Hofstra (0-0) at No. 24 Rutgers (2-0)
How To Watch, Listen, News & Notes
Where: The RAC in Piscataway, New Jersey
Tip-off: Sunday, November 29 at 4:00 p.m. ET.
TV: BTN - Chris Vosters & Ben Brust
Stream: Fox Sports App
KenPom Rankings: Rutgers 29th; Hofstra 154th
Efficiency Rankings: Rutgers - Offense 107.3 (50th) Defense 88.9 (14th); Hofstra - Offense 101.7 (134th) Defense 101.1 (198th)
KenPom Prediction: Rutgers 80 Hofstra 65. Rutgers is given a 92% chance to win.
Vegas Line: Rutgers -15
Series History: Rutgers is just 2-3 against Hofstra all-time in a series that started in 1959 and the two teams split four meetings in the 1990’s.
Hofstra finished the 2019-20 season with a 26-8 record, capturing both the regular season Colonial Athletic Association title and winning the postseason tournament to earn the program’s first postseason conference title since 2001. They were voted the preseason favorite for this season as well, despite losing the best two players from last season’s team in Desure Buie (18.2 points, 5.9 assists, 3.7 rebounds, 2.0 steals) and Eli Pemberton (17.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.3 steals).
They were scheduled to open its season on Wednesday, but Monmouth cancelled it due to someone within the program testing positive for COVID-19. Their first game of the 2020-2021 season is against Rutgers in this game on Sunday.
Top returning players include guard Jalen Ray (11.9 points, 2.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.2 steals), forward Isaac Kante (11.4 points, 7.7 rebounds), guard Tareq Coburn (10.6 points, 5.5 rebounds). All three players were named preseason All-CAA selections. Both Ray and Coburn are dangerous from three-point range, as they shot over 39% from behind the arc with each taking between 4 to 5 attempts per game las season.
Keys to Victory
Hofstra is likely to come out a little rusty and might be forcing the action some in their first game of the season. On the flip side, Rutgers is playing its third game in five days and needs to avoid a dogfight with tired legs. The Scarlet Knights started the game on Friday against FDU poorly and need to find a way to avoid that same fate on Sunday. Hofstra is a solid test and is certainly capable of beating Rutgers if they play below their potential. RU holds a 56-7 advantage through two games in fast break points and while the Pride will be harder to run against, they should still be effective on the break and look to run as much as possible. The real key is Rutgers playing with a high level of defensive intensity from the opening tip and establishing control early on. Don’t let Hofstra get comfortable and allow them to build confidence.
Stars need to keep shining
With Geo Baker out due to the ankle injury and Caleb McConnell redshirting to get healthy, Rutgers is reliant on its best players that remain even more so now. Ron Harper Jr. is in contention for Big Ten Player of the Week after two very strong performances to open the season. Jacob Young has been very good and has dished out 15 assists in two games. Montez Mathis has been a steady third wheel and looks improved. Rutgers can’t afford for multiple veteran players to have bad nights in the same game against a competent team like Hofstra. These three need to come ready to play and get good contributions from the supporting cast of Paul Mulcahy, Myles Johnson and Cliff Omoruyi. On offense, attacking the rim and not settling for jump shots is crucial on the last leg of a three game-five day stretch.
Defend the Arc
Upsets are fueled by three-pointers and Hofstra have two very good long distance shooters in Coburn and Ray, Expect Mathis and Young to be guarding them for most of the game. They’ll need to stay on them and avoid foul trouble. Look for Rutgers to pick them up in full court and this could be a big spot for Mawot Mag to come off the bench and make an impact on the defensive end in this game.
Rutgers committed 10 first half turnovers and it’s why the game against FDU was so close for stretches. Young was a main culprit but cleaned his act up as the game carried on. Giving up easy baskets on the break needs to be avoided. Pikiell has complained about Rutgers fouling too much on defense and that’s also an area they need to be better in on Sunday. Grabbing rebounds and limiting second chance scoring opportunities for Hofstra is also important.
Appropriate Music Selection
For the third game of the season I’m featuring Always Alright by the Alabama Shakes. I saw this band at Terminal 5 in NYC after their debut album and they were every bit as good as I expected. This song offers optimism and resolve during challenging times highlighted in the chorus of “We’re alright, we’re always alright.” Rutgers has already dealt with a lot mentally in this young season. Losing Geo Baker to an ankle injury and having an opponent they just played shutdown due to a positive COVID-19 result, in addition to dealing with all the changes in place due to the global pandemic, is a lot. However, the players have good chemistry and are mentally tough. This song I think captures their mindset in regard to the mission they are on this season.