FDU (0-1) at No. 24 Rutgers (1-0)
How To Watch, Listen, News & Notes
Where: The RAC in Piscataway, New Jersey
Tip-off: Friday, November 25 at 7:00 p.m. ET.
TV: BTN - Lisa Byington and Ben Brust
Stream: Fox Sports App
KenPom Rankings: Rutgers 27th; FDU 254th
Efficiency Rankings: Rutgers - Offense 106.4 (49th) Defense 87.9 (12th); FDU - Offense 98.6 (173rd) Defense 106.3 (324th)
KenPom Prediction: Rutgers 83 FDU 62. Rutgers is given a 97% chance to win.
Vegas Line: Rutgers -22
Series History: Rutgers leads the all-time series 14-2, including a 90-55 victory in the last meeting in 2018.
FDU Scouting Report
Head coach Greg Herenda enters his 8th season with a squad that was picked to win the Northeast Conference in preseason polls. However, they lost two impact guards in star Xzavier Malone-Key (12.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists) and guard Devon Dunn (7.6 points, 41.8% 3-point shooting), both of whom announced on Wednesday that they were opting out of this season due to COVID-19.
FDU ended up losing its season opener hours later to Quinnipiac 84-66. They led most of the first half but surrendered a 9-0 run right before the break and never recovered. They were led by sophomore guard Brandon Rush’s career high 21 points and senior forward Elyjah Williams, who tied his career high with 19 points. All five starters played 30 or more minutes and as a team shot just 40% from the floor in the loss.
This game is the first of two as part of the New Jersey Hoop Group Classic, the Scarlet Knights’ MTE for this season. Rutgers will also host Hofstra on Sunday to conclude this event. Both games are being broadcast nationwide on the Big Ten Network.
What To Watch For/Keys To Victory
Control the Paint
We would all like to see Rutgers break out from three-point range, but they showed maturity as a team in the opener by not forcing things after a cold start. They were virtually unstoppable in the paint and need to continue to attack the rim in this game. It will create some open looks which they should absolutely take, but they are far superior to FDU inside and there won’t be any answers for Cliff Omoruyi and Myles Johnson. Controlling the glass and preventing second chance scoring opportunities will force FDU to have to shoot at an extremely high clip to keep up.
Rutgers had moments on the defensive end against Sacred Heart that were reminiscent of last season, but overall they were too inconsistent in the opener. With FDU without their two best guards after they opted out of the season, this is a game where Jacob Young and Montez Mathis need to shut things down along the perimeter. Their on the ball defense is superb at times and FDU is turnover prone. In addition, expect Ron Harper Jr. to draw Elyjah Williams and if he can slow him down. FDU will struggle to top 60 points.
While nothing has been announced, it doesn’t seem likely that Geo Baker will play suffering what Steve Pikiell called a “bad ankle sprain” in the season opener. Paul Mulcahy was in total command of the Rutgers offense on Wednesday and that will be needed in this game as well. Jacob Young only scored 5 points in the opener, but he did a great job as a ball distributor. The two guards combined for 15 assists and committed only 3 turnovers. Rutgers is at its best when they have good ball movement and share the basketball, something that Mulcahy and Young need to make happen tonight.
Bounce back games
Freshmen Mawot Mag and Oskar Palmquist were both quiet in their debuts and struggled to get involved on the offensive end. Both will be needed this season at the back of what is likely to eventually be an 8-9 man rotation. Getting them going tonight would certainly help their confidence and make Rutgers even harder to compete against.
Survive and advance
It’s only the second game of the season and it is against an inferior team, but staying sharp and taking care of business is a must. This team is too experienced to allow themselves to get into a dogfight with a low major and need to make sure that doesn’t happen. There is less than a 48 hour turnaround time from this game to Sunday’s matchup against Hofstra. With the first game rust behind them, Rutgers needs to impose their will and hopefully have a comfortable enough of a lead to be able to have their key players resting on the bench near the midway point of the second half.
Appropriate Music Selection
For the second game of the season, I’m featuring John Lennon’s Nobody Told Me. Let me start by saying I’m not a big Beatles fan or of John Lennon. I like them fine and respect them, but I’m not a super fan. I also prefer to use videos of live performances, which this is not. However, I just think this song is perfect for the current situation highlighted by these two lyrics, which are sung repeatedly through the song:
“Nobody told me there would be days like this. Strange Days indeed.”
We knew this season would be like no other, but it was another thing watching the season opener at the RAC and seeing such a different environment. No fans and piped in noise stood out, but even seeing the players sitting on bleachers behind the actual bench, plexiglass along the scorers table and elsewhere around the RAC was so weird. Throw in the injury to Geo Baker right out of the gate and the 2020-2021 season is certainly not dull. However, Rutgers has a chance to have a special season amidst it all and its time to embrace the strange days ahead.