It feels presumptuous to write a pre-game essay in mid-February. By this point, you know the Scarlet Knights as well as they know themselves. Not only did you see this Rutgers team play Illinois already, you’ve seen at least five of their games since then,* because what else were you going to do?
The Purdue finish was amazing. Basketball nerds might argue that the tOSU finish was even more amazing. And nobody bet against Wisconsin.
So why is Illinois favored to win at Submarine SandwichDome?
Steve Pikiell’s job at Rutgers should, and probably will, result in the publication of books. However great Tommy Lloyd does at Arizona, he was handed an amazing job. Pikiell took over a never-ran has, shockingly, established itself in the upper-half of the #B1G. i.e. the Tourney half.
Simultaneously, the Rutgers SID staff has upped its game, and organized itself into a first-rate organization. Hence, we already know who’s refereeing tonight’s game (Szelc, Ek, Wells).
They’ve built a new media workroom (the old one was fine). Their arena, still smallish by P5 standards, was built for watching basketball, and it’s loud. (And has frequent shuttle buses because the Boston-Washington corridor is civilized.)
For our purposes (you and me both), this info will help us figure out whom to follow on Twitter tonight. The best information actually does come from the color & play-by-play teams, because they have the best access, instant stats reports, and courtside view.
But there’s always something going on elsewhere, in the stands and on the sidelines. It’s good to know who’s watching it.
*Those of us who remember The Old Times are still amazed that we can watch every game, anywhere.*