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Big Ten, Badgers welcome Rutgers basketball

The best basketball conference in the land welcomed two brand new members to the fold on July 1. Think of this as your five-minute CliffsNotes on Rutgers basketball history.

Kadeem Jack and Rutgers will need more than muscle to compete in the Big Ten.
Kadeem Jack and Rutgers will need more than muscle to compete in the Big Ten.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

This month marked the start of the Big Ten's marriage with new partners Maryland and Rutgers, which this fall will be the 13th and 14th schools competing in a basketball conference ranked No. 1 by Ken Pomeroy for the past four seasons.

Looking at each one from a hoops perspective, we already know the conference is adding two schools with vastly different traditions. On Tuesday we covered Maryland. Next up is Rutgers, now known as the oldest institution in the Big Ten.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Founded: 1766

Enrollment: 41,565 (8th in B1G)

Endowment: $783 million (last in B1G)

Wisconsin alumni in New York City: 11,989 (3% of UW alumni)

Official basketball

All-time basketball record: 1,182-1,126 (.512)

All-time series vs. UW: Wisconsin 3, Rutgers 0

Arena: Louis Brown Athletic Center (aka the RAC), capacity 8,000 (last in B1G)

We don't need to tear down Rutgers because, frankly, the school's athletic department has done enough of that on it's own lately. The men's basketball program in particular. Since the Mike Rice abuse scandal rocked the team two years ago, new athletic director Julie Hermann has not made much progress thanks to the bumbled PR surrounding current head coach Eddie Jordan's hiring.

Oh, and it's parting snapshot before joining the Big Ten? A 92-31 basting at the hands of Louisville in the American Athletic Conference tournament.

In addition, Rutgers has been somewhat of a conference vagabond. The Scarlet Knights were part of the Atlantic 10 Conference for 19 seasons, then dabbled in the original Big East for a few years as a football-only member before joining for all sports in 1995. When the Big East rebooted prior to the 2013-14 season, Rutgers and others formed the AAC.

Then the Big Ten called. Rutgers hit reset.

Wisconsin has never lost to Rutgers, winning at home, on the road, and on a neutral court. Two of the victories have come under Bo Ryan, most recently a 70-62 win in Piscataway, N.J., in 2004.

Besides a 20-win season and NIT runner-up finish to Michigan that year, Rutgers has been pitiful since they stepped to the big stage in 1995, though our new pals over at On the Banks recall some highlights. Rutgers has not reached the Big Dance since 1991.

But the Scarlet Knights will always have '76.

Eddie Jordan and Phil Sellers led a 28-0 Rutgers squad into the 1976 NCAA tournament, one of two undefeated teams along with Indiana. The Knights won three games to advance to the program's lone Final Four, where Michigan ended the dream season. Jordan, a head coach at three different NBA stops before returning to his alma mater, left school as Rutgers' career leader in assists and steals, while Sellers is the program's all-time leading scorer and rebounder.

Rutgers has sent just 10 players to the NBA in its history. Other than perhaps Jordan, players such as James Bailey, Roy Hinson, John Battle, and Quincy Douby are not well-known. Only two former Knights (Douby and Hamady N'Diaye) have entered the league in the past 25 years. However, Rutgers can claim two other basketball legends -- Jim Valvano and retired NBA commissioner David Stern -- as famous alumni.

Believe it or not, Rutgers historically has maintained highbrow athletic rivalries with foes like Lehigh and Ivy Leaguers Princeton and Columbia. Yet, since Rutgers focused on raising its football profile, its rivalry with Princeton has only survived off the gridiron.

The university has struggled with its identity in the past (google 'Rutgers 1000' sometime), trying to balance traditional allegiances and an academic focus with a desire to elevate its athletic stature to the same level as other respected state university juggernauts, many of which reside in the Big Ten.

Currently, the Rutgers women's basketball program typically overshadows the men's program. Jordan and his staff have a lot of ground to make up -- not only in terms of on-court success, but in perception.

One unscientific way to measure gains in reputation is recruiting. Generally Rutgers, like UW, isn't much of a player on the recruiting trail -- despite all the basketball talent sitting on its porch out east. Joining the Big Ten is not an automatic boon on that front either.

Under Rice, the Scarlet Knights did make a splash with its giant, nationally-ranked 2011 class. Two players, including star guard Eli Carter, transferred out. But Jordan was able to coax others into staying, creating a nice, senior nucleus that will play out the school's inaugural Big Ten season this fall.

The 2008 class brought in by Fred Hill featured two Top 60 talents in Greg Echenique and Mike Rosario, neither of whom lasted in New Jersey past their sophomore season. Jordan has some clout, but even he lost four transfers this offseason.

Opposing Big Ten teams who visit Rutgers will experience a basketball venue even smaller than Northwestern's Welsh-Ryan Arena: the 8,000-seat Louis Brown Athletic Center, known more affectionately as "the RAC." The former Rutgers Athletic Center is a hop, skip and a jump away from Staten Island, but light years away from the glitz Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney is thirsting for aiming at Madison Square Garden as host of the 2018 conference tournament.

Will Wisconsin-Rutgers develop into a new basketball rivalry? Not likely. The physical distance between the schools is only matched by the chasm in quality. Bo Ryan has the Badgers at the top of their game, while Rutgers is grasping for anything to build on right now. Maybe the entrance into the Big Ten is a start.

More likely is that Rutgers parlays its existing disdain for Penn State into a rivalry and goes hard at Michigan for spoiling two of the best seasons the Scarlet Knights have ever had.


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