Week In Review
Rutgers finished the week 2-0 with wins over Bryant and East Carolina to improve to 6-0 on the season. The defense has been outstanding and although the season is young, they lead the nation in scoring defense. Pundits will point to this being a product of the soft schedule. But regardless of opponent, a lot of success on the defensive side of the ball is energy, communication and preparation (all things that are independent of your opponent). Shooting will still be an area of focus as always, but the addition of Geo Baker has already had an immediate impact and the physicality of Mamadou Doucoure should help them the next two games.
Player of the Week: Geo Baker
As mentioned above Baker has been a fantastic addition to this team. Forget just being possibly the best overall shooter on the team, he gives you the flexibility to run the point or play as the two. He’s an above average passer and plays stout defense. We’re still very much in the infancy of his career on the banks, but so far he has shown he belongs out there and the stats back it up with his team leading 187 minutes played so far. He’s also taken the stress off of Sanders and Williams in the backcourt. Frankly, when all is said and done this year, he could be the team MVP, he’s that important to the success of this team.
Grinder of the Week: Eugene Omoruyi
I could easily give this award to Deshawn Freeman each week so I’m going to look to the bench where Omoruyi has shined. Although he had an overall better performance versus Bryant, he still finished with six points, two rebounds, two steals and two blocks versus East Carolina. Those are numbers that don’t fly off the page but a solid contribution considering he played half the minutes of Freeman. We heard all off season that Omoruyi was the most improved player on the team and you can see it in how he attacks the basket. When he plays with the confidence you saw against Bryant, he creates a tough match up for opposing teams.
Sixth Man Award: Mike Williams
Whether or not Williams actually starts is just a matter of semantics. Either way he is an important part of this team whether he’s in the starting the lineup or coming in off the bench. He’s struggled to get into a rhythm from a shooting standpoint, but he always finds a way to contribute. One of the best rebounding guards in the Big Ten, he has a relentless motor and serves as the heart of the team. I expect Williams to make the most of his final year on the banks.
Preview of the Upcoming Week and Things to Look For
Rutgers will get its first true regular season test when it hosts Florida State on Tuesday. FSU comes into the game having five players averaging ten points or more. Despite losing three starters from last year’s team that went to the NCAA tournament as a #3 seed, they still remain a dangerous first test for Rutgers. The schedule only gets tougher as the team will travel to #14 Minnesota next Sunday. They’ll take on a team that very much expects to make a serious push into the dance this year. But if there’s a reason to be optimistic, Rutgers played arguably their best game in November in the exhibition win over St. Johns.
Matchup Spotlight: Issa Thiam/Geo Baker vs Terance Mann
Mann is a lengthy shooting guard at 6’6’’ and extremely athletic. My first thought would be he matches up closest to Thiam, but Baker has the athleticism to keep up with Mann. The former four star recruit leads the team both in scoring at 16 points per game and rebounds at 5.5 per game. Rutgers will likely switch to a zone at some point, but keep in mind FSU has five players averaging over 10 points per game. The defensive will need a full team effort, but Mann is a definitely a player to watch.
Breakout Alert: Eugene Omoruyi
When I say breakout, I don’t mean Omoruyi is going to go off for 29 points like you saw Geo do versus Bryant. But he does have a tremendous amount of athleticism that would lend well to Rutgers the next two games. He’s at his best when attacking the basket and being physical. You can see his confidence increase by each bucket and rebound he pulls down. Shaq Doorson was a close consideration as he’s been a force in the paint, but Omoruyi sees more minutes than him and will ultimately have more opportunities to make an impact.
Stat of the Week: Defense Holding Opposing Teams To 47.2 Points Per Game
Rutgers has been outstanding on the defensive side of the ball but they’ll be facing an FSU team that just put up 113 points versus Citadel (that’s a lot, I don’t care who you’re playing). The backcourt will look to shut down their top scorer Terance Mann. Rutgers switches between man to man and a 2-3 zone, so it’ll be interesting to see how they approach this game. Minnesota has an excellent team this year and will serve as their first road test. I’d love to see Rutgers go into that game feeling great with a win over FSU. But even if that doesn’t happen, these are good tests for the team. I know a lot of fans cringe when they see a ranked opponent on the schedule, but these are valuable opportunities that the team can take into January when they get into the heart of conference play.