Talk about must wins.
Rutgers is in a bit of a tailspin, losing four straight after the memorable Villanova win. Two were competitive losses (SHU and WVU), one was arguable their best effort of the season (Syracuse), and one was a complete no show (Louisville). Now, Rutgers has two away games against two teams lower in the standings. DePaul is up first.
And they're missing their best player.
Keys to the game after the jump...Don't let Brandon Young beat the you.... DePaul announced that freshman star Cleveland Melvin would miss the rest of the season because of an injury. Their next best player is Young. He can hit from deep, and he can rack up points. James Beatty, Mike Coburn, and Dane Miller are going to have to contain him. Slow him down, frustrate him. Make him take threes from deep. Contain his points.
Score Some Points (Clearly)... This game seems to be one where Rutgers can really get their offense going. The biggest problem the Scarlet Knights have had lately has been an ability to hit the open three point jumper. In this game, they might not have to. Every time I've seen the DePaul Blue Demons play, they press. A lot. They try to force turnovers with their press. But when someone breaks their press, the team can't settle back into a good enough defense to avoid a lot of lay-ups. And without Melvin to anchor the press, this may be even easier. If Rutgers wins, look for Austin Johnson, Dane Miller, and Gilvydas Biruta to have solid outings.
Rebound the Long Rebound...If DePaul takes a lot of threes, there are going to be a lot of long rebounds. Against West Virginia, Rutgers wasn't able to corral those. They'll have to tomorrow night. Guards are going to have to look for the ball. Mike Poole is going to be a key here, because rebounding has suffered when Miller's been out of the game.
Avoid the curse of the Ewing Theory... Someone is going to score points for DePaul, it's inevitable. The best guess is Young will do that, but DePaul does have other players. Take them out of the game. Don't let anyone else get confident. Buckle down on defense and don't give anyone a good shot. Because if a few deep threes fall, the entire team might catch the fever, especially one senior night.
Enforce their will... This team hasn't played as well as Rutgers has. Sure they forced Villanova into overtime. Sure they beat Providence on the road and sent Villanova into overtime at home, but they've only won ONE Big East game. Rutgers needs to play its game and not fall into a trap of letting DePaul dictate the tempo. Beat DePaul, don't try to steal one. And DePaul is going to be amped up. They haven't won at home this season and it's the last home game. Don't expect a cakewalk.
Game is at 8:30 pm and will only air on ESPN 3.