Indiana (12-8; 3-6) At Rutgers (10-9; 3-6)
How To Watch, Listen, News & Notes
Where: The RAC in Piscataway, New Jersey
Tip-off: Wedneday, January 30th at 7:00 p.m. ET
TV: BTN - Kevin Kugler & Jon Crispin
Radio: Live Listen - WCTC 1450 AM/WOR 710 AM/XM 390 - Chris Carlin & Joe Boylan; WRSU 88.7 FM - Jake Ostrove & Sam Marsdale
KenPom Rankings: Rutgers #97; Indiana #46
(Rutgers has moved up 10 spots since the win over Penn State)
KenPom Prediction: Indiana 66 Rutgers 64; Rutgers has an 44% chance to win.
Vegas Line: Indiana -1.5
Series History: Indiana leads all-time 6-1, but Rutgers won the most recent meeting last March in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament, 76-69.
SB Nation Indiana site: Crimson Quarry
Head coach Archie Miller is in his second season with the Hoosiers and they are currently in the midst of a six game losing streak. After opening the season with a 12-2 record, including KenPom Top 100 wins over Louisville (#14), Marquette (#34), and Butler (#48), as well as winning its first three conference games against Northwestern, Penn State, and Illinois, it’s been almost four weeks since the Hoosiers last victory. They were swept by Michigan, lost to Purdue and Maryland on the road. However, the more disappointing results was a 15 point home loss to Nebraska and a road defeat to Northwestern. In its last game, the Hoosiers spotted Michigan 17 points at home before getting on the scoreboard, en route to a 23 point loss.
Regardless, Indiana has two of the most talented players in the Big Ten in Freshman of the Year favorite Romeo Langford and senior big man Juwan Morgan. Indiana is shooting a very solid 48.6% from the floor, excelling in two-point range at a 56.3% clip, but are making only 32.3% from three-point range and just 65.0% from the free throw line. While the Hoosiers are 9-2 this season when scoring 70+ points, they are only averaging 54.5 points in their past four games.
In Big Ten play, Indiana’s efficiency ratings are in the bottom half of the conference, as they are 12th on offense (94.5) and 9th on defense (105.0). They do come into Wednesday’s game with the fourth best free throw rate (the ratio of foul shots to field goal attempts) in the Big Ten (37.1%), but are making just 67.4% from the line in league play. Indiana is shooting three’s worse than any other team in Big Ten play, making just 25.2%. Interestingly, on the defensive end, Indiana is ranked fourth in allowing opponents to get to the free throw line and defending three-point shooting. They are also ranked third in defensive block rate.
6’6” freshman Romeo Langford - 17.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists
6’3” junior Devonte Green - 8.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.1 steals (suspended indefinitely)
6’4” sophomore Aljami Durham - 7.9 points, 1.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists
6’1” freshman Rob Phinisee - 6.9 points, 2.9 assists, 2.8 rebounds
6’6” senior Zach McRoberts - 1.0 point, 2.9 rebounds
6’8” senior Juwan Morgan - 16.5 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.6 blocks, 1.1 steals
6’7” sophomore Justin Smith - 8.7 points, 4.4 rebounds
6’10” senior Evan Fitzner - 3.8 points, 2.5 rebounds
6’7” freshman Damezi Anderson - 2.4 points, 1.3 rebounds
Mamadou Doucoure remains out indefinitely with a back issue.
Pikiell Pregame Thoughts
Monday pregame presser with the Media
BTN Interview on Monday
Radio Interview With Dan Dakich
⚔️ @CoachPikiell joined @dandakich on @1070thefan today to talk @RutgersMBB and Wednesday evening's match-up with five-time national champion Indiana at the RAC. https://t.co/puDA7ySCaZ pic.twitter.com/CFKfkOwyQP— Kevin Lorincz (@Kevin_Lorincz) January 29, 2019
Keys To Victory
Protect The Rim
In addition to Big Ten play, Indiana has proven all season to not be a strong three-point shooting (256th) and free throw shooting (320th) team. However, they excel from two-point range (17th) and are an athletic team. Rutgers needs to bring another elite defensive effort to make Indiana work for everything they get on offense. They need to contest everything and use their size advantage in the paint to make it difficult for the Hoosiers to score near the rim. The Scarlet Knights need to be disciplined and not leave their feet, limiting how much they foul in the paint. On the flip side, Rutgers needs to take care of the basketball and limit silly turnovers, as Indiana can take advantage in transition and turn them into easy baskets. Rutgers needs to establish themselves defensively from the opening tip and put pressure on Indiana to stay disciplined with their halfcourt offense.
Balance On Offense
Indiana has done a good job of containing the opposition’s leading scorer in Big Ten play, even during the six game losing streak. That makes Geo Baker the target in this game and he can’t play hero ball and force bad shots or Rutgers will fall right into what Indiana wants to happen. His maturity and leadership the past two games has been significant in leading this team to victory. Rutgers needs Baker to play smart in the halfcourt by sharing the basketball and feeding the low post. Rutgers has a legitimate size advantage with a frontcourt of Eugene Omoruyi, Shaq Doorson, Shaq Carter and Myles Johnson. If Rutgers can establish an advantage in the paint, it will open up lanes for Baker, Montez Mathis and Ron Harper Jr. to attack as the game progresses. It will also lead to some open looks along the perimeter and as Rutgers showed against Penn State, they can knock down three’s (7 of 16 for 44%) when taken within the flow of the offense. Most importantly though, Rutgers is proving to be a more dangerous team the more they attack the rim and they have the ability to hold a big edge with points in the paint in this game. The truth is for Rutgers to win any Big Ten game, they need contributions from the majority of the players that see action and a balanced attack is a must.
Don’t Let Supporting Cast Beat You
Romeo Langford and Juwan Morgan are clearly the best two players on the Hoosiers. While Rutgers can’t let them run wild, limiting the offensive production of the supporting cast is key. During the six game losing streak, Morgan is averaging 17.7 points and 8.8 rebounds, slightly above his season averages. Langford has struggled more so, registering his only two single digit scoring games of the season during this stretch, but he is still averaging 14.7 points and 4.7 rebounds per contest, slightly below his season norm. Both players are shooting worse than their season averages from the floor by about 10% each, but they haven’t been the main reasons for Indiana’s struggles. In four of the six losses, they were the only two players to score in double figures in those games. Three of those instances occurred even with starter Devonte Green, who is currently suspended indefinitely and hasn’t played in the previous two games. If Rutgers can limit the scoring of anyone not named Langford and Morgan, it will go along way towards slowing down an already struggling offense. In the past six games, the rest of the team has made just 59 of 170 shots from the field for 34.7%.
Get To Free Throw Line & Convert
Rutgers and Indiana struggle shooting from the line, but both are fairly effective at getting there too. With both teams not very proficient from three-point range, if either team can establish an advantage with points from the free throw line, it could be the difference in the outcome. Rutgers has gotten to the line more than it’s opponent in each of the past four games, taking 16 more shots combined from the charity stripe, making 11 more. The benefit of being more focused on attacking the basket is paying off for Rutgers and needs to continue in this game.
After winning back to back Big Ten games for the first time since joining the conference four plus seasons ago, Rutgers is experiencing more attention than usual. BTN has been singing its praises and interview requests for Pikiell have increased. There is buzz on campus and Wednesday’s game is a major opportunity for the program. If they can beat Indiana, it would be the first time Rutgers won three conference regular season games in a row since the 2004 campaign. Handling increased pressure and excitement from the outside world will be a challenge for such an inexperienced team. However, it’s fair to be hopeful the chemistry and togetherness of this team is improving with every game. Ever since captain Eugene Omoruyi returned from injury, this has been a different team. Opportunity is now knocking for Rutgers to move up the Big Ten standings after two consecutive wins. They’ll need to rise to the occasion Wednesday night in front of what should be a raucous RAC crowd to bring home a Big Ten best fourth regular season win since joining the conference.
Appropriate Pearl Jam Selection
We continue the feature in previews of incorporating an appropriate Pearl Jam song to the current state of the team. For the Indiana game, I chose Who You Are. This team is still figuring out exactly who they are and what they can become. These lyrics seemed appropriate for a game in which they can achieve even more firsts for the program.
“Where we are...Who are we? Who we are...”
“What’s your part? Who you are. You are who, who you are...”