How To Watch, Stream & Listen
Penn State (8-6; 0-1) At Rutgers (11-3; 0-1)
Where: The RAC in Piscataway, New Jersey
Tip-off: Sunday, January 1st at 2:30 p.m. ET
TV: ESPNU - Jay Alter and Dalen Cuff
Radio: WCTC 1450 AM & WOR 710 AM - Chris Carlin & Joe Boylan
KenPom Rankings: Rutgers #117; Penn State #105
KenPom Prediction: Rutgers 73 Penn State 70 ; Rutgers is given a 61% chance to win.
Series History: Rutgers has only played two opponents more than Penn State in program history and Sunday will mark the 63rd meeting between the schools. PSU leads 35-27, but this is just their 7th meeting since 1991, back when they were both members of the Atlantic 10 conference. This will be their 4th meeting as members of the Big Ten, with Penn State winning the past two, after Rutgers won the first matchup at the RAC on January 3rd, 2015.
I was on a conference call with head coach Steve Pikiell on Friday afternoon and the first question he was asked was the status of Corey Sanders, who suffered a sprained ankle in the loss to Wisconsin on Tuesday. Pikiell’s response was “he’s fine, he practiced today, he’s fine. It was a regular mild sprain.” When asked if he expected him to play against Penn State on Sunday, barring any setbacks, Pikiell said “yes”.
After playing just 3 minutes against Fordham and sitting out the entire game against Seton Hall, freshman wing Issa Thiam returned to play 17 minutes against Wisconsin. However, he struggled to find much rhythm in his return from being sick for the better part of a week. I asked Pikiell about his status and he replied, “He was sick for awhile there. I’m glad to have him back. He’s healthy now and has had some good practices too under his belt. I expect him to start playing a little bit better and I think he does too.”
There is no understating the importance of this game for Rutgers. This is a great opportunity to get a win in conference play early on, which would equal their win total in the Big Ten all of last season. Rutgers is favored in this game and needs to deliver. Beating Penn State would easily make it their highest ranked victory of this season. It wouldn't change perception around the league overnight, but it would move the needle in the right direction. It would also give this team some much needed confidence ahead of two huge road games later this week against Michigan State and Iowa.
If Rutgers can put together a complete performance on the defensive end, it will go a long way towards winning this game. Penn State will push the pace and look to shoot quickly in their possessions. Rutgers needs to have razor sharp focus and get contributions from every player who is on the court today. I think we could see 11 players used during this game, as Pikiell will be substituting often to keep their defensive intensity at their maximum level.
Let’s hope the new year starts off with a victory! Join us in the comments below and follow us live on twitter during the game. We’ll have full postgame coverage, let's hope it's something we can toast to! Let's go RU!