In a match-up that would have football fans drooling, Rutgers travels to Ole Miss to participate in the SEC Big East Challenge. Of course, it's a basketball game. So, what are the keys?
1. Eli and Myles: Eli Carter and Myles Mack have been on fire since the second game of the season, and now is not the time to slow down. Ole MIss loves to run up and down the court, which fits Mack's style of play, so look for him to get going, especially if he can get some steals.
2. Play at Your Pace: In previous years, when Rutgers went on the road, the talk was always about "controlling tempo." Unfortunately, that meant slowing the pace down and trying to grind out games. That doesn't fit this team. Rutgers needs to attack, attack, attack. That means playing some run and gun basketball, and getting out on the fast break. Don't be afraid of Ole Miss. Take it to them.
3. A Third Scorer Needs to Step Up: Wally Judge? Jerome Seagears off the bench? Dane Miller? Hello, Dane? It doesn't matter. Mack and Carter are doing Yeoman's work, but that won't work unless someone else steps up too. At some point one or both of the guards will go cold. Ideally, in a game today, it'd be nice to get Judge going. But Seagears has had a really, really slow start and seeing him slash to the basket would be a really good sign.
4. Defense, Defense, Defense: Rutgers isn't playing the same switching defense Mike Rice is known for. At least not as much. They're playing a lot of zone, as this Targum article points out. RU's big men are a little slower, and don't cover guards well, so Rice had to adjust. But in a game like this, the defense has to become instinctual. Rutgers has to slow Ole Miss down.
5. Rebounding: Earlier in the year, Rutgers was showing signs of being a really good rebounding team. Against Boston University and UNC-Greensboro, that started to go away. Whether it's a function of playing defense out of the zone, or not playing with as much intensity, I'm not sure. Likely, the zone defense. But rebounding is a key today. Get the ball and get it up court quickly.
This is an interesting match-up for Rutgers, and one I feel they could excel in. But they're on the road against a team that won 20 games last year and has NCAA hopes. This is one of those barometer games.