How To Watch & Listen
Rutgers (11-6; 1-3) At #4 Michigan State (15-2; 3-1)
Where: The Breslin Center (Capacity 15,000)
Tip-off: Wednesday, January 10th at 7:00 p.m. ET
TV: BTN - Kevin Kugler & Shon Morris
Radio: WCTC 1450 AM & WOR 710 AM - Jerry Recco & Joe Boylan
KenPom Rankings: Rutgers #125; Michigan State #2
(Note: Rutgers improved 2 spots since the 4 point win over Wisconsin)
KenPom Prediction: Michigan State 75 Rutgers 54; Rutgers has an 3% chance to win
Vegas Line: Michigan State -22
Series History: Michigan State leads the all-time series 6-0, including a 62-52 win this past December.
First Meeting Recap: Michigan State 62 Rutgers 52
SB Nation Michigan State site: The Only Colors
About Michigan State
The Spartans have been phenomenal for most of this season but as luck would have it, Rutgers faces them under the most difficult of circumstances. The Scarlet Knights enter Wednesday's game at Michigan State against what is likely to be an angry and highly motivated team that just had its 14 game winning streak snapped in a 16 point loss against one of the biggest surprises in the country in Ohio State. Still, this is a great Michigan State team that is a legitimate national title contender.
Tom Izzo’s team is ranked in the top ten in all of Division I (351 teams) in eight advanced statistical categories, per KenPom. They are leading the country in effective field goal percentage on the defensive end, as well as holding opponents to just 34.3% shooting from two-point range. They are second in the country in block percentage on the defensive end, as well as effective field goal percentage on offense and offensive rebounding percentage. In adjusted efficiency, they are are 10th in Division I on the offensive end and 6th on the defensive end. This team has no weaknesses.
They are also a great shooting team, as they are averaging 52.5% from the floor, 41.4% from three-point range, and 72.1% from the free throw line.
Here are per game statistical averages for key players on Michigan State:
6’7” sophomore guard Miles Bridges - 16.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.1 blocks
6’8” sophomore forward Nick Ward - 14.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.6 blocks
6’5” sophomore guard Josh Langford - 13.9 points, 2.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists
6’0” sophomore guard Cassius Winston - 12.8 points, 7.2 assists, 3.2 rebounds
6’11” freshman Jaren Jackson - 10.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.2 blocks, 0.9 steals
6’4” junior guard Matt McQuaid - 7.1 points, 2.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists
Know Your Three-Point Shooters:
Cassius Winston - 41 of 77 for 53.2%
Josh Langford - 28 of 61 for 45.9%
Jaren Jackson - 20 of 46 for 43.5%
Matt McQuaid - 28 of 74 for 37.8%
Miles Bridges - 32 of 94 for 34.0%
Rutgers is ranked third in Division I in offensive rebounding (14.8) and sixth in overall rebounding (42.6). They are also ninth in scoring defense (60.9 ppg). thirteenth in turnover margin (4.6) and fourteenth in FG% defense (38.1%). The last time the program beat a ranked team on the road was at #13 Pitt in 2008.
Keys To Victory
Veterans Must Lead
Any conference road game is a challenge and Rutgers has quickly become battle tested after trips to Minnesota and Purdue in Big Ten play so far. The veteran core of Deshawn Freeman, Mike Williams, and Corey Sanders need to step up in a big way tonight for Rutgers to have any chance. Sanders and Freeman needs to dictate play early on and both need to score above their averages. In addition, both of them need to keep their composure and make sure the younger players keep their heads in the game at the first sign of trouble. As for Mike Williams, hopefully he gets involved early and plays big minutes in this game. He gave Spartans star Miles Bridges some trouble guarding him in the first meeting and he'll need to deliver a similar defensive performance again tonight. Another factor is for Williams to have a big game shooting wise, something he hasn't had in awhile. However, we've seen before that he has the ability to carry this team for stretches and it would be huge if he could do it again at times tonight.
Layups & Second Chance Points
While Rutgers exceeded expectations in the first meeting between these two programs by only losing by 10 points, the Spartans closest win this season, they had an awful game on the offensive end. The Scarlet Knights made just 26% of its shots, missing many layups and multiple putbacks near the rim. It was a killer in what was otherwise a stellar effort in their upset bid that ultimately fell short. For Rutgers to have any shot of keeping it close tonight, they must do a better job of finishing near the rim and score off of offensive rebounds. If they draw fouls instead, they'll need a repeat performance from the first meeting, when Rutgers went 14 of 18 for 77% from the line.
The Spartans are typically a dangerous team from behind the arc and this season is no exception. Rutgers did a decent job in the first meeting, as Michigan State shot 38.1% (8 of 21), which is below its season average of 41.4%. As mentioned above in the stats review, there are multiple shooters to worry about and Rutgers can't afford to get lost on screens and allow for them to have open looks. That's exactly what happened last week at Purdue, who are also a strong shooting team, as Rutgers fell into a hole they couldn't get out of after the Boilermakers made four wide open three-pointers in the first half. The Scarlet Knights can't afford to have the same thing happen tonight or the margin of defeat could be worse than the 31 points they suffered against Purdue.
It's obvious that Rutgers needs to play suffocating defense at a level similar to how they battled Michigan State the first time. What they need to do a better job of, especially being on the road, is generate offense in transition off of defensive stops. Rutgers simply doesn't have the talent or the shooters to out-execute the Spartans in a halfcourt game. They need to force turnovers and grab rebounds to push the pace and score in transition. It's the only chance they have to generate enough points to stay in this game and to have a chance to win.
Play With Nothing To Lose
Let's face it, the 22 point spread that the underdog Scarlet Knights are listed at for this game seems low. There is absolutely zero pressure on Rutgers in this game and it would be fun to see them play hard and disciplined, but also in a free and loose way. While Michigan State will surely come out motivated and wanting to take out their frustration on the Scarlet Knights, all of the pressure is on them to take care of business. If Rutgers can come out playing gritty defense and be aggressive on the boards, they’ll have a chance to hang around and be a pest to the Spartans once again. They’ll need to keep their composure and not get frustrated if the whistle goes against them, which it likely will on the road. Preventing big runs and taking care of the basketball, something Rutgers has done very well in this season, are also critical to having success tonight.
In The Bonus
The program announced last night that senior walk-on Jake Dadika has been named a team captain, along with Deshawn Freeman and Mike Williams. Dadika has been a model teammate during his time on the banks and a valuable practice player as well. He has had his moments on the court during games too, so it’s great to see him receive the recognition he deserves. Hopefully, he’ll have a highlight or two at some point this season when he changes a game for the better for Rutgers, like he did in the win over Illinois last year.