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Rutgers Men’s Basketball Game #22 Preview vs. No. 7 Michigan

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Includes how to watch, Pikiell’s thoughts, stats, and keys to victory

NCAA Basketball: Indiana at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan (20-2; 9-2) At Rutgers (11-10; 4-7)

How To Watch, Listen, News & Notes

Where: The RAC in Piscataway, New Jersey (SOLD OUT)

Tip-off: Tuesday, February 5th at 8:00 p.m. ET

TV: BTN - Brandon Gaudin & Shon Morris

Stream: BTN2GO

Radio: Live Listen - WCTC 1450 AM/WOR 710 AM/XM 388 - Jerry Recco & Joe Boylan; WRSU 88.7 FM - Justin Sontupe & Sam Marsdale

KenPom Rankings: Rutgers #95; Michigan #6

(Rutgers has back 5 spots since the 14 point loss to Ohio State)

KenPom Prediction: Michigan 66 Rutgers 56; Rutgers has an 19% chance to win.

Vegas Line: Michigan -10

Series History: Michigan leads 10-0 all-time, including meetings in the 1976 Final Four and 2004 NIT Championship. The last time these programs met, Michigan won 62-47 last January in Ann Arbor.

SB Nation Michigan site: Maize n Brew

Game 21 recap & four thoughts

Uniform Note: Rutgers wear alternate “Harlem Renaissance Collection” uniforms created by adidas to celebrate Black History Month.

About Michigan

Head coach John Beilein is in his 12th season at the helm and has firmly established the Wolverines as a premier program in college basketball. They are 20-2 this season with 12 wins over KenPom Top 100 teams, including wins over #7 North Carolina and #10 Purdue. They also played at Villanova (#18) for the opening of their new arena where the Wildcats dropped the championship banner marking last season’s triumph, followed by Michigan dominating them in a 27 point victory. The Wolverines won’t be shaking when the RAC is at it’s loudest tonight, that’s for sure.

Of its two losses, one came in Michigan’s last game, a 15 points road loss to Iowa last Friday. They scored only 59 points and shot just 8 of 33 for 24.2% from three-point range in the game. In the past five games, they’ve scored only an average of 61.2 points.

Michigan is still averaging 70.8 points per game for the season and is shooting 44.9% from the floor, 34.4% from three-point range, and 67.8% from the free throw line. They come into this game with the 42nd best offensive efficiency rating in Division I (111.5) and have the 7th best in Big Ten play (103.0). They own the lowest turnover rate in league play at just 14.4%, which is the same for their entire season, ranking 5th best nationally.

Defensively, Michigan has the top efficiency rating in the country at 84.0. In Big Ten play, it’s 90.4 which is the best in the conference. They have the best defensive free throw rate (the ratio of foul shots to field goal attempts) in the Big Ten, only allowing opponents at 22.1%. They rank in the top five in the league in every advanced metric except for steal and block percentage, which they are 6th in both.

Notable Contributors

Backcourt

6’5” sophomore Jordan Poole - 12.8 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.0 steal

6’6” senior Charles Matthews - 12.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.2 assists. 1.2 steals

6’0” junior Zavier Simpson - 9.0 points, 6.0 assists, 5.2 rebounds, 1.5 steals

6’1” sophomore Eli Brooks - 2.9 points, 1.5 assists

Frontcourt

6’7” freshman Ignas Brazdeikis - 15.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.0 assist

7’1” junior Jon Teske - 8.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.2 blocks

6’7” sophomore Isaiah Livers - 7.6 points, 4.0 rebounds

Injury Report

Mamadou Doucoure remains out indefinitely with a back issue.

Notes: Rutgers is averaging 66.9 points per game and is shooting 40.7% from the floor, 31.6% from three-point range, and 63.0% from the free throw line.

Pikiell Pregame Thoughts

Michigan Overview

“I have a lot of respect for Coach Beilein. Michigan plays the right way. They can win a game on either end of the floor. They don’t turn it over. And they do it every year, no matter who they lose. That consistency is the sign of a great program. They’re on offense for a lot of the game so they don’t have to play defense as long as most teams do. They have great length, they switch a lot of things. Obviously, he’s an elite coach with great strategies going into games. They take away option one and option two on most teams. They’re ranked in the top five and played for a national championship because they’re an elite program on both ends of the floor. They don’t turn the ball over. That helps their defense a great deal. They don’t throw pick six’s and they don’t foul so no one gets to the free throw line. There’s a lot of good things about what they do defensively but that starts with their good offense.”

Scouting Report On Michigan Offense

“It puts a lot of pressure on your defense to be good for the entire shot clock. They’ve got elite shooters, so you’re giving up three points a lot of times at the end of it. You’ve got to be locked in. They’ve got a lot of ball handlers, a lot of shooters. Jordan Poole, elite. Charles Matthews put his name in the draft last year. Zavier Simpson, their point guard, I love him. He’s got a 4 to 1 assist/turnover ratio so he never turns the ball over. (Jon) Teske’s gotten better in the post and their freshman brought a whole new element. Iggy’s (Ignas Brazdeikis) their leading scorer but he does a lot of things. He gets to the free throw line, a good rebounder and shoots from a high percentage from three so he brought a whole new element.”

The Key For Rutgers

“It’s a great opportunity for us, but we have to play elite. When you play elite teams, you have to play elite on both ends of the floor. This isn’t a game you can withstand six bad minutes. This is a 40-minute game. I told our guys that. If you’re going to play a team like this, you better play 40 great minutes.”

On The Importance Of Homecourt Advantage

“It’s going to be a great opportunity for us in front of a packed RAC. I love the RAC. I think it’s an awesome home court. We’re a young team, so our young guys need that extra juice that the RAC gives them. We need it to be loud and a real tough place to play. When the place is jumping, it’s a harder place to play. The RAC can give us that extra juice.”

Keys To Victory

Simply put, Rutgers needs its best performance of the season to win this game. They need to play a clean game in the halfcourt, have patience and work the ball around the perimeter to find gaps to drive or make entry passes to the low post. Michigan doesn’t make many mistakes fouling its opponents, so Rutgers needs to attack the rim and either finish or draw contact. I do think Rutgers needs to look for opportunities to run on the break, but it will be challenging as it needs to come more on defensive rebounds than on takeaways, as Michigan rarely turns it over.

Rutgers can’t afford a string of turnovers like they’ve experienced at times this season or they will pay dearly against Michigan. They shoot a lot of three-pointers and love to find open looks in transition, which can be real momentum killers. In the halfcourt, Rutgers needs to stay disciplined and make Michigan earn every basket. Defending the point guard Simpson will be a key, as he is very smart with the basketball and can find the open shooter off of penetration. Poole, Matthews and Brazdeikis are very good offensive players and they can’t be given too much space to operate.

They need to avoid foul trouble with their bigs, as Rutgers as actually has the size and depth in the frontcourt to hold their own against the Wolverines.

Rebounding has been a consistent area Rutgers has performed well in so far in conference play and Pikiell said on Monday’s call the staff emphasizes the importance of it often. The Scarlet Knights need an all hands on deck approach once again. Michigan is not a strong offensive rebounding team (242nd), but they are very good at preventing opponents on the offensive glass (22nd). Rutgers needs to grab as many boards off their own missed shots as possible to have a chance. Second chance points will be a crucial stat for them, as it’s unlikely Rutgers will shoot much better than 45%, something they haven’t don in Big Ten play yet. You never know, but Rutgers needs to fight for every basket regardless.

For this game to be close and to win, Rutgers needs to make it a dogfight. It’s how they’ve won the Big Ten games they have and tonight is no exception. However, unlike the last two home wins over Nebraska and Indiana, Rutgers cannot afford to fall behind by double digits in the first half, let alone at anytime in the game. They need to set the tone from the opening tip and use the crowd to their advantage. Michigan isn’t the type to get flustered, but the longer the grind and battle, the more confidence Rutgers will gain and the more pressure the Wolverines will feel.

Like I said, it will take Rutgers best to win, but it’s college basketball. Last week, they beat Indiana and the Big Ten landscape had the Hoosiers dead and buried. They then went on the road again and beat top ten Michigan State in a stunner. Anything can happen, but for Rutgers, they need contributions from everyone in this game and they need it for 40 minutes.

Appropriate Pearl Jam Music Selection

Last month I began a new feature incorporating an appropriate Pearl Jam song to the current state of the team in each game preview. The truth is, it’s going to be very hard to find one for every game the rest of this season and beyond, especially without repeating. Add in RUinChiTown’s comments that variety in music would be appreciated, I’ve decided to make it a broader category to use moving forward. (note: the formula music comment was way off, but I digress). I’ll still use Pearl Jam more often than other bands. The constant will always be a live version of whatever song I choose, which always adds something special. For tonight’s game, only one song stuck in my head, the Foo Fighters classic Hero. This song always gets me fired up and for Rutgers to win tonight, they need multiple guys playing the role of a hero.