Here are some schedule highlights and games of note:
Turning Point I
February 21: Virginia; March 28: at Johns Hopkins; April 12: Maryland
Rutgers put together a solid season in 2014, stringing together eight wins against eight losses and standing as one of the most improved teams in the nation in both LaxPower's ratings measurement and in the context of adjusted Pythagorean win expectation. Yet, the Scarlet Knights weren't all that strong against the best competition it faced last spring: Against opponents ranked in the top 12 of adjusted Pythagorean win expectation and in LaxPower's ratings metric, Rutgers went 0-4 with an aggregate goal differential of -29 (marking an average margin defeat of over seven goals per game). The Scarlet Knights were in a gap position behind some of the strongest teams in the nation, and it showed on the scoreboard in Rutgers' most pressing opportunities.
In 2015, the Knights will face three teams -- Virginia, Hopkins, and Maryland -- that cleared 2014 among the annotated subset of Division I teams. How Rutgers performs in these games won't necessarily define the program's season, but it will illustrate where the team is relative to the highest reaches of the national hierarchy (assuming that all three opponents maintain efforts consistent to their 2014 performances). There's no shame in dropping these dates, but competing at a high level and keeping the margin on the scoreboard respectable is important.
Turning Point II
March 28: at Johns Hopkins; April 5: at Michigan; April 12: Maryland; April 19: at Penn State; April 25: Ohio State
There's enough evidence kicking around at this point to assume that the Big Ten's lacrosse effort is going to have some heat next spring. While this should create residual value for Rutgers as the program continues to grow under Brecht, the Knights have some ground to make up in the conference:
|TEAM||'14 LAXPOWER RANK||'14 MASSEY RANK||'14 KRACH RANK||'14 ADJ. PYTH. RANK||AVERAGE|
There is ebb and flow in a conference, but this is still is a step up from the Big East -- at least the post-Syracuse/Notre Dame Big East -- and Rutgers may feel some pain in the league. Or not. Who knows? (The robots that are coming to kill us, that's who.)
Turning Point III
February 28: Monmouth; March 17: Princeton; March 20: NJIT
The New Jersey state championship is up for grabs. Can Rutgers run the table in the Garden State? If the Scarlet Knights do, they should get a rest stop on the Turnpike named after them or something.