No. 1 Purdue (8-0) at Rutgers (4-4)
How To Watch, Listen, News & Notes
Where: Jersey Mike’s Arena in Piscataway, New Jersey (capacity 8,000)
Promotions: Wear Red for “Scarlet Out”; Poster night
Tip-off: Thursday, December 9 at 7:00 p.m. ET
TV: BTN - Brandon Gaudin & Robbie Hummel
Stream: Fox Sports App/BTN
KenPom Rankings: Rutgers - No. 98, ten spots better following 86-51 loss to Illinois last Friday; Purdue - No. 2, the same since a 77-70 win over Iowa last Friday.
Efficiency Rankings: Rutgers - Offense 103.0 (149th) Defense 95.8 (61st); Purdue - Offense 121.0 (1st) Defense 91.9 (27th)
KenPom Prediction: Purdue 76 Rutgers 64. Rutgers is given a 15% chance to win.
Vegas Line: opening line Purdue -11.5; current line Purdue -13.5; Rutgers 1-7 ATS
Series History: Purdue leads the all-time series 12-4 but Rutgers has won the last three meetings in a row, including a 81-76 victory last December without Ron Harper Jr. and Cliff Omoruyi.
History vs. No. 1 teams: Rutgers has never beaten a No. 1 team and is 0-2 at home , including a 75-74 loss to UConn at the RAC in 2004. The highest ranked win in program history was against No. 2 UCLA on December 3, 1981 at a neutral site.
There will be a moment of silence before the game for former Rutgers player Clarence Tillman, who passed away on Sunday. Tillman was a key member of the program from 1980-83 and you can read more about him here.
The Boilermakers are loaded and own wins over Villanova (KenPom No. 6), Iowa (KenPom No. 22), North Carolina (No. 28) and Florida State (No. 37). They have the top offensive efficiency in the country at 121.0 and are in the top ten in effective field goal percentage (62.2%, 1st), three-point shooting (44.0%, 2nd), two-point shooting (59.5%, 6th) and offensive rebounding (39.2%, 9th).
Defensively, Purdue is really strong in keeping opponents off the glass (22.2%, 28th), off the foul line (7th) and are top 100 in opponent shooting percentages from two-point (79th) and three-point range (65th) as well as block rate (90th).
6’4” sophomore Jaden Ivey leads Purdue in scoring at 15.9 points per game on 52.3% shooting, along with 5.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.5 steals. 7’4” Zach Edey is averaging 15.5 points on 72.3% shooting, as well as 7.1 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. 6’10” senior Trevion Williams averages 12.4 points on 59.1% shooting, as well as 8.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.3 steals. 6’5” senior Sasha Stefanovic is averaging 12.3 points, 4.5 assists, and 2.3 rebounds. 6’10” freshman Caleb Furst is averaging 8.3 points on 62.2% shooting and 7.4 rebounds.
Purdue has multiple three-point shooters including Isaiah Thompson (14-23, 60.9%), Stefanovic (23-50, 46.0%), Brandon Newman (17-42, 40.5%), Ivey (14-35, 40.0%) and Furst (5-11, 45.5%).
Matt Painter’s team is averaging 90.5 points per game and only allowing 64.9 points per game. They’re only weaknesses are they don’t turn opponents over much (15.3%, 326th).
Steve Pikiell Quotes
On the team dealing with the flu
“A bunch of guys have come down with this flu. It’s been every day. Three guys had it the other day, another guy popped today. It’s not Covid, but the symptoms are similar. We are in hyper alter over the whole thing. But guys just came down with it, not feeling well and it trickled to another couple of guys. We changed our practice plan already a few times and whoever is there today, we will work with. We just got to be really careful moving forward here. A couple of them were the young guys, a couple of them are experienced guys. It is really not young or old, it is a little bit of everything.”
On the challenge in Purdue
“They have two of the best big guys in the country. They surround them with all good shooters. They are the second-best three-point shooting team in the country right now. Obviously, you have a 7-foot-3 guy in the post and then you have an All-American who comes off the bench. They obviously got really good talent and they can beat you from the perimeter and around the basket, They are well-coached and have as good of depth as maybe anybody in the country; the deepest team we will probably face.”
On the opportunity to beat a No. 1 team
“Hopefully, we are going to play with some great energy and play some really good basketball. We are capable of that, we just haven’t yet. You have to play really, really good basketball against Purdue. We are going to need Rutgers nation to come out. We need Jersey Mike’s Arena to be packed and loud. We are obviously playing the No.1 team in the country and we haven’t done that in a long time here. We have never beaten a No.1. We have to play really good basketball. We have to play much better than we played in the past. But we have a good game plan and, hopefully, be healthier going into this opportunity for us. I need to get these guys off the flu and we need to really lock in.
On the status of Geo Baker
Geo worked out yesterday with our trainer,” Pikiell said. “Hasn’t played live yet, hasn’t practice yet. I’ll know today, we are practicing here at 1:30. Hopeful he will practice. But I don’t know that, he’s still day-to-day. I need to get Geo back on the court. It’s a very important part of this thing for us. His experience, his ability to create, his leadership, we need to get him healthy.”
Keys To Victory
Purdue is playing as well as any team in college basketball. They have probably the best frontcourt in the country and are the second best three-point shooting team this season. They have so many weapons and unbelievable size and versatility. Not only will Rutgers have to play its best game of the season by far, but Purdue will have to play its poorest by a wide margin as well for the upset to happen.
Turnovers is one area that Rutgers could have an edge and help make this a close game. The best thing the Scarlet Knights have done this season is take care of the basketball with just a 15.3% turnover rate, which is 29th nationally. As mentioned above, Purdue forces turnovers at one of the lowest rates in the nation. They are also just average in taking care of the basketball (18.5%, 153rd). They certainly aren’t turnover prone, but Rutgers does have the potential to use their length and disrupt passing lanes. On ball pressure will be key and that’s why Jalen Miller needs to get a run for his potential impact on the defensive end.
Rutgers can’t overcommit in trying to force turnovers though or Purdue will blow by them or find open shooters. Closing out on shooters is a must as well. Limiting second chance scoring opportunities by holding Purdue to one shot possessions is a major key as well.
As I wrote this week, Rutgers is not getting enough easy baskets and a big reason why is they are settling for jump shots. Looking for transition opportunities, especially off of turnovers, as well as attacking the rim in the halfcourt is important. Edey hasn’t had more than 3 fouls in a game this season, but even if he draws 2 in the first half, it could help RU be more competitive.
This is a huge measuring stick for Cliff Omoruyi and he has to perform well for Rutgers to have any chance at winning. If Ralph Gonzales-Agee can give valuable minutes off the bench and provide some inside scoring punch, that would help too. They have to stay out of foul trouble as well.
I do think there is a good chance Geo Baker will play and hopefully he can provide a much needed spark. His experience and poise will help this team stay focused. Ron Harper Jr. needs to bounce back as well and have a huge game.
Jaden Jones and Aundre Hyatt are two players that I think could pose some matchup problems for Purdue and could have big games. They need to have an attacking mindset on the offensive end.
Caleb McConnell has to be smart and attack the rim, where he is shooting 71% and not get caught up in overdribbling and forcing jumpers. His defense will be key as well.
A breakout game from three-point range from Paul Mulcahy, who shot 39% last season but is just 4 of 20 this season would be timely.
Steve Pikiell needs to have a good game too. He needs a mad scientist approach and through out some wrinkles on both ends of the court. He is always great with inbounds plays and Rutgers needs to capitalize with those opportunities in this game.
Winning this game is unlikely, but this game is a test in seeing how this team plays to the moment. They need to start the game well and keep the home crowd in it. The longer the fans are involved and Rutgers stays in the game, the more confidence they will have. The energy needs to be there, but so does the execution.
For the ninth game of the season, I selected “Mess I Made” by Raised on TV. They’re from California and have been around for a few years, but I wanted to get the word out so find out more here. Love their sound and persona. This song is also perfect for Rutgers taking on No. 1 Purdue tonight.
Rutgers has made quite the mess for themselves and opened No. 217 in the first NET rankings of the season. They earned it by playing poorly and suffering two sub-100 losses and one sub-300 loss. Their effort against Illinois last week was to put it mildly, disheartening. This team has a lot to prove and the core group has confidence in beating Purdue the last three times they’ve played them.
All hands on deck are needed tonight and a win would certainly be the biggest upset in college basketball this season. Anything is possible. On February 5, 2018, a top five Purdue team came to the RAC and escaped with a two-point win with Rutgers missing Mike Williams. Those early Pikiell teams played extremely hard and were relentless on defense. It’s time to see the same from this group and if they can pull off the unthinkable after the start to this season, it will go a long way towards cleaning up the mess they’ve made.