Rutgers will be tested early and often in year three under Steve Pikiell, a sign of progression in Scarlet Knights' program as well as need to boost resume for potential postseason appearance. (Photo by On The Banks)
Steve Pikiell took a considerable amount of flak in each of his first two seasons with the non-conference schedules his Rutgers teams played, with the underlying criticism being a generously favorable slate designed to help the Scarlet Knight program pad its win total before going through the rigors of Big Ten Conference play.
Regardless of how one felt about the method in which the schedule was constructed, one thing -- a constant with every Pikiell-coached team over the years, be it either at Rutgers or Stony Brook -- held true, the simple fact that the Scarlet Knights were competitive in nearly every game, even in some of the lesser-desired results (losses to Stony Brook and Hartford) that offset the emotional high of December's win over in-state rival Seton Hall.
Pikiell's third season at the helm begins with a much more ambitious course to be steered in non-league play, drawing five straight home games to start before a three-game road trip featuring a pair of high-major teams with NCAA Tournament appearances to their credit last year.
The journey begins on November 9, when Fairleigh Dickinson serves as the first adversary for Rutgers in the 2018-19 campaign, with Drexel to come to Piscataway two days later. On November 16, the annual Gavitt Tip-Off Games attract St. John's -- a former Big East Conference rival for the Scarlet Knights -- to the RAC, where junior guard Shamorie Ponds leads a Red Storm team with mounds of upside into one of the Northeast's most hostile road environments. Eastern Michigan (November 19) and Boston University (November 23) complete Rutgers' season-opening homestand before a road trip to Miami for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge brings down the curtain on the month of November.
The Scarlet Knights' series with Fordham is renewed this season, with Rutgers traveling to historic Rose Hill Gym on December 8 to match wits with the Rams, who continue to search for direction in head coach Jeff Neubauer's fourth season in the Bronx. One week after that, the State University of New Jersey will defend its title in the Garden State Hardwood Classic, as Rutgers will travel up the New Jersey Turnpike to take on Seton Hall at the Prudential Center on December 15.
Two more Saturday contests conclude the non-conference season, with Columbia (December 22) and Maine (December 29) invading Piscataway.
Rutgers Non-Conference Schedule (all times TBD)
Friday, November 9: vs. Fairleigh Dickinson
Sunday, November 11: vs. Drexel
Friday, November 16: vs. St. John's (Gavitt Tip-Off Games)
Monday, November 19: vs. Eastern Michigan
Friday, November 23: vs. Boston University
Wednesday, November 28: at Miami (ACC/Big Ten Challenge)
Saturday, December 8: at Fordham
Saturday, December 15: at Seton Hall (Garden State Hardwood Classic)
Saturday, December 22: vs. Columbia
Saturday, December 29: vs. Maine