Minnesota (10-7; 4-3) at Rutgers (13-4; 4-2)
How To Watch, Listen, News & Notes
Where: The RAC (8,000) in Piscataway, New Jersey (Alternate Traffic Plan)
Tip-off: Sunday, January 19th at 1:00 p.m. ET.
TV: BTN - Cory Provus & Shon Morris
Stream: Fox Sports App
KenPom Rankings: Rutgers 27th; Minnesota 32nd; Rutgers has moved up 6 spots since the win over Indiana. Minnesota moved up 2 spots after the win over Penn State.
Efficiency Rankings: Rutgers - Offense 104.0 (117th) Defense 86.6 (8th); Minnesota - Offense 111.8 (20th) Defense 95.0 (71st)
KenPom Prediction: Rutgers 67 Minnesota 63. Rutgers is given a 64% chance to win.
Vegas Line: Rutgers -5
Series History: Minnesota leads the all-time series 8-3, but Rutgers won the last meeting 68-64 on February 24, 2019 at the RAC.
SB Nation’s Minnesota Site: The Daily Gopher
Minnesota - 6’10” sophomore Daniel Oturu (20.3 points, 12.1 rebounds, 2.8 blocks, 62.3 FG%); 6’2” sophomore Marcus Carr (16.5 points, 7.3 assists, 5.3 rebounds); 6’4” sophomore Gabe Kalscheur (11.9 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.4 steals); 6’4” junior Payton Willis (9.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists); 6’9” senior Alihan Demir (8.2 points, 4.9 rebounds); 6’5” freshman Tre’ Williams (3.5 points, 2.5 rebounds); 6’6” sophomore Jarvis Omersa (2.5 points, 3.2 rebounds)
Rutgers - 6’6” sophomore Ron Harper Jr. (11.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.0 steal); 6’4” junior Geo Baker (11.1 points, 4.0 assists, 2.6 rebounds, 1.8 steals); 6’6” senior Akwasi Yeboah (9.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 38.5 3-pt FG%); 6’10” sophomore Myles Johnson (9.3 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, 69.9% FG); 6’2” junior Jacob Young (8.8 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists); 6’7” sophomore Caleb McConnell (7.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 35.5% 3-pt FG); 6’4” sophomore Montez Mathis (6.7 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.0 steals); 6’6” freshman Paul Mulcahy (3.8 points, 2.5 assists, 2.5 rebounds, 57.8% FG); 6’9” senior Shaq Carter (3.8 points, 2.6 rebounds, 56.3% FG)
Minnesota Scouting Report
Head coach Richard Pitino is his seventh season at Minnesota and the Gophers have been inconsistent so far. They own three impressive conference wins against Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State, but are 0-5 in true road games. They are 3-4 against KenPom top 50 teams and 5-6 against KenPom Top 100 teams. They’ve lost to one team outside of the top 100 in Utah (116th), which was on the road. In the past 8 games, they’ve won 6 including having won its last two contests with victories over Wolverines and Nittany Lions, both at home.
They are led by a trio of sophomores beginning with center Daniel Oturu, who is one of the best frontcourt players in the country. Marcus Carr is a versatile point guard and Gabe Kalscheur is a dangerous three-point shooter. Those three players have combined to take 62% of Minnesota’s shots this season and account for 66% of the team’s scoring.
Offensively they play at a slow, grind it out pace but are highly efficient. They average 73.7 points per game and are shooting 43.7% from the field, 33.2% from three-point range and 73.1% from the foul line. They also have the 41st best offensive rebounding rate in the country at 33.5%. The Gophers are a battle tested team, having played the 5th hardest schedule per KenPom so far this season and are physical on both ends of the floor. Defensively, Oturu makes it difficult to score near the rim, but they don’t force opponents into many mistakes or turnovers. In Big Ten play this season, Minnesota has the third best offensive efficiency rating and eleventh defensive efficiency rating.
Neither roster has any health issues at the moment.
As a team, Rutgers averages 71.4 points per game and is shooting 46.4% from the floor, 29.6% from three-point range, and 63.8% from the free throw line......The Scarlet Knights are 6th nationally in field goal percentage defense (36.7%), 8th in scoring defense (58.8), 13th in rebound margin (+8.5), 16th in total rebounding (41.29), 26th in blocks (5.1) and 29th in scoring margin (+12.6).....Rutgers is undefeated this season at the RAC (12-0), as well as when scoring 37 or more points in the paint (9-0) and when scoring 15 or more fast break points (8-0)......The Scarlet Knights have outrebounded its opponents in 14 of 17 games this season......RU has an RPI ranking of 17th and a NET ranking of 18th which is used by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee to determine the field of 68 at the end of the season....Rutgers is currently 11th in Big Ten play in offensive efficiency and 1st in defensive efficiency.......At 13-4 overall, Rutgers is off to the program’s best start since the 1982-1983 team began 20-4.
Rutgers just announced the Minnesota game on Sunday afternoon as sold out, the first time they’ve had three consecutive sell-outs since 2005. Fourth of this season. RU looking to stay perfect at the RAC after starting 12-0 there for the first time ever. #RHoops— Aaron Breitman (@aaron_breitman) January 17, 2020
Keys To Victory
Defend the Three
Minnesota has performed about average in regard to three-point shooting overall (33.1%), but are just 11th in Big Ten play (28.3%). However, they are 6-1 in games that they shoot 36% or better from behind the arc this season. The three most prominent shooters are Gabe Kalscheur, Marcus Carr, and Payton Willis, who all average at least 5 attempts per game. The trio are all shooting between 32-33%, but have the potential to catch fire on any night. Rutgers has done an excellent job defending the three in conference play, holding Big Ten opponents to a league low 24.6%. That must continue in this game, as Rutgers needs to seal off the shooters and not allow for any open looks off of Minnesota’s ball movement in the halfcourt.
Battle of Interior
Daniel Oturu is one of the best big men in the country and rarely gets in foul trouble, committing four just four times and has yet to foul out this season. He is skilled and not just a straight up post player who can hit the mid-range jumper, as well as three-pointers (10-28 for 35.7%). He will be a major challenge for Myles Johnson, who has quickly discovered that the Big Ten has some of the best big men in the country. Shaq Carter will also be important on both ends of the floor and has been a quiet but steady contributor off the bench of late. The more they can keep him off the block the better.
As a team, Rutgers needs to rebound well after having negative rebounding margins the past two games. Minnesota has the best offensive rebounding rate in Big Ten play and grabbed 18 offensive rebounds in the win over Penn State, while Rutgers is just 9th in conference action. It’s a big reason Minnesota are second in two-point field goal percentage in league play as well. Defensively, the Scarlet Knights have held opponents to the third lowest offensive rebounding rate in conference play, but also need create second chance scoring opportunities off the offensive glass on the other end. Minnesota is the better shooting team from deep, so Rutgers needs to win the battle with points in the paint.
Slow Down Carr
Marcus Carr is a dynamic player who will be a challenge for Rutgers to slow down. He is athletic and is the driver of the Minnesota offense. He had 27 points, 9 assists, and 6 rebounds in the win over Penn State. The good news is Rutgers has plenty of options to throw at him defensively and expect a steady mix of Montez Mathis, Geo Baker, and Jacob Young. As important as Oturu is to the Gophers, I think the real key is limiting Carr as much as possible. If they can contain Carr and make him uncomfortable, it will prevent Minnesota from doing what they want offensively.
Minnesota plays at a relatively slow pace in Big Ten play, ranking 11th at 65.8 and 270th overall this season (66.8). While Rutgers isn’t a fast break first type team, they are much better this season in taking advantage of transition opportunities. The more they can run off of defensive stops and turnovers, the more it will take Minnesota out of their rhythm. Making Oturu run the floor as much as possible could lead to tired legs down the stretch. A true slow down game will favor the Gophers, so I expect Rutgers to show full court pressure at times as well in order to speed up the game.
Steve Pikiell said after the win over Indiana that he was happy with how his team was so connected on the defensive end. In a season in which offensive numbers are down across the game, the Rutgers defense has become elite. They will be tested in a big way against Minnesota, who are one of the best offensive teams in the conference. What Rutgers does so well is take away an opponent’s strength so not allowing for good look’s from three, eliminating creases for Carr to drive through and limiting them to as many one shot possessions as possible are critical to winning this game. They also need to continue to give great on the ball pressure without fouling, as Minnesota has the 5th best foul rate and third best free throw shooting percentage in Big Ten play.
Offensively, Rutgers is only averaging 54 points in the past two games and went 1-1 in the process. I’d be very surprised if they could beat Minnesota scoring in the 50’s, so they’ll need several players either in or near double digits points wise. I think this is the type of game Ron Harper Jr. can shine in and Akwasi Yeboah as well. Minnesota’s weakness is with its wing players. Good ball movement is the key, as Rutgers needs to make Minnesota work defensively on every possession, not something they are strong in doing. The ability of Jacob Young and Paul Mulcahy to penetrate will be key as well, but they’ll need to find teammates open with Oturu guarding the rim. Rutgers must knock down open shots in the half court and finish as much as possible near the rim, as they were just 10 of 20 in layups/within a few feet of the basket against Indiana. That won’t get it done in this game.
Appropriate Music Selection
For the eighteenth game of the season, I’m featuring Jessarae from the Big Ten basketball promo commercial. I’m not going to lie, every time BTN shows this in the second half of games it gets me fired up. The reason I’m including it is this game isn’t just an important one for Rutgers but is so for the entire landscape of the conference. The winner of this game will have 5 league wins and be solidified as a top half team in the conference so far. It still feels surreal that Rutgers is in the position they are currently in with the opportunity to do even better. Let’s keep enjoying the ride and even though this will be a difficult game, the RAC is sold out once again and Rutgers has been a different team at home. Time to keep it going.