The Big Ten/ACC challenge is one of the more exciting match-ups in the non-conference season. Duke usually plays whomever is atop the Big Ten (this year Wisconsin), and other teams match-up with respective opponents. This year the Rutgers Scarlet Knights take on the Clemson Tigers.
1. How tired are the Scarlet Knights? In Saturday's not-as-embarrassing-as-the-final-score-would-indicate game against Virginia, Rutgers hit an offensive wall. Judging by the way their 0-13 from beyond the arc were mostly shots that came up front-rim short, Rutgers' guards were exhausted. Myles Mack played 74 minutes and Mike Williams played 68 over the two games in Brooklyn. Much of that is due to Bishop Daniels' injury, but he'll be out against Clemson too. Jordan will have to make sure these players get some more rest.
2. Can Greg Lewis keep the defensive effort up? In Brooklyn, Lewis played his best two games as a Scarlet Knight. He was active on defense, recording block after block. He ended the game against Vanderbilt with a fantastic stop, just when it was needed. If Lewis can become a physical defensive force in the paint, it's going to help every other Rutgers player's defense. There's help in the middle now.
3. What's the deal with the fast breaks? Throughout the pre-season, Eddie Jordan preached that his team was going to run. But it's rarely felt like the fast break has been clicking this season. Rutgers has only scored 37 points on the fast break all years (minus the Vanderbilt game--where the stat was apparently not recorded). When Mack gets a steal, there's usually a run out, but on defensive rebounds, it feels the team is slow getting down the court. The big men are usually searching for a guard to outlet to and take just enough time to find him, that the opponent can get up the court to defend. Rutgers needs to push the tempo a bit harder--which isn't easy if they're gassed.
4. What kind of team is Clemson? The Tigers return 4 starters from a team that seemed to be on the rise last season, but they've lost games to Gardner-Webb and Winthrop and then struggled with High Point--winning by only 3 points. Is this a team that will use their home court and a tired opponent to get healthy, or with Rutgers take down the wounded animal?
5. Who will be the third scorer? Kadeem Jack and Mack have been doing yeoman's work, but a third scorer has been inconsistent so far this season. Junior Etou has been there for a few games. And Daniels was expected to contribute too. Mike Williams is an interesting piece. After his game against Vanderbilt, it feels like it's only a matter of time before his spot on shooting breaks out. Look for him to be a factor--if not tomorrow--then soon.