Lehigh (0-0) At Rutgers (0-0)
How To Watch, Listen, News & Notes
Where: Jersey Mike’s Arena in Piscataway, New Jersey (8,000)
Tip-off: Wednesday, November 10 at 7:00 p.m. ET
TV: BTN+ (Subscription only) - Dom Savino and Tim Catalfamo
Radio: Live Listen - Rutgers Sports Properties Radio Network - WCTC 1450 AM/WOR 710 AM, Jerry Recco & Austin Johnson; WRSU 88.7 FM - Chris Tsakonas and Jake Schmied
KenPom Rankings: Rutgers - No. 67; Lehigh - No. 273
Efficiency Rankings: Rutgers - Offense 104.7 (86th) Defense 92.2 (44th); Lehigh - Offense 95.7 (247th) Defense 104.5 (288th)
KenPom Prediction: Rutgers 80 Lehigh 62. Rutgers is given a 95% chance to win.
Vegas Line: Rutgers -19.5
Series History: Rutgers is 68-36 all-time against Lehigh in a series that dates back to 1907. The only opponents that RU has played more often in program history is Princeton and Lafayette. The Scarlet Knights had won 18 games in a row against the Mountain Hawks before losing 76-71 in the last meeting on November 26, 2008.
Notes: The home opener is a sellout, marking the 10th straight dating back to the 2019-2020 season....The Rutgers Athletic Center is officially called Jersey Mike’s Arena per a sponsorship deal announced last week.....If you are attending the season opener at Jersey Mike’s Arena, click here for new guidelines this season including masking policy and new ticketing procedures......Rutgers is unveiling a new banner in recognition of last season’s NCAA Tournament appearance and victory. The ceremony will take place at 6:40 p.m.......Ron Harper Jr. will be recognized in the pregame as well for eclipsing 1,000 points in his career.
Key Returning Contributors
Lehigh: 6’4” Marques Wilson - 15.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.6 steals, 44.1% FG: 6’11” Nic Lynch - 12.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, 49.4% FG; 6’6” Evan Taylor - 8.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 43.1% FG; 6’7” Jeameril Wilson - 8.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists. 45.3% FG; 6’8” Dominic Parolin - 6.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, 47.1% FG; 6’4” Reed Fenton - 5.8 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 30.2% FG; 5’10” Jalin Sinclair - 4.2 points, 2.2 assists, 39.5% FG; 6’2” Jake Betlow - 3.1 points, 1.1 assists, 31.4% FG; 6’6” Jakob Alamudun - 3.1 points, 2.5 rebounds, 48.5 % FG
Rutgers: 6’6” Ron Harper Jr. -14.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 44.1% FG; 6’4” Geo Baker - 10.4 points, 3.2 assists, 3.1 rebounds, 1.7 steals, 40.9% FG; 6’6” Paul Mulcahy - 5.9 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 47.9% FG (led team 39.3% from three-point range last season); 6’7” Caleb McConnell - 5.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.5 steals, 31.7% FG; 6’11” Cliff Omoruyi - 3.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 63.2% FG
The Mountain Hawks were just 4-11 overall in a COVID shortened season under head coach Brett Reed. They return their top seven scorers from last season and are a veteran team led by guard Marques Wilson. He was named to the preseason All-Patriot League team and can score in multiple ways. He also had a top 500 assist rate and top 250 steal rate last season. The frontcourt is led by Nic Lynch, Evan Taylor, Dominic Parolin and Jearemil Wilson. Both Lynch and Parolin had top 500 offensive rebounding rates last season.
A newcomer to be aware of is 6’4” freshman guard Keith Higgins Jr. who was a prolific scorer and shooter in high school.
As a team, Lehigh averaged 68.8 points a game last season while allowing 76.6 points per contest. They shot 43.1% from the floor, 31.6% from three-point range and 70.1% from the foul line.
Lehigh finished last season ranked No. 334 in KenPom and were inefficient on both ends of the floor. They did have a decent turnover rate of 18.2% (135th) and held opponents to an offensive rebounding rate of just 23.7% (28th).
Keys To Victory
The first game of the season is typically a little strange as Tuesday night was a prime example across the Big Ten. No. 17 Ohio State escaped Akron 67-66. Indiana survived Eastern Michigan 68-62. Nebraska lost to Western Illinois 75-74.
The key for Rutgers is to assert their will on the defensive end and on the glass from the opening tip. It will be an emotional night with the return of fans since the end of the 2020 season and the NCAA banner ceremony before the game. The veterans of this team need to play with poise and avoid sloppy play.
Being assertive on the offensive end by attacking the rim and being active in the halfcourt are keys to getting into rhythm.
There are a number of big picture things to watch for.
How well does Rutgers move and share the ball on offense and to what extent Paul Mulcahy is involved?
What type of pace are they playing?
Does Cliff Omoruyi play under control and dominate the interior?
Can Jaden Jones play within himself and show good feel for his game in the flow of the offense?
How do the newcomers like Aundre Hyatt, Ralph Agee, and Jalen Miller handle the moment?
Will any of the second year players make an impact in Mawot Mag, Oskar Palmquist and Dean Reiber?
This team has made certain things like pounding the glass and sharing the basketball priorities, so establishing those two areas with its core rotation is very important in the early going of this season.
It’s an exciting day as we are finally able to watch this team play. The most important thing overall other than getting the win is keeping the key players healthy. It was the season opener last season when Geo Baker injured his ankle and missed time. Rutgers would really benefit from having a full rotation at Steve Pikiell’s disposal to tinker with in non-conference play these first two plus weeks. It is key to the development of this team, particularly the bench.
For all of our preseason coverage leading up to this game, including our season predictions, click here.
When I used to run marathons or go on long distance runs, I ALWAYS started them by listening to All Fired Up by Interpol. One of the most underappreciated rock bands of our time are tremendous live as I can attest to seeing them at Madison Square Garden years ago. I couldn’t actually find a live clip of this song but this version will have to do.
This song plays into several themes. As Dave White reminded us last week, make sure to appreciate this team this season. And Rutgers has been underestimated by most in the preseason rankings from my point of view. The team and the fan based are excited and fired up for this season to begin. It’s going to be a long season, so be fired up but remember to pace yourself. There will be ups and downs, but there is a lot of reasons to believe in this team. There is a lot to prove and it begins tonight!