It's the third season for Brian Brecht at Rutgers and the last season for the Scarlet Knights in the Big East. The combination of these two items means that 2014 holds a lot of important consequences for the program.
Here are some schedule highlights and games of note:
February 8: Manhattan; February 18: @Wagner; March 8: Monmouth; March 17: Richmond
Brecht is just 8-22 in his tenure at Rutgers, a mark that serves as a burden to the Scarlet Knights' lacrosse history. Much of that aggregate record is attributable to Rutgers' 2-13 effort in 2013, a campaign that saw the Scarlet Knights lose its final 12 games while beating only Manhattan and Wagner (those teams went a combined 5-23 in 2013). As a potential response to the team's win deficiency, Brecht arguably powered down the schedule a bit (in 2013, the strength of Rutgers' schedule ranked 26th nationally; in 2012, the team's agenda ranked 44th), keeping the Jaspers and Seahawks on Rutgers' agenda and adding Monmouth and Richmond -- two new programs for 2014 -- to the slate (presumably replacing some combination of Air Force, UMBC, and Holy Cross). These are must-win games for the Scarlet Knights, opportunities for four victories that can serve as foundational blocks for something greater. The slate isn't as easy as it was in 2012 for Rutgers, but these four games can at least provide some win-column velocity for a program that seeks to find greater competitiveness again. Relief from oppressive schedules isn't a bad thing, especially considering what Brecht inherited when he left Siena for Piscataway.
February 22: @Virginia; March 22: @Denver
With Syracuse and Notre Dame finding residence in the ACC this coming spring, Rutgers filled these holes in their 2014 schedule with Virginia and Denver. The latter was a necessary as the Scarlet Knights will play one more totally-weird-but-let's-still-be-friends season in the Big East; the former was a big get to give Rutgers an opportunity to run with some strong horses before the calendar flips to March. These two dates provide the Scarlet Knights with three mega games in 2014 -- Rutgers will also play Duke this coming season -- and those results could help form the picture of what the Scarlet Knights will look like in 2015 (Brecht's all-important fourth season at Rutgers).
First Among Equals
March 15: @Providence; March 29: Marquette
All conference games matter, but for Rutgers -- a team that has failed to make the Big East Tournament since the league started sponsoring a postseason event in 2012 -- there are two games that stand out among its six league dates: The games against Providence and Marquette. The Friars had a stronger season than the Scarlet Knights in 2013, winning the head-to-head matchup between the two schools in Chris Gabrielli's first season at Providence. Marquette put together a 5-8 campaign that featured a win -- against Air Force -- that the Scarlet Knights couldn't get. For Rutgers, their performance against the Friars and Eagles in 2014 are vitally important, not only for putting together wins for potential Big East Tournament inclusion, but also for asserting dominance over upstart rebels seeking Rutgers' former position in the conference's hierarchy. If the Scarlet Knights struggle on these two dates, Rutgers will move to the Big Ten in 2015 with a lot of questions surrounding it.