How To Watch & Listen
Hartford (6-7) At Rutgers (10-4)
Where: The RAC (capacity 8,000)
Tip-off: Thursday, December 28th at 7:00 p.m. ET
Stream: BTN Plus (subscription only) - Lou Brogno & Dom Savino
Radio: WCTC 1450 AM & WOR 710 AM, Sirius 138, XM 195 - Jerry Recco & Marc Peterson; WRSU 88.7 FM
KenPom Rankings: Rutgers #99; Hartford #322
(Note: Rutgers dropped 8 spots since the 2 point loss to Stony Brook)
KenPom Prediction: Rutgers 75 Hartford 59; Rutgers has an 94% chance to win
Series History: Rutgers leads 2-0 all-time, including last season’s 77-75 victory in a game that the Scarlet Knights trailed by 13 points with five minutes to play.
Head coach John Gallagher is in his eighth season at Hartford and they've struggled with consistency in his most recent campaign. They’ve played a very weak non-conference schedule (344th in Division I), but only have a 6-7 record. They’ve only matched up against one sub-100 team in Boston College (86th), who Hartford lost to by 12 points at home. Their best statistical win was over Central Connecticut State (277th), who they beat by 1 point in the season opener. In their last game last Friday against FIU, the Hawks won by 7 points.
Hartford is a guard heavy team that averages 27 three-point attempts per game and are making them at a 32.6% clip. They also protect the basketball well, as they are 73rd in steal % and 87th in turnover rate in Division I, per KenPom.
On the flip side, the Hawks struggle from the free throw line. As a team, they are shooting just 64.7%. They are also not a good rebounding team and are very poor defensively. Hartford's adjusted defensive efficiency is 112.4, which is 325th out of 351 Division I programs.
The reality is this is not a very good basketball team and one that Rutgers should handle with relative ease. However, as we've seen across the college basketball landscape in recent weeks, anything can happen on any given night, making it such a thrilling sport to follow.
Here are per game statistical averages for key players on Hartford:
6’8” senior forward John Carroll - 17.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.2 blocks
6’4” junior guard Jason Dunne - 16.0 points, 2.7. assists, 2.4 rebounds
5’10” junior guard J.R. Lynch - 12.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.0 steal
6’2” junior guard Travis Weatherington - 9.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.2 assists
6’10” senior center Hassan Attia - 7.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.0 blocks
6’7” senior forward Jack Hobbs - 4.6 points, 4.2 rebounds
Know Your Three-Point Shooters:
Travis Weatherington - 28 of 70 for 40.0%
Jason Dunne - 40 of 108 for 37%
J.R. Lynch - 20 of 59 for 33.9%
Jack Hobbs - 14 of 65 for 21.5%
The Scarlet Knights lead all Division I teams (351) in rebounds per game (45.4), are second in offensive boards per contest (16.1), fourth in scoring defense (59.5) and fifth in field goal percentage defense (36.4%). They are 10-2 in non-conference play heading into the last non-Big Ten game of the regular season.
Keys To Victory
After a disappointing performance last Friday in the overtime, last second loss to Stony Brook, it would be in the best interest of Rutgers to establish control right away in this contest. The Scarlet Knights are at their best when they dictate the action through its defense. Intensity and focus early on is key as well, as Rutgers continues to leave points off the board in the first ten minutes of games by making mental mistakes and missing shots near the rim. Establishing a presence in the paint with Deshawn Freeman, who had 26 points and 10 rebounds against Hartford last season, is a no brainer. Rutgers has had a tendency to go to him early on, but has forgotten him for too long of stretches at times this season. Feed him early and often. Same goes for Eugene Omoruyi, as both post players are athletically superior to anyone in the frontcourt of Hartford.
Defend The Perimeter
As I mentioned above, the Hawks love to shoot the three and almost beat Rutgers last season mostly because of their 12 of 26 performance from behind the arc in that game. The backcourt of Rutgers needs to be dialed in defensively from the opening tip and not let the Hartford shooters get comfortable around the perimeter. Road underdogs can build a lot of confidence as games progress by making three-pointers, so blanketing the shooters of Hartford is a must.
The two big men of Hartford, Irishman John Carroll and Egyptian Hassan Attia, are shooting 50.3% on 159 attempts and 72.4% on 58 attempts from two-point range, respectively. However, they are both far less formidable from the free throw line, as Carroll is shooting 66.3% on 86 attempts and Attia is a horrific 33.3% on 33 attempts. That means the frontcourt of Rutgers can't allow open looks near the rim with these two players. Contest everything and don't allow any easy baskets by fouling those two if necessary. Although Steve Pikiell doesn't want all of his bigs in foul trouble, a steady rotation of Mamadou Doucoure, Shaq Doorson, and Candido Sa is likely to be in effect in this game, which will give them plenty of fouls to work with. In addition, Rutgers needs to bring a physical edge in this game, which leads to my next point.
Body Them On The Boards
Hartford averages just 34 rebounds per game and are 283rd in Division I with a 25% offensive rebounding rate. Rutgers needs to forgot about the Stony Brook game and get back their mojo on the boards ahead of next week's game against the trees of Purdue. Effort and attitude is key for Rutgers to re-establish their dominance on the glass. It's part of their identity and this game is a golden opportunity to get back to doing that.
Dominate The Pace of Play
Hartford doesn’t turn its opponents over often (331st in steal rate), therefore the guards of Rutgers should be able to control the tempo and pace in this game. Corey Sanders was off last week and needs to get back on track by doing what he does best, attack the rim. Geo Baker needs to be a factor from the opening tip and get others involved on offense as well. This game screams a strong outing for Mike Williams, who has been steady of late and is the latest member of the 1,000 point club in Rutgers history. All three guards were far too quiet for most of the Stony Brook game and need to dictate the action right away against Hartford to ensure a better performance for the team overall.