Projecting the Rutgers Basketball Opening Day Starting Five

Rutgers men’s basketball will have a different look this year, as key players like Caleb McConnell and Cam Spencer have moved on from the program. There is lingering uncertainty surrounding the makeup of the roster, as Cliff Omoruyi and Paul Mulcahy have yet to announce their status for next season. Further reinforcements could be on the way, as head coach Steve Pikiell looks to fill out the remaining open scholarships. If Omoruyi and Mulcahy return to Piscataway for another season, this is what the starting lineup expects to look like for the Scarlet Knights on opening day in November.

Guard – Noah Fernandes
The UMass transfer has been the only transfer portal addition to date, coming to Piscataway with one year of eligibility. At 5-foot-11, Fernandes isn’t as tall as most point guards, but makes up for it in quickness and shooting ability. As a high-level shooter who averaged 13.4 points per game, Fernandes could make up for the bulk of the scoring that was lost with Spencer’s departure. Even if he doesn’t quite hit the 45 percent three-point shooting clip he had last year with the Minutemen, Fernandes is likely to be the leading contributor from behind the arc for Rutgers – providing another valuable dimension to the offense.

Guard – Derek Simpson
With Mawot Mag likely to miss the start of the season because of last season’s ACL injury, Rutgers will likely have to go with a guard-heavy lineup to start the season. Simpson gained playing time towards the end of last season and provides an intriguing threat as a dribble-drive heavy guard that isn’t afraid to attack the lane to get to the basket. One area where Simpson will have to improve is as a shooter, as he shot 37.4 percent from the floor and 21.7 percent from deep. If Simpson can add a little more to his game and develop a little more physical strength, he could provide a decent spark for the Scarlet Knights right out of the gate.

Guard – Paul Mulcahy
With the arrival of Fernandes, Mulcahy could see his role change a bit if he decides to return to Rutgers for his fifth and final year of college basketball. With a taller frame at 6-foot-6, Mulcahy has the size and physicality to play on the wing and make his presence felt on the interior. After shooting 37 percent from behind the arc last season, Mulcahy could also become a more effective weapon as a catch-and-shoot offensive threat, complimenting Fernandes and freshman Gavin Griffiths by giving the Scarlet Knights more spacing offensively.

Forward – Aundre Hyatt
Hyatt gave the Scarlet Knights a much-needed boost early in the offseason when he announced his return to the banks for his final year of eligibility. At 6-foot-6, Hyatt brings some much-needed length as a defender and has the potential to improve as a three-point shooter after hitting on 30.6 percent of his treys last season. With Spencer’s 13.2 points per game of offensive production no longer on the team, Hyatt has an opportunity to become a much bigger part of the offense next season.

Center – Cliff Omoruyi
Omoruyi’s status is the biggest question mark remaining this offseason, as the Scarlet Knights will rely heavily on his interior presence should he decide to return. The center led Rutgers in scoring and rebounding last season with 13.2 points per game and 9.6 rebounds per game. Omoruyi was also the leading shot blocker with 72 blocks. One thing to look out for in a potential fourth season would be offensive development, as adding a smoother touch at the rim and an expanded shooting range would do wonders for Omoruyi’s game and the Rutgers offense as a whole. Simply put, if Omoruyi returns, he would give a major boost to the Scarlet Knights’ NCAA Tournament hopes.

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