Rutgers guard Geo Baker (0) celebrates in the closing seconds of overtime in an NCAA college basketball game against Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind., Saturday, March 7, 2020. Rutgers defeated Purdue 71-68 in overtime. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Rutgers guard Geo Baker (0) celebrates in the closing seconds of overtime in an NCAA college basketball game against Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind., Saturday, March 7, 2020. Rutgers defeated Purdue 71-68 in overtime. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)|Associated Press
NCAAB

Eckel's Big Ten Preview: Can the 20-1 Rutgers Scarlet Knights add to a year of firsts with a first win over the Michigan Wolverines?

Mark Eckel

Four years in the league, four last-place finishes: That was the story of Rutgers basketball in the Big 10.

Until this season when the Scarlet Knights had their best season in years and will likely end a 29-year NCAA drought in the process.

First things first and for Rutgers, which finished in a three-way tie for fifth place in the conference, that’s the Big 10 Tournament in Indianapolis.

Rutgers (20-11, 11-9) is the eighth seed in the tournament and will try to exorcise another ghost when it plays ninth-seed Michigan (19-12, 10-10), Thursday, noon in Indianapolis. If Rutgers wins it would face top-seed and No. 18 Wisconsin (21-10, 14-6), Friday.

Oddsmakers have made the Scarlet Knights 20-1 to win the tournament. Michigan is 12-1. Wisconsin is 7-1. Third-seed Michigan State is a heavy 2-1 favorite.

The Scarlet Knights have never beaten the Wolverines in 13 tries. They are 0-8 against them since joining the Big 10.

Two of Rutgers more memorable losses came at the hands of Michigan.

The 1976 Final Four team that was 31-0 lost to Michigan in the national semifinals. And the 2004 NIT finalist lost to Michigan in the championship game of the consolation tournament.

This season the Wolverines, of course, swept the Scarlet Knights, winning 69-63 in Ann Arbor and 60-52 at the RAC.

In what has been a year of firsts for Rutgers — first winning season in 14 years; first 20 win regular season since the 1982-1983 team that also last won an NCAA Tournament game; first national ranking in 41 seasons back in January, remaining ranked for two weeks; first ever time beating four ranked opponents all by double digits — it will try for another by beating Michigan for the first time.

The Schedule

Wednesday

Minnesota vs. Northwestern, 6 p.m.

Indiana vs. 14 Nebraska,, 8:30 p.m.

Thursday

Rutgers vs. 9. Michigan, noon

Iowa vs. Minnesota/Northwestern, 2:30 p.m.

Ohio State vs. Purdue, 6:30 p.m.

Penn State vs. Indiana/Nebraska, 8:30 p.m.

Friday

Wisconsin vs. Rutgers/Michigan, 12 p.m.

Illinois vs. Game 4 winner, 2:30 p.m.

Michigan State vs. Ohio State/Purdue, 6:30 p.m.

Maryland vs. Game 6 winner, 8:30 p.m.

Saturday

Semifinals, 1 and 3:30 p.m.

Sunday

Championship, 3:30

The Odds

Michigan State 2-1

Maryland 5-1

Wisconsin 7-1

Illinois 8-1

Iowa 12-1

Michigan12-1

Ohio State 12-1

Penn State 16-1

Rutgers 20-1

Purdue 25-1

Indiana 40-1

Minnesota 40-1

Northwestern 100-1

Nebraska 100-1

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