Niagara (0-1) At Rutgers (1-0)
How To Watch, Listen, News & Notes
Where: The RAC in Piscataway, NJ (capacity: 8,000)
Tip-off: Sunday, November 10th at 1:00 p.m. ET
Promotions: It will be the Scarlet Knight’s birthday on Sunday with player autographs taking place post-game.
Stream: BTN Plus (Lou Brogno, play-by-play, Ralph Bednarczyk, analyst)
Radio: Live Listen - Rutgers Sports Properties Radio Network (WCTC 1450 AM/WOR 710 AM/SiriusXM 972; Jerry Recco & Joe Boylan); WRSU 88.7 FM (Justin Sontupe & Chris Tsakonas)
KenPom Rankings: Rutgers 74th ; Niagara 326th
KenPom Prediction: Rutgers 83 Niagara 61; Rutgers has a 97% chance to win
Vegas Line: Rutgers -21.5
Series History: Rutgers is 1-1 including a 78-65 victory in the last meeting on November 20, 2016. They lost to a Calvin Murphy led team in 1969.
SB Nation Bryant site: Mid Major Madness
For all of our preseason coverage, click here.
Head coach Greg Paulus was just promoted this past week after filling in on an interim basis after serving as an assistant under Patrick Beilein, who resigned due to personal reasons on October 24th. Paulus is a former player at Duke and is a former assistant at Ohio State, Louisville, Navy and George Washington. The Purple Eagles were picked to finish in 10th place in the 11 team MAAC in the preseason poll.
Niagara lost it’s season opener on Friday night at Drexel by the score of 72-64.
They are led by 5’10” senior guard James Towns, who is the team’s top returning scorer and rebounder from last season. In the season opener, he scored a team high 17 points on 8 of 18 shooting and he dished out 3 assists. He is joined in the backcourt by 6’2” sophomore guard Raheem Solomon and 6’1” sophomore Marcus Hammond. In the loss to Drexel, Solomon had 12 points and 4 rebounds, while Hammond had 12 points and 7 rebounds.
6’9” junior forward Nicholas Kratholm leads the frontcourt and had 8 points and 4 rebounds in the first game of the season.
In the loss to Drexel, the Purple Eagles shot 45.2% from the floor, 33.3% from the three-point line, and were 3 of 4 from the charity stripe. They forced 19 turnovers and committed just 12, but were outrebounded by a margin of 35-26.
All eleven scholarship players are healthy to begin the season.
Notes: Rutgers looks to begin the season 2-0 for the fourth consecutive time under head coach Steve Pikiell.
Keys To Victory
Get the bigs involved
While Rutgers did dominate points in the paint against Bryant (32-10), they didn’t exploit that advantage nearly enough. Myles Johnson and Shaq Carter weren’t nearly as involved in the offense as they should have been. They need to get the ball in the post far more often in this game and let them get some high percentage looks near the rim.
Attack the Basket
Rutgers tried way too hard to show how much better of a three-point shooting team they were in the season opener and forced too many shots from behind the arc. They need to take open looks when given them, but they also need to be more aggressive attacking the basket with penetration. They have multiple players who can drive to the hoop and either create their own shot or dish off to a teammate with a better look. And yes, when they get to the foul line, they must take advantage and convert.
Share The Basketball
We definitely saw too many players trying to get their own points in the opener, which is somewhat understandable being the first game and everyone trying to establish their roles. However, it really clunked up the offense and there wasn’t nearly enough passing in the halfcourt. That needs to change in this game because the few times Rutgers was patient and unselfish on offense, it led to easy baskets. They need to come out from the opening tip with this mindset and wear down the Niagara defense.
Limit open looks defensively
There were far too many breakdowns defensively in the season opener, particularly in the final ten minutes of the game. It’s an adjustment for this team to play a more up tempo style, but they can’t allow it to negatively impact their defense the way it did against Bryant. They need to challenge every shot, force Niagara to take shots from the perimeter and stiffen up in the interior.
Put the game away
As poor as Rutgers played in its season opening 73-71 victory over Bryant on Thursday night, it’s easy for forget that they led 52-36 midway through the second half. However, they went ice cold from the field and fell apart defensively, luckily escaping a last second three-point attempt from the Bulldogs. In order to have a winning season, Rutgers has to learn to put teams like that away and doing this against Niagara would be a positive step forward. They will have an obvious size advantage and need to use their athleticism to dominate points in the paint. Impose their will and attack Niagara in all phases of the game, which should lead to a comfortable victory.
Appropriate Music Selection
Last season, I started adding a live performance from some of my favorite bands and I’m crazy enough to attempt it for every game preview this season. For the second game of the season, I’m featuring one of my all-time favorite musicians and bands, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. I saw them live many times and the song “I won’t back down” is one of their classics. It also applies to Rutgers in this game and my last key to victory, as they can’t take its foot off the gas pedal against Niagara the way they did against Bryant. Keep coming all 40 minutes and make this game a blowout that makes everyone feel more confident about the season ahead. It’s also important because it would give more minutes to the end of the bench and help this team’s development overall.