Maine (3-7) at Rutgers (5-5)
How To Watch, Listen, News & Notes
Where: Jersey Mike’s Arena in Piscataway, New Jersey
Indoor Event Policy: Update attendance requirements here
Tip-off: Thursday, December 30 at 1:00 p.m. ET
TV: Big Ten Network - Jason Horowitz and Jesse Settles
Stream: FOX Sports Live
NET Rankings: Rutgers No. 151; Maine No. 357
KenPom Rankings: Rutgers - No. 100, five spots worse than before a 77-63 loss to Seton Hall on December 12; Maine - No. 351, two spots better since a 49-47 loss to Merrimack on December 21.
Efficiency Rankings: Rutgers - Offense 102.5 (145th) Defense 95.0 (66th); Maine - Offense 84.3 (356th) Defense 106.6 (296th)
KenPom Prediction: Rutgers 71 Maine 49. Rutgers is given a 98% chance to win.
Vegas Line: Rutgers -24
Series History: Rutgers lead the all-time series 4-0 dating back to 1924 and the last meeting was a 70-55 victory on December 29, 2018.
Note: Due to the holiday week and Rutgers football’s unexpected trip to the Gator Bowl, I’ll be posting consolidated previews with the game thread for this game and Saturday’s game against CCSU.
Preview/Keys To Victory:
This team hasn’t played since a disappointing performance against Seton Hall on December 12. They went on an extended pause due to Covid-19 positive cases within the program and haven’t practiced. We have no idea what to expect on Thursday.
The good news is Maine is one of the worst teams in college basketball, especially on the offensive end. None of their three wins are against Division I opponents. It’s the perfect opponent to play with zero practice time and not having played a game in 18 days. It’s hard to believe Rutgers beat Purdue three weeks ago, it feels like three years ago.
Keep it simple in approach by playing fundamentally sound defense, avoid taking chances and just keep your man in front and box out on rebounds. The Black Bears turn it over a lot at a rate of 23.7%, so Rutgers should be able to generate takeaways without needing to be overly aggressive. Force Maine to shoot from the perimeter. They’re 322nd nationally from two-point range (43.5%) and 358th, which is worst in Division I, at 21.6% from three-point range. Avoid unnecessary fouls but expect them to get called for some due to timing and lateral quickness being a step slow.
Offensively, attack the paint and the basket, share the ball and don’t settle for contested jumpers. Opponents are shooting 54.2% from two-point range against them and they rarely block shots.
Conditioning will be an issue so expect head coach Steve Pikiell to play everyone on his bench that is available for this game. We don’t know if any players are still out due to Covid protocols, but whoever does play it’s important Rutgers establish some type of rhythm in this game. Things ramp up quickly with Michigan coming to Jersey Mike’s Arena in less than a week.
Don’t worry about the final score, although Rutgers should win easily. It’s really about getting reestablished as a team on the court in game action and playing smart basketball together. Hopefully, the team can have a strong mental approach and enjoys being back on the court as one group. They’ll be back at it on Saturday at 5:00 p.m. against Central Connecticut State so a large margin of victory on Thursday would be ideal to preserve the top of the rotation and avoid tired legs.
Join us during the action in the comment section.
Enjoy the musical selection from legend Gene Autry with “Back in the Saddle Again.”