson will return as seniors to lead the team’s march towards March Madness in 2021. Guard Ron Harper Jr. will be a junior and Paul Mulcahy, who shined as a freshman in 2020, will have a year of college experience under his belt. With the core of the Rutgers lineup set to return, fans might also expect to see the characteristic that defined this team: resolve. 

Whether it was Baker hitting a game-winning 3-pointer to avoid a late collapse against Nebraska, coming back from a 17-point deficit to avoid a season-crippling loss to Northwestern in overtime, or bouncing back from their first home loss and ending their first three-game losing streak of the year with a dominant blowout win over a first-place Maryland team, Piekiell’s squad found a way to shine. Now the Knights face a task that will require a new dimension of resolve. The team and their fans face a global crisis that has hit the state of New Jersey particularly harshly. 

A return to the NCAA Tournament would have made program history in 2020. However, overcoming the pandemic of COVID19 will be an accomplishment that will transcend the program in 2021. Being a source of hope in such a bleak moment is the best inspiration the team can hope to be.

Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

More in College