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Rutgers men’s basketball game preview at Wisconsin

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Can the Scarlet Knights breakthrough on the road? Find out how to watch, stats and keys to victory.

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

Rutgers (18-9; 9-7) at Wisconsin (16-10; 9-6)

How To Watch, Listen, News & Notes

Where: Kohl Center (17,527) in Madison, Wisconsin

Tip-off: Sunday, February 23 at 1:00 p.m. ET.

TV: BTN - Chris Vosters & Shon Morris

Stream: Fox Sports App

Radio: Live Listen - Rutgers Sports Properties Radio Network (WCTC 1450 AM/WOR 710 AM/XM 394; Jerry Recco & Joe Boylan; WRSU 88.7 FM - Justin Sontupe and Jake Ostrove

KenPom Rankings: Rutgers 31st: Wisconsin 30th; Rutgers moved back 2 spots since Wednesday’s loss to Michigan. Wisconsin moved back 2 spots after Tuesday’s win over Purdue.

Efficiency Rankings: Rutgers - Offense 106.6 (78th) Defense 89.6 (9th); Wisconsin - Offense 109.0 (52nd) Defense 91.4 (21st)

KenPom Prediction: Wisconsin 63 Rutgers 59. Rutgers is given a 36% chance to win.

OTB Guide to KenPom

Vegas Line: Wisconsin -4.5

Series History: Wisconsin leads the all-time series 7-3, but Rutgers won at the RAC in the last meeting back in December 72-65.

SB Nation’s Wisconsin Site: Bucky’s 5th Quarter

Key Contributors

Wisconsin - 6’11” junior Nate Reuvers (13.5 points, 4.8 points, 2.1 blocks); 6’0” junior D’Mitrik Trice (9.7 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 36.4% 3-pt FG); 6’4” junior Brad Davison (9.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 34.9% 3-pt FG); 6’10” Micah Potter (8.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 51.0% FG, 40.0% 3-pt FG); 6’8” junior Aleem Ford (8.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 35.4% 3-pt FG); 6’3” senior Brevin Pritzl (7.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 36.8% 3-pt FG); 6’7 freshman Tyler Wahl (2.7 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.2 assists); 6’2” junior Trevor Anderson (1.8 points, 1.4 assists, 1.3 rebounds)

Rutgers - 6’6” sophomore Ron Harper Jr. (11.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.1 assist); 6’4” junior Geo Baker (10.5 points, 3.5 assists, 2.8 rebounds, 1.2 steals); 6’6” senior Akwasi Yeboah (10.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 37.2% 3-pt FG); 6’2” junior Jacob Young (8.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists); 6’10” sophomore Myles Johnson (8.0 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, 60.9% FG); 6’7” sophomore Caleb McConnell (7.3 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.7 assists); 6’4” sophomore Montez Mathis (7.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.3 steals); 6’6” freshman Paul Mulcahy (4.0 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 57.0% FG); 6’9” senior Shaq Carter (3.5 points, 2.4 rebounds, 57,6% FG)

Wisconsin Scouting Report

Head coach Greg Gard is in his fifth season in charge and the Badgers have won three games in a row entering Sunday’s contest. They have encountered adversity this season, as second leading scorer Kobe King left the program in late January. In addition, the team’s strength coach resigned soon after for using a racial slur. Despite the two issues, the Badgers have stabilized and have a chance to finish in the top four of the Big Ten for the 18th time in 19 seasons.

Wisconsin averages 66.5 points per game and is shooting 42.2% from the floor, 34.3% from three-point range and 76.8% from the free throw line. They are sixth in Big Ten play in offensive efficiency and fifth in defensive efficiency.

The Badgers are a very good shooting team from three-point range and the foul line. They are 11-0 this season when making 35% or better from behind the arc, including 5-0 in Big Ten play. The past three games, Wisconsin has made 39 of 94 attempts from deep for a red hot 41.4%. Five different players are shooting 35% or better from three this season.

They aren’t particularly strong on the glass and they don’t force a lot of turnovers. However, they do take care of the basketball and grind the game to a halt, as they are just 13th in tempo in conference play and just 344th overall this season. The Badgers are a physical team with a lot of size and experience.

Wisconsin is 12-1 at home this season including wins over Maryland, Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue, and Penn State.

Notes

As a team, Rutgers averages 69.8 points per game and is shooting 44.4% from the floor, 30.1% from three-point range, and 65.1% from the free throw line......The Scarlet Knights have the following national ranks: 12th in field goal percentage defense (38.1%); 12th in rebounding (40.37); 15th in scoring defense (61.6); 22nd in rebounding margin (+6.4), 30th in blocks (4.7) and 47th in scoring margin (8.2).......Rutgers is undefeated this season when they score 15 or more fast break points (9-0).......RU has an RPI ranking of 50 and a NET ranking of 35, which is used by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee to help determine the field of 68 at the end of the season....Rutgers is currently 9th in Big Ten play in offensive efficiency and 3rd in defensive efficiency.........The Scarlet Knights’ remaining schedule ranks 1st nationally in difficulty per ESPN’s BPI.

Keys To Victory

Shoot the glass

Rutgers held a +14 rebounding margin in the first meeting as well as 14-3 in the offensive glass. RU needs to continue to pound the boards in this game. They need to avoid the Badgers having chances to kick it out to the perimeter for three-point shots off of offensive rebounds. Wisconsin also can’t limit Rutgers to one shot possessions if they can grab offensive rebounds and take advantage of second chance scoring opportunities. If the Scarlet Knights can play with an urgency that translates to grabbing rebounds and coming up with most loose balls, it will give them a chance to win. An all hands on deck approach to the glass is needed.

Free Throw Rate & Makes

Wisconsin is deadly from line but in the first meeting, only took 16 shots from the charity stripe, making 11 for 68%. Rutgers was able to hold serve, making 9 of 13 attempts. The free throw make margin needs to be close in the game or it could really jeopardize RU’s ability to stay close on the road. We know they aren’t going to get the benefit of the doubt on the road with officials, as they haven’t even gotten much at home. However, they need to toe the line between being aggressive on the defensive end and being overzealous by reaching and drawing unnecessary fouls. On the flip side, they have to take advantage of any free throw attempts they earn. Limiting Wisconsin runs by keeping them off the line, while also making free throws to limit long scoring droughts is very important.

Transition Game

Wisconsin wants a game in the 50’s that limits possessions and physically wears down its oppponents. Rutgers is a more difficult team to defend when they have open space to operate in transition. They are athletic and can get up the floor in a hurry. However, too many times of late they have let the opponent dictate the action and had to play to that style, which has made it challenging, especially on the road. The more Rutgers can be opportunistic in looking to run off of turnovers and rebounds, the more challenging they will make it for Wisconsin. If they can speed up the game and get the Badgers on their heels for periods, it will give them a chance to win the game in the end. They forced Wisconsin into 14 turnovers in the first meeting and need to do something similar to create fast break chances again on Sunday.

Contributions from everyone

A major key to this season is that Rutgers has routinely gotten contributions on the court from almost every player who got significant minutes in the game. Although the poor shooting in the second half was the obvious reason they lost to Michigan on Wednesday, the fact that Montez Mathis, Caleb McConnell and Myles Johnson were all held scoreless was a major reason for the defeat. All three have struggled of late and need to get back on track. Rutgers is successful because of the depth and versatility of the rotation. However, if production is limited to just a few players, they will struggle to win against the toughest schedule of any team remaining in college basketball this season.

Late Game Execution

Rutgers has been tied or within one possession in five consecutive road games and have lost them all. If they are going to end that streak on Sunday, late game execution is the key. Wisconsin is very accustomed to playing close games with its slow tempo and they try to get to the foul line, where they shoot so well. Rutgers needs to defend without fouling, but particularly down the stretch when the Badgers can bleed opponents to a slow death by making shot after shot from the charity stripe. Offensively, RU needs to maximize every late game possession and look to get quality shots. I expect multiple ball handlers to be in the game down the stretch, as Pikiell has leaned that way more so of late. Depending on how Paul Mulcahy and Jacob Young are playing, it wouldn’t be surprising to have them both on the floor late with Geo Baker to have multiple guards who can create scoring chances. If McConnell is playing with confidence, he has the potential to be a x-factor in this game and down the stretch as well.

Appropriate Music Selection

For the twenty-eighth game of the season, I’m featuring No Time To Die by Billie Eilish. A request from Dave White comes at an appropriate time. Rutgers needs a road win and Sunday presents a great chance to do just that. They are playing a team that I think they match up well against and have already beaten this season. While the Badgers are dangerous from behind the arc, they aren’t a more athletic team or better than RU defensively. Even Badger fans have said the home crowd hasn’t been close to a raucous environment this season.

After no longer having the safety net of a perfect record at the RAC, this is a great opportunity for them to seize the moment and come through on the road. A win would be huge for seeding purposes in the Big Ten Tournament, as they would earn a sweep over Wisconsin and own the tiebreak against them. This game is certainly a gut check moment in this season and it’s no time for this team to die. A win would solidify their spot in the top half of the Big Ten and get them even close to the first NCAA tournament bid in 29 years. Their toughness and togetherness have been assets all season and need to shine brightly in this game.