How To Watch & Listen
Rutgers (12-8; 2-5) At #23 Michigan (16-5; 5-3)
Where: The Crisler Center (capacity 12,707)
Tip-off: Sunday, January 21st at 12:00 p.m. ET
TV: BTN - Brandon Gaudin and Shon Morris
Radio: WCTC 1450 AM, WOR 710 AM - Jerry Recco & Joe Boylan; WRSU 88.7 FM
KenPom Rankings: Rutgers #116; Michigan #28
(Note: Rutgers improved 19 spots since the 16 point victory over Iowa)
KenPom Prediction: Michigan 66 Rutgers 55; Rutgers has an 15% chance to win
Vegas Line: Michigan -12
Series History: Michigan leads the all-time series 9-0, including beating Rutgers in the 1976 Final Four and the 2004 NIT Championship game. The last meeting took place at the RAC on February 22, 2017 and Michigan won 68-64.
SB Nation Michigan site: Maize N Brew
Head coach Jon Beilein is in his eleventh season at Michigan and is one of the best coaches in the country. He has had plenty of success against Rutgers in his career, both at West Virginia when both schools were in the Big East, as well as since they’ve been Big Ten conference foes. On the season, Michigan owns six top 100 victories and is a balanced team on both ends of the floor. They are a team filled with many good shooters and this season the Wolverines are shooting 47.3% from the floor and 37.1% from three-point range.
The Wolverines upset rival Michigan State last weekend in an impressive performance on the road. They then survived Maryland, beating them by 1 point at home just two days later, but crashed this past Thursday in a 20 point loss at Nebraska. Sunday’s game against Rutgers will be their fourth contest in eight days, so fatigue could be an issue. However, they are 10-1 at home, with the only loss being a 1 point defeat to #3 Purdue.
They lead the Big Ten in assist to turnover ratio (1.55) and turnovers per game (9.9). The Wolverines don’t foul a lot on defense, but aren’t very proficient at getting to the line on offense either. In league play, Michigan is tops in the conference in defensive rebounding, but on the other end of the floor are just 13th in offensive rebounding percentage. UM hasn’t defended the three well all year, as they are just 11th in conference play and 246th in Division I, as opponents are shooting 36.5% for the season against them.
Here are per game statistical averages for key players on Michigan:
6’6” junior guard Charles Matthews - 14.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists
6’11” junior forward Moritz Wagner - 14.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, 0.9 steals
6’4” guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman - 10.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 0.9 steals
6’8” senior guard Duncan Robinson - 8.9 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.0 assist
6’4” freshman guard Jordan Poole - 6.4 points, 0.9 rebounds
6’0” sophomore guard Zavier Simpson - 6.0 points, 3.5 assists, 2.4 rebounds, 1.2 steals
Know Your Three-Point Shooters:
Isaiah Livers - 16 of 37 for 43.2%
Zavier Simpson - 15 of 36 for 42.9%
Moritz Wagner - 28 of 67 for 41.8%
Jordan Poole - 22 of 53 for 41.5%
Duncan Robinson - 39 of 108 for 36.1%
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman - 32 of 89 for 36.0%
Charles Matthews - 21 of 61 for 34.4%
Rutgers is ranked sixth in Division I in rebounding (41.3), ninth in offensive rebounding (14.0), tenth in turnover margin (4.6), twelvth in scoring defense (62.2 ppg) and thirteenth in FG% defense (38.8%)..... Rutgers is 6-0 when holding opponents to 59 points or less this season.....Senior captain Mike Williams is out indefinitely with an ankle injury....The last time Rutgers defeated a ranked team on the road was when they beat #13 Pittsburgh, 77-64, on January 26, 2008.......Rutgers has never won back to back regular season games in Big Ten play.
Keys To Victory
Handle The 1-3-1 Zone
Rutgers did a tremendous job against the varying zones of Iowa in the win on Wednesday night. Corey Sanders was fantastic with penetrating the zone off the dribble and finding Issa Thiam and Geo Baker on the perimeter for open three’s. However, the Scarlet Knights didn’t settle for bad jump shots and were able to get to the rim as well, shooting an impressive 57.9% from two-point range in the game. The real key to their effectiveness overall on offense was ball movement, as Rutgers shared the basketball and were as unselfish as we’ve seen all season. They dished out an uncharacteristic 18 assists, the most they’ve ever produced in Big Ten play since joining the conference.
Michigan utilizes a 1-3-1 zone as well and will look to make Rutgers beat them from the perimeter in this game. Flashing a big man at the top of the key and attacking from there will be important against Michigan, which is a good way to get Deshawn Freeman and Eugene Omoruyi active on offense. Penetrating the gaps of the zone and making the Wolverines defend a long time into possessions with multiple ball reversals is key as well. Of course, Rutgers needs to execute and make shots to be effective.
Hold Their Own From Three-Point Range
While I don’t think it’s realistic for Rutgers to outshoot Michigan from behind the arc, considering the Wolverines have six players shooting 36% or better on at least 36 attempts each, it’s important they contest every three-pointer taken. Allowing for open three’s has predictably spelled disaster for Rutgers in conference play and they would have beaten Iowa by 20-plus had it not been for Jordan Bohannon knocking down several uncontested three’s. A key statistic to know is that four of Michigan’s five losses have come in games in which they shot less than 30% from three-point range. On the flip side, Rutgers needs to make enough shots from deep to have a chance. Issa Thiam is now shooting 40.8% from three-point range on the season and has made 13 of his last 27 attempts in the past seven games. Geo Baker is the only other player on the roster shooting above 25% from three behind the arc, as he is making 35.7% from deep on the season is a red hot 7 of 13 in the past two games. If both players can make multiple three’s in this game, coupled with containing Michigan from the perimeter, it will give Rutgers a legitimate chance to steal a win on the road.
Offensive Rebounding & Second Chance Points
I’ve cited this as a key in many games because it has been the biggest source of offense for this team all season, due to its lack of proficiency in shooting the basketball. Rutgers needs to find seams in the Michigan zone to attack the glass. It won’t be easy, as the Wolverines are tops in the Big Ten in defending its opponents on the offensive boards. Rutgers was just okay in this area against Iowa, but will need a better effort if they want to win this game. The more the Scarlet Knight guards can rebound and keep possessions alive the better. Finishing near the rim is a must and they need to take advantage of any second chance opportunities they do have. Rutgers is bigger than Michigan and need to dominate points in the paint the way they did against Iowa.
This game features the top two teams in the conference in turnover percentage, as Rutgers is first and Michigan is second in protecting the basketball in league play. Both teams are good at forcing their opposition into takeaways as well, as Rutgers is third and Michigan is fourth in Big Ten action. Limiting turnovers is always important, but especially when playing a conference road game. Which team gets the better of the other with turnover margin, as well as producing points off of them, will go a long way in determining the outcome of this game.
Michigan is traditionally a perimeter based, finesse basketball team and Rutgers needs to impose their physical style on this game. Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo called Rutgers the most physical team they’ve played all season, which was a major compliment, considering the competition they’ve faced. The bigs of Rutgers need to avoid foul trouble, something that has been an issue throughout this season. However, effort and will on the boards has to be there, as well as the Scarlet Knights bringing toughness on the defensive end. They need to be scrappy and make this a war on the court. Bringing an edge on defense and the boards is an absolute must. The loss of Mike Williams seemed to unify this team against Iowa and another total group effort is needed to win this game.
In The Bonus
Rutgers is 1-29 on the road in Big Ten play since joining the conference four seasons ago. In order to have success this time away from the RAC, the Scarlet Knights need to start fast and take it to Michigan as soon as the ball is tipped. The Wolverines have trailed at the half in every conference game this month and it’s their 4th game in eight days. If Rutgers can come out with the energy and purpose it did in its last game against Iowa, they’ll have a chance to take control early on. There is no doubt Michigan is the superior team talent wise and on the offensive end. However, Rutgers has shown they can play with anyone on the road when they bring their “A” game, as the loss in overtime to Michigan State proved. This contest is a difficult challenge for Rutgers, but an intriguing one that can be won if they put up a fight against Michigan they way they are capable of doing. It’s also a chance to make a big statement to the rest of the Big Ten and to continue to climb up the conference standings. The last time these two teams met, Rutgers let it slip away at the end, losing by 4 points at the RAC last February. Sunday is a chance for them to gain redemption and take another step forward in this rebuild.