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No. 24/25 Rutgers men’s basketball game preview at No. 19 Iowa

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Get ready for a battle of ranked Big Ten foes with how to watch, stats, pregame thoughts from both coaches & keys to victory.

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

No. 24/25 Rutgers (14-4; 5-2) at No. 19 Iowa (13-5; 4-3)

How To Watch, Listen, News & Notes

Where: Carver-Hawkeye Arena (15,000) in Iowa City, Iowa

Tip-off: Wednesday, January 22nd at 9:00 p.m. ET.

TV: BTN - Jeff Levering and Stephen Bardo

Stream: Fox Sports App

Radio: Live Listen - WCTC 1450 AM/WOR 710 AM/XM 384; Jerry Recco & Joe Boylan; WRSU 88.7 FM - Raj Shah and Justin Sontupe

KenPom Rankings: Rutgers 25th; Iowa 14th; Rutgers has moved up 2 spots since Sunday’s win over Minnesota. Iowa has moved up one spot after last Friday’s win over Michigan.

Efficiency Rankings: Rutgers - Offense 105.2 (92nd) Defense 87.2 (7th); Iowa - Offense 116.6 (3rd) Defense 95.5 (78th)

KenPom Prediction: Iowa 72 Rutgers 67. Rutgers is given a 31% chance to win.

OTB Guide to KenPom

Rutgers ranked for first time in 41 years

Steve Pikiell interview on Jim Rome Show

Aaron interview with Iowa Radio KMA

Q&A with Black Heart Gold Pants

Vegas Line: Iowa -5.5

Series History: Iowa leads the all-time series 6-2, but Rutgers won the last meeting on March 2, 2019 in Iowa City, knocking off a ranked Hawkeyes squad on senior day 86-72.

SB Nation’s Iowa Site: Black Heart Gold Pants

Key Contributors

Iowa - 6’11 junior Luka Garza (22.9 points, 10.2 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, 55.6 FG%, 37.5 3-pt FG%); 6’6” sophomore Joe Wieskamp (14.8 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.1 steals, 39.4 3-pt FG%); 6’3” freshman CJ Fredrick (11.1 points, 3.1 assists, 1.9 rebounds, 53.8 FG%, 50.9 3-pt FG%); 6’10” senior Ryan Kriener (7.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 63.2 FG%); 6’5” sophomore Connor McCaffrey (6.7 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.7 assists); 6’0” freshman Joe Toussaint (6.6 points, 2.6 assists, 1.3 steals); 6’2” senior Bakari Evelyn (2.5 points, 1.8 assists, 1.6 rebounds); 6’9” junior Cordell Pemsl (2.4 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.4 assists)

Rutgers - 6’6” sophomore Ron Harper Jr. (11.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.0 steal); 6’4” junior Geo Baker (10.7 points, 3.9 assists, 2.5 rebounds, 1.7 steals); 6’10” sophomore Myles Johnson (9.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, 67.9% FG); 6’6” senior Akwasi Yeboah (9.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 36.4 3-pt FG%); 6’2” junior Jacob Young (8.9 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists); 6’7” sophomore Caleb McConnell (7.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 38.2 3-pt FG%); 6’4” sophomore Montez Mathis (6.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.1 steals); 6’6” freshman Paul Mulcahy (3.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 58,3 FG%); 6’9” senior Shaq Carter (3.7 points, 2.4 rebounds, 57.1 FG%)

Iowa Scouting Report

Head coach Fran McCaffrey is in his tenth season in charge of the Hawkeyes and it’s business as usual for the program, as they are an elite offensive team and ranked once again. They own plenty of quality wins including Syracuse, Iowa State, Cincinnati, Minnesota as well as three top 20 KenPom teams in Texas Tech, Maryland and Michigan. Their lone bad loss was at Nebraska by six points.

In regard to offensive efficiency, they have the third highest in the country and are in the top 60 for effective field goal percentage, offensive rebounding rate and turnover rate. They have the most efficient offense in Big Ten play as well and are ranked in the top three in multiple categories (effective FG%, offensive rebounding, two-point shooting, three-point shooting, Free throw shooting, and tempo). Overall, Iowa is scoring 79.9 points per game and is shooting 45.6% from the floor, 36.1% from three-point range, and 73.7% from the free throw line.

Defensively, Iowa is much improved and have a defensive efficiency ranked 8th in Big Ten play, which is a noticeable step forward after having one of the worst defenses in the conference the previous two seasons.

This a relatively young group, but they are battle tested and led by big man Luka Garza. The center is much improved and possibly the best frontcourt player in the Big Ten, which has a lot of good one’s. Joe Wieskamp has continued to improve as a sophomore and is a prolific three-point shooter (39 of 99 for 39.4%). Freshman CJ Fredrick has made up for the production lost with Bohannon out for the season and the coach’s son, Connor McCaffrey, showed major stones in the last game by not scoring (0-2 FG) but grabbing a game high 13 rebounds and tied for the team high with 5 assists. They play a shorter rotation than Rutgers, but will enter Wednesday’s game on two extra day’s rest since their last game.

Fran McCaffrey said this before the matchup with Rutgers:

“Steve Pikiell is a really good coach. He’s been doing this for a long time and knows what he’s doing. I think he came in with a plan and wanted to build it the right way. Wasn’t trying to do it very quickly. He got the guys he wanted to play the way he wants to play, and he’s got a group that’s buying into what he’s teaching. I think they found a home now in terms of being able to recruit to a Big Ten program. A little bit unique being back east for that, but they’ve got a great home court advantage. Nice facility. They upgraded. Their athletic director has done a great job raising money and getting some facility upgrades for them, so it’s all happening together.”

More from McCaffrey on tonight’s game here.

Injury Report

Neither roster has any health issues at the moment, other than Iowa’s Jordan Bohannon out for the season after undergoing surgery on his left hip.

Notes

As a team, Rutgers averages 71.0 points per game and is shooting 46.0% from the floor, 30.3% from three-point range, and 63.6% from the free throw line......The Scarlet Knights are 5th nationally in field goal percentage defense (36.4%), 7th in scoring defense (58.7), 9th in total rebounding (41.50), 13th in rebound margin (+8.6), 25th in scoring margin (+12.3) and 30th in blocks (4.9)......Rutgers is undefeated this season at the RAC (13-0), as well as when scoring 37 or more points in the paint (10-0) and when scoring 15 or more fast break points (8-0)......The Scarlet Knights have outrebounded its opponents in 15 of 18 games this season......RU has an RPI ranking of 15th 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 10th in Big Ten play in offensive efficiency and 1st in defensive efficiency.......Rutgers is three games above .500 in conference play since the 1998-1999 season......Wednesday’s contest is the first time Rutgers has played in a game with two ranked teams since they were ranked 18th in 1979 and lost to No. 17 St. John’s in the 1979 NCAA Sweet 16 by the score of 67-65.

Steve Pikiell Pregame Thoughts

On the problems that Iowa poses

“It’s a hard task. This is a team that scores. They put up numbers. They average 80 points a game and there’s not much of a difference whether they win or lose. They score points against everybody. That’ll be a challenge. We take pride in our defense. We have to be locked in. Our team defense has been really good. We have some good individual defenders. They have a lot of weapons.”

On going back to Iowa after winning there last season

“Any time you win on the road, I think those are big moments. That was Iowa’s senior night, we played really well, we made a lot of shots. But no more important than any other game that we were able to win last year against really good teams. I think it gives you a little confidence, but the way road teams have been playing in the league this year, it’s much more difficult. Hopefully that experience will help, but it’ll be a whole nother level of a game with two ranked teams. One that is really unbelievable offensively and we’ve been really good defensively. It’s a huge battle going there.”

On Rutgers being ranked for the first time in 41 years

“I told the guys the good news is you’re ranked 24th for the first time (in a long time) and I’m happy for the sacrifices you’ve made to put yourselves in that position, but the bad news is Iowa is ranked higher at 19 and they got the Player of the Week and Freshman of the Week in the league. That’s the way it is in this league. All games are pretty much against ranked teams or receiving votes. Hopefully the guys will handle it. Iowa’s been ranked for a while and in the past. We have to play good basketball. Being on the road is enough of a journey. Playing against a ranked team makes it that much harder.”

On Iowa being improved this season defensively

“They mix up their defenses, they always have. You have to be prepared for fullcourt looks and the halfcourt stuff. They do a really good job of mixing it up and if they like something that day, that’s what they stay with. You have to be prepared for everything with a team like that. I think they have more veterans now. They are rebounding the ball at a high level. Especially in the last few games, Wieskamp has really chipped in averaging 7 or 8 rebounds a game, which really helps them out when your wing players are rebounding like that.

On how Pikiell has recruited under the radar guys to Rutgers

“Until you get a guy and you are playing at this level, you are in the middle of those tough games, you don’t really know. But you just try to do a good job of evaluating great people and families and their abilities to get better. And we’ve been able to do that, but you also have to factor in the kid’s ability to sacrifice. It is such a team sport and everyone has to sacrifice. That’s how you win. You get a lot of that from their character and the families they are from. The ability to sacrifice, and toughness, you look at their families. You try to do a good job evaluating people and their families, their ability to get better, and we’ve been able to do that. You always have to factor in a kid’s ability to sacrifice. It’s a team sport. Everyone has to sacrifice to win at this level. Maybe you’re giving up some of your offense for defense. Maybe it’s giving up shot attempts because you need to be a rebounder that night. These kids have learned how to overachieve and I think they probably did that too in high school. I try to recruit guys who want to be here, who want to be at Rutgers. It is a great institution, a top 20 public school.”

The biggest reason for Jacob Young’s progress

“He’s become a really good practice player. I think he’s improved so much in that area and you can see the results on the court.”

On keeping Rutgers focused after being nationally ranked

“We were picked 12th in the league. That’s what they thought of all of us. We have a lot to prove. We have the sixth-toughest schedule in the country remaining. We have a huge test coming up at Iowa and that continues the rest of the season. Hopefully our guys stay hungry and humble.”

Keys To Victory

Don’t flinch first

Wednesday’s game features the Big Ten’s top scoring offense in Iowa at 79.9 points per game against Rutgers’ top scoring defense at 58.7 points per contest. Iowa is a high flying, three-point shooting offense that likes to run, while Rutgers is a physical, deep team that is fully committed to and relentless on the defensive end. Which strength will win out remains to be seen, but expect both sides to throw proverbial punches with what they do best. The more Rutgers is able to limit Iowa in transition and from behind the arc, the more the Hawkeyes frustration will grow. If the Scarlet Knights give up 40 points at the half or a flurry of three’s during short span of time, their confidence could waver. It could come down to a battle of wills, as I wouldn’t be surprised if the mental aspect of this matchup has a huge impact on the game.

Prevent big runs from Iowa

Rutgers isn’t built to come from behind by a significant margin due to poor three-point shooting and they especially can’t afford to do so on the road. They came out firing on all cylinders last season at Iowa, completely setting the tone for the game. While a performance like that one can’t be expected to be replicated, Rutgers needs to limit the big play ability of Iowa and not let them run off 10-2 spurts in this game. Against Iowa, all it takes is one bad four to five minute stretch of losing focus and the game can be over. This team needs to not turn it over so they get as many possessions on offense as possible, while also preventing easy baskets in transition for the Hawkeyes.

Slow Down Wieskamp & Fredrick

My theory is Luka Garza is going to get his points no matter what, he is that good. Sure, you can focus your efforts on stopping him, but Iowa is too deep to fall apart if Garza isn’t at his best. The Hawkeyes didn’t beat Michigan last Friday because Garza scored 33 points, they lost because the perimeter players Joe Wieskamp and CJ Fredrick combined for 41 points on 6 of 9 shooting from three-point range. Myles Johnson has turned into a good big man for Rutgers and Shaq Carter has provided solid minutes off the bench. However, depth is limited in the front court. Johnson needs to stay on the court Wednesday night and avoid foul trouble against Garza. Rutgers is better equipped to match up against Wieskamp and Fredrick in regard to sending multiple defenders and looks at them throughout the game. Iowa has been an offensive machine, but Rutgers is tied with Michigan State in limiting opponents to a league worst 25.9% from behind the arc. If the Scarlet Knights can continue to contest shots along the perimeter and close out on three-pointers while making Iowa work hard in their halfcourt sets, they’ll have a chance to win the game.

Win the hustle points

Rutgers can’t compete offensively with Iowa from a shooting perspective, but they can beat them on the boards, on second chance points, on points off of turnovers and in transition. The Scarlet Knights aren’t becoming a better basketball team because they are much improved from three-point range and the free throw line. They are better because they are doing a much better job of scoring in the paint and from two-point range due to the fact they are out working opponents on hustle stats. Rutgers needs to be gritty and aggressive as much as they’ve been all season to beat a ranked Iowa team on the road for a second straight season.

Someone needs a big scoring night

I said the same thing last year before heading to Iowa and Ron Harper Jr. provided a big spark on offense. He is probably the guy who needs to step up most from a scoring perspective in this game again. When he is feeling it, Harper Jr. can score with the best of them. In addition, I think Jacob Young could be a major problem for the Hawkeyes due to his first step and ability to penetrate off the dribble. Rutgers isn’t going to beat Iowa with four players scoring 10-12 points, which usually does work fine for them. Not against this three-point shooting juggernaut with the arguably the best big man in the league. It would also be a nice night to see Geo Baker find his shooting touch in the third game back from missing time due to his broken left thumb.

Appropriate Music Selection

For the nineteenth game of the season, I’m featuring “Going The Distance” by Cake. This song always gets me fired up and in a way personifies the attitude Pikiell wants this team to have as success is starting to come. Nothing they’ve done so far amounts to crossing any finish line on top. They need to keep their heads down and keep working hard to prove all the doubters wrong and most importantly, win enough basketball games to go dancing in March. They need to go the distance in Iowa City on Wednesday night.