UMass (5-2) vs. Rutgers (5-1)
How To Watch, Listen, News & Notes
Where: The RAC (8,000) in Piscataway, New Jersey
Tip-off: Friday, November 29th at 2:00 p.m. ET
Promotion: SAAC Teddy Bear Toss, Student for a Game: $15 Student Section Tickets
Stream: BTN Plus (Chris Carlin, play-by-play, Dom Savino, analyst)
Radio: Live Listen - Rutgers Sports Properties Radio Network (WCTC 1450 AM/WOR 710 AM/SiriusXM 988; Jerry Recco & Joe Boylan); WRSU 88.7 FM (Justin Sontupe & Brant Wolf)
KenPom Rankings: Rutgers 78th; UMass 177th; Rutgers moved up 7 spots since the win over NJIT.
Efficiency Rankings: Rutgers - Offense 103.2 (94th) Defense 93.4 (69th); UMass - 99.4 (173rd) Defense 100.6 (183rd)
KenPom Prediction: Rutgers 72 UMass 61; Rutgers has a 84% chance to win
Vegas Line: TBD
Series History: Rutgers leads the series all-time 28-20, including a 83-75 victory in the last meeting on November 27, 2009.
UMass Scouting Report
Head coach Matt McCall is in his third season at the helm and after winning the first five games of the season, the Minuteman have lost back to back games to Virginia by 12 points and St. John’s by 15 points. The best wins of their season so far is over Northeastern (KenPom ranking of 133rd) and Rider (KenPom ranking of 138th).
UMass is led by 6’4” freshman guard T.J. Weeks, who is averaging 15.0 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 1.7 steals. He is shooting lights out from three-point range this season, having made 22 of 42 attempts for 52.4%. Carl Pierre, a 6’4” junior joins him in the backcourt and averages 12.6 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 1.7 assists. Other perimeter players to know are 6’3” freshman point guard Sean East II, who averages 10.1 points, 5.1assists, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.4 steals per game, while 6’1” junior guard Keon Clergeot averages 6.9 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.3 steals per contest.
In the frontcourt, the Minutemen are led by 6’9” freshman center Tre Mitchell, who averages 12.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.0 block and 1.0 steal per game. In addition, 6’7” sophomore Sambo Diallo contributes 8.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per game while shooting 52.8% from the floor.
As a team UMass shoots 44.9% from the floor, 36.9% from three-point range, and 65.2% from thre free throw line.
Notes: As a team, Rutgers is shooting 47.4% from the floor, 29.8% from three-point range, and 65.0% from the free throw line. Paul Mulcahy is 3rd in the Big Ten in assist toturnover ratio (3.6), Montez Mathis is 4th in the Big Ten in steals (2.0), and Caleb McConnell is 8th in the Big Ten in free throw percentage (86.7%).
Keys To Victory
Avoid Turkey Hangover
Rutgers needs to continue to build off its most recent performance, which was an impressive rout of NJIT. In addition, last week’s victory over Stephen F. Austin now carries more weight after doing the unthinkable and beating no. 1 Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium. If you remember back to head coach Steve Pikiell’s first season, it was Black Friday when Rutgers barely escaped Hartford due ot C.J. Gettys putback in the closing seconds of the game. The Scarlet Knights need to avoid that type of dogfight and start the game strong on both ends of the floor. Pikiell will likely look to exploit the lack of depth that UMass has by playing multiple lineup combinations, as well as RU looking to run as much as possible.
Defend the Three
UMass averages 9 made three’s per game and shoots 36.8% from behind the arc this season. Perimeter defense has been much, much better for Rutgers in the last two games, but that needs to continue or The Minutemen have the potential to shoot their way to a victory. Montez Mathis, Geo Baker, and Caleb McConnell have already given some spirited defensive performances this season and hopefully the trio can set the tone by not allowing for any open looks from three-point range.
Crash the Boards
The Scarlet Knights are the better team on the glass in this game and need to take advantage by dominating in that area. UMass only has an offensive rebounding rate ranked 259th out of 353 Division I teams, as well as a rank of 303rd in defending opponents on the offensive glass, while Rutgers has the 24th best offensive rebounding rate in the country and 90th in defending opponents. RU utilizes an all hands on deck approach to rebounding and it shows, as nine players currently average 2.5 boards or more per game. Need that type of balance in this matchup to prevent extended possessions.
Share the basketball
Don’t look now but Rutgers has the 38th best rate of assists to field goals made at 60.2%. While Steve Pikiell’s team has struggled shooting wise at times this season, they continue to become more selfless offensively and ball movement in the halfcourt has been better than in years past. There is still progress to be made, but the impact of Paul Mulcahy has been extremely positive, as he is second on the team with 18 assists, has an assist rate ranked 187th of all DI players, and has the third best assist to turnover ratio (3.6) in the Big Ten. He started to handle the ball more against NJIT and ran the offense at times even when Geo Baker and Jacob Young were on the court. The offense has played with more purpose and strategically attacked the basket in the halfcourt the past two games, so hopefully it continues in this contest.
Make Free Throws
It’s becoming a real frustration to see this team struggle so much from the charity stripe and it will eventually cost them games if it continues. Hopefully, they can get some of the best free throw shooters to the line in this game like Caleb McConnell (13 of 15 for 86.7%) and Geo Baker (13 of 16 for 81.3%). It could help Rutgers establish a rhythm from the free throw and help to extend a lead whenever possible. Every other player has been inconsistent from the line and hopefully those players start to step up.
Appropriate Music Selection
For the sseventh game of the season, I’m featuring Adam Sandler’s classic Thanksgiving song. Apologies for the delay in publishing this game preview, but the holiday ate up my time, pun intended. Let’s hope we see a business like performance from Rutgers ahead of next week’s two game road trip against Pitt and Michigan State.