Rutgers (8-6; 1-3) At Minnesota (12-3; 2-2)
How To Watch, Listen, News & Notes
Where: Williams Arena in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Tip-off: Saturday, January 12th at 12:30 p.m. ET
TV: BTN - Cory Provus & Bob Wenzel
Radio: Live Listen - WCTC 1450 AM/WOR 710 AM/XM 387 - Jerry Recco & Joe Boylan; WRSU 88.7 FM - Justin Sontupe & Jake Ostrove
KenPom Rankings: Rutgers #106; Minnesota #58
(Rutgers has moved up 9 spots since the win over Ohio State)
KenPom Prediction: Minnesota 69 Rutgers 62; Rutgers has an 26% chance to win.
Vegas Line: Minnesota -9.5
Series History: Minnesota leads 7-2 all-time, but Rutgers won the last meeting in the opening round of last year’s Big Ten Tournament 65-54.
SB Nation Minnesota site: The Daily Gopher
Head coach Richard Pitino is in his sixth season at Minnesota, who come in with a 12-3 record overall and 7-1 at home. However, the Golden Gophers dropped their last game at Williams Arena against Maryland on Tuesday, losing 82-67. On the season they own KenPom Top 100 victories against #11 Wisconsin, #16 Nebraska, #46 Washington, #82 Oklahoma State, and #92 Texas A&M.
Minnesota is not a strong shooting team, averaging 43.9% from the field, 31.7% from three-point range, and 65.9% from the free throw line. They are a strong rebounding team, pulling down 40 a game and have the 17th best offensive rebounding rate in the country. They also have the 7th best free throw rate (proficiency in getting to the line) in Division I. Their adjusted offensive efficiency rating is 81st while defensively it is 52nd. They don’t turnover opponents at a high rate and have struggled against good three-point shooting teams.
Their last two Big Ten games have been a bit of Jekyll & Hyde performances, beating Wisconsin on the road and then getting blown out at home to Maryland.
6’5” senior Dupree McBrayer - 10.8 points, 2.4 assists, 2.1 rebounds
6’4” freshman Gabe Kalscheur- 10.1 points, 1.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists. 1.0 steal
6’1” sophomore Isaiah Washington - 5.0 points, 3.9 assists, 2.1 rebounds
6’8” junior Amir Coffey - 15.5 points, 3.3 assists, 3.0 rebounds, 1.0 steal
6’6” senior Jordan Murphy - 14.5 points, 12.0 rebounds, 2.9 assists. 1.0 block
6’10” freshman Daniel Oturu - 10.3 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.9 blocks
7’0” senior Matz Stockman - 3.4 points, 2.5 rebounds
Eugene Omoruyi suffered a dislocated kneecap, which is the same injury he suffered last season. While the extent of the injury and timeline for return has yet to be announced, read here on which players need to step up in his absence.
Richard Pitino On Rutgers
“Rutgers is a tough team. They compete with everybody. Geo Baker probably will take on a large responsibility, and he’s a good player. Rutgers will beat you up. They’re really physical and big. They are going to try and obliterate you on the glass, physically try and overpower you.”
Keys To Victory
Aggressive Mindset On Offense
Rutgers needs to make sure they bring the same attacking style on offense that was so effective against Ohio State on the road with them in this game. With Omoruyi out, Rutgers needs to share the scoring burden and create balance like they had on Wednesday when four players scored in double figures. Montez Mathis and Geo Baker need to set the down with dribble penetration and not force jump shots. Making Shaq Carter a focal point in the paint is a must as well. He has the size and physical nature to cause problems down low for Coffey and Murphy. Getting to the free throw line and converting will be important as well. Minnesota has been the top team in Big Ten play getting to the line, so Rutgers needs to keep up and can’t afford a major discrepancy on free throw attempts or it will be a major disadvantage.
Win Turnover Margin
Although Rutgers has just the 184th best turnover rate in the country overall this season (18.9%), they’ve done a much better job taking care of the basketball in Big Ten action. They have the second best turnover rate in league play at 13.8% and that trend needs to continue if they want to knock off Minnesota. The Golden Gophers aren’t aggressive in trying for steals and tend to pack it in the paint defensively. Rutgers needs to share the basketball and work the ball around the perimeter to create space and find the open shooter. Conversely, Rutgers needs to be opportunistic on the defensive end by looking to run in transition off of any Minnesota turnovers that occur. They doubled Ohio State’s fast break points on Wednesday and need to look for Mathis and Harper to push it on the break.
Once again, this game features two of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country like Wednesday’s contest as well. Rutgers was -2 on the offensive boards against Ohio State and -1 overall in rebounding margin, which proved to be enough. That was a step in the right direction, while as strong a rebounding team Rutgers has been in the Pikiell era, they haven’t consistently held up well against the better teams on the glass in the Big Ten. If they can hold their own in this one without its top rebounder in Omoruyi, that would be major progress. They’ll need an all hands on deck approach once again. Murphy averages 12 boards by himself for the Gophers, so Carter, Shaq Doorson, and Myles Johnson can’t let him have his way down low and need to assert themselves in the paint from the opening tip.
Multiple Looks On Defense
In Wednesday’s victory over Ohio State, head coach Steve Pikiell showed he was willing to adapt in order to better position his team against a specific opponent. He made all the right moves in helping Rutgers win, including playing multiple defenses throughout the game. Although the three-quarter press wasn’t an aggressive one, it helped speed up the Buckeyes on offense and did create some mistakes. It also helped Rutgers get into a 2-3 zone, something they’ve rarely done under Pikiell. He prefers to play man to man defense, but having Mathis and Caleb McConnell at the top of the zone and jumping passing lanes proved trouble for Ohio State.
On the flip side, Minnesota was leading Maryland by 7 points midway through the second half on Tuesday, but the game changed when the Terps switched to a 2-3 zone. It stifled the Minnesota offense, who don’t have a strong shooting backcourt. While playing a zone makes it more difficult to rebound defensively, I expect Rutgers to play it at times in this game to see if they can be as effective with it against Minnesota and create issues for them offensively. And when Rutgers is playing man to man, they need to defend the paint and now allow easy baskets for the home team. Make them work for every basket.
Play In The Present
Rutgers has to put the first Big Ten ranked win of the Pikiell era in the rearview mirror (mandatory Pearl Jam live footage) and not come out with any type of hangover in this game. This will be a challenge for a young team who will be without a captain and tip-off is at 11:30 local time, where the temperature outside is expected to feel like 20 degrees. They need to play with energy and urgency from the start. Baker really needs to make sure Rutgers is patient on offense and doesn’t settle for jump shots early. A few misses in a row could put them in a hole they won’t be able to get out of. Defensively, they need to dig in but not be overaggressive to try to avoid getting into foul trouble. There will only be nine scholarship players available for Rutgers and Minnesota is proficient at drawing fouls.
This game is a massive opportunity for this program to build momentum and prove they are starting to turn the corner in their development. Rutgers is 1-36 on the road in Big Ten play since joining the conference and in order to make a climb up the ladder, they need to start winning on the road. This game won’t be easy, but if they play smart and together, they have a chance to produce its first ever regular season winning streak in Big Ten play.