Rutgers (3-2) at UMass (4-3)
How To Watch, Listen, News & Notes
Where: Mullins Center in Amherst, Massachusetts (9,493 capacity)
Tip-off: Saturday, November 27 at 2:00 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSports.com, NBC Sports Philadelphia, NBC Sports Chicago and SNY - Ahmed Fareed and Corey Robinson
Radio: Live Listen - Rutgers Sports Properties Radio Network - WCTC 1450 AM/WOR 710 AM; PXP - Jerry Recco and Austin Johnson
KenPom Rankings: Rutgers - No. 92, thirteen spots worse following a 53-51 loss to Lafayette; UMass - No. 120, two spots worse since a 92-81 win over UMass-Lowell.
Efficiency Rankings: Rutgers - Offense 101.4 (154th) Defense 93.1 (47th); UMass - Offense 107.2 (61st) Defense 102.6 (225th)
KenPom Prediction: UMass 70 Rutgers 69. Rutgers is given a 47% chance to win.
Vegas Line: UMass -1
Series History: Rutgers leads the all-time series 29-20, including 82-57 win in the last meeting on November 29, 2019.
NOTE: Abbreviated preview due to Thanksgiving.
The Minutemen can be summed up in a nutshell: They beat the highest ranked team per KenPom in Penn State (No. 88) that they’ve played so far, while also losing to the lowest ranked team on their schedule in Ball State (No. 271). They lost to Yale (No. 130) by 20 points.
Fifth year head coach Matt McCall has his team shooting 38.1% from three-point range this season. 6’5” junior guard CJ Kelly has started the season shooting 48.6% on 17 of 35 attempts from behind the arc.
5’11” junior Noah Fernandes is their leading scorer with 15.2 points per game on 46.0% shooting. He also averages 3.2 assists, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.7 steals. However, Fernandes missed Wednesday win over UMass-Lowell and is considered a game time decision on whether he’ll play against Rutgers or not.
6’2” sophomore Javohn Garcia stepped up in his absence in the last game with a career high 18 points, along with 5 rebounds and 4 assists.
This team added six transfers to the roster, led by 6’8” Trent Buttrick who came from Penn State and is averaging 15.1 points and 4.9 rebounds. He is shooting 36.1% from three-point range.
6’10” senior Michael Steadman had 10 points and 4 rebounds in just 12 minutes in his season debut against UMass-Lowell.
The Minuteman are shooting 45.3% from the floor, 38.1% three-point range and 70.4% from the foul line. They have the 22nd lowest turnover rate in the nation at 14.7% and are 55th nationally in effective field goal percentage at 54.5%. On the flip side, opponents are shooting 39.2% from three-point range against UMass.
Keys To Victory
Rutgers enters this game as a slight underdog on the road after back to back losses to DePaul and Lafayette. As simple as it sounds, the Scarlet Knights need to shoot better and score more points to win. RU is only shooting 37.4% from the floor this season including a horrific 24.2% from three-point range. Despite solid enough defense, this team isn’t winning many games when shooting that poorly.
UMass can make threes so closing out on shooters and avoiding getting caught up in a cat and mouse game by trying to keep up from deep is a must. This has been surprisingly a challenge for the core group of the team.
It’s unknown how much Geo Baker will play in this game after appearing to injure his hamstring in the loss to Lafayette. The offense looked even more disjointed after he exited that game so it will be interesting to see any lineup changes that Rutgers head coach Steve Pikiell makes.
Rutgers has defended inside the arc relatively well this season and opponents are only shooting 42.8% from two-point range, which is 36th nationally. Not allowing penetration and easy baskets in the paint is key, which could lead to some forced three-point attempts from the Minuteman.
At the end of the day, this game is about effort and urgency from Rutgers. Crashing the boards, fundamentally sound defense, ball movement and better shot selection are all musts in this game for the Scarlet Knights.
Feeding Cliff Omoruyi and Ron Harper Jr. down on the blocks along with getting Jaden Jones and Mawot Mag involved in the action early would be a a good development. Also looking to take advantage of transition scoring opportunities is something this team needs to improve on.
Win and come home for a winnable rematch against Clemson. Lose and even more doubt on this season will be the result.
For the sixth game of the season, I chose a new song from one of my favorite bands. It is “I’m On Your Side” by Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats. Tremendous new album but it’s brand new so couldn’t find a live version just yet. However, I feel like the message is timely.
The opening of the song is this:
Did you realize or you can’t remember?
Well, adjust your eyes and let ‘em clear.
But if you ain’t alrightWell, just remember.
I’m on your side.
This team has frustrated and disappointed a lot of fans so far this season. Although several players are veterans who have won at Rutgers over the past two seasons, no one has really looked themselves. However, there are still a lot of fans that believe this team can turn things around. This song is for this team and those fans.
Let’s hope the comeback starts on Saturday!