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Big Ten Tournament Game Preview: No. 7 Rutgers vs. No. 10 Indiana

Includes how to watch, stats, injury updates, Steve Pikiell quotes and keys to victory.

NCAA Basketball: Indiana at Rutgers Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

2021 Big Ten Tournament

No. 7 Rutgers (14-10; 10-10) vs. No. 10 Indiana (12-14; 7-12)

How To Watch, Listen, News & Notes

Where: Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana

Tip-off: Thursday, March 11 at 6:30 p.m. ET

TV: BTN - Brandon Gaudin and Shon Morris

Radio: Live Listen - Rutgers Sports Properties Radio Network - WCTC 1450 AM/WOR 710 AM, Jerry Recco & Joe Boylan; WRSU 88.7 FM

KenPom Rankings: Rutgers is 33, which is one spot worse since a 7 point overtime win over Minnesota on Saturday. Indiana is 39, which is one spot better since a 9 point loss to Purdue on Saturday.

Efficiency Rankings: Rutgers - Offense 109.5 (68th) Defense 90.4 (17th); Indiana - Offense 110.9 (55th) Defense 93.4 (43rd)

KenPom Prediction: Rutgers 67 Indiana 65. Rutgers is given a 54% chance to win.

OTB Guide to KenPom

Vegas Line: Rutgers -3

Series History: Indiana leads the all-time series 7-5, but Rutgers has won five of the past six meetings including both this season with a 74-70 victory on the road on January 24 and a 74-63 win on senior night at the RAC on February 24.

Indiana SB Nation Site: Crimson Quarry

Key Contributors

Indiana - 6’9” sophomore Trayce Jackson-Davis (19.1 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.4 blocks, 51.5% FG); 6’4” sophomore Armaan Franklin (11.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.2 steals, 45.0% 3-pt FG); 6’4” senior Aljami Durham (11.4 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 38.5% 3-pt FG); 6’8” redshirt junior Race Thompson (9.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.3 blocks, 1.0 steal, 52.8% FG); 6’1” junior Rob Phinisee (7.2 points, 2.7 assists, 2.3 rebounds, 26.6% 3-pt FG); 6’7” redshirt sophomore Jerome Hunter (6.3 points, 3.0 rebounds, 34.3% 3-pt FG); 6’4” freshman Trey Galloway (3.8 points, 1.9 rebounds, 1.6 assists); 6’6” freshman Jordan Geronimo (2.4 points, 1.8 rebounds); 6’2” freshman Khristian Lander (2.1 points, 1.2 assists); 6’5” freshman Anthony Leal (1.6 points, 1.4 rebounds, 1.0 assist)

Rutgers - 6’6” junior Ron Harper Jr. (15.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 32.3% 3-pt FG); 6’2” senior Jacob Young (14.5 points, 3.5 assists, 2.0 rebounds, 1.8 steals, 36.6% 3-pt FG); 6’4” Geo Baker (10.2 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.3 steals, 32.0% 3-pt FG); 6’4” junior Montez Mathis (8.9 points, 3.1 rebounds, 29.9 % 3-pt FG); 6’10” redshirt junior Myles Johnson (8.3 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, 1.0 steal, 63.8% FG); 6’6” sophomore Paul Mulcahy (5.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 37.8% 3-pt FG); 6’7” junior Caleb McConnell (5.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.7 steals, 1.6 assists); 6’11” Cliff Omoruyi (3.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 67.4% FG)

About Indiana

The Hoosiers are in full free fall mode having lost its last five straight games and have serious injury issues heading into Thursday night’s matchup. Second leading scorer and the best three-point shooter on the roster, Armaan Franklin, suffered a foot injury in the last meeting against Rutgers and hasn’t played since. Another starter, Race Thompson, has both an ankle injury and broken nose. He did play in Saturday’s loss to Purdue but hasn’t practiced much since. Head coach Archie Miller addressed the media on Wednesday it’s clear if either do play they won’t be 100% healthy.

IU is averaging 70.5 points per game and are allowing 69.7 points per contest. Indiana is shooting 43.5% from the floor, 33.1% from three-point range and 66.7% from the foul line this season. They finished Big Ten play 8th in offensive efficiency in Big Ten play and 12th in defensive efficiency.

Offensively in conference action, Indiana is 1st in free throw rate (getting to the line) but are only 12th in free throw shooting percentage (67.1%). They are only 10th in effective field goal percentage and in offensive rebounding rate. They play the 11th slowest tempo in the league.

Defensively, IU is 7th in steal and turnover rate but are just 12th in free throw rate and 13th in opponent three-point shooting percentage.

Trayce-Jackson-Davis is one of the best players in the Big Ten and is a force in the paint on both ends of the floor. Rutgers did a great job containing him in the first meeting, holding him to 13 points on 4 of 10 shooting and 7 rebounds. However, he was much more effective in the rematch at the RAC, finishing with 21 points on 7 of 16 shooting, 11 rebounds and 3 steals. Aljami Durham was 5 of 7 from three-point range in the last meeting against Rutgers finishing with 20 points, but he is just 3 of 11 from deep in his last three games.

Indiana is a streaky three-point shooting team as they’ve shot 44% or better from deep in five of nine games before losing Franklin. In the last three games without him, the Hoosiers are a combined 11 of 58 for just 19.0% from three-point range. Even though they’ve shot well from behind the arc against Rutgers this season, making 18 of 34 shots for 52.9% from three, they’ve lost both games.

Rutgers Notes

Rutgers is averaging 70.4 points per game and they are allowing 68.1 points per contest. Overall, the Scarlet Knights are shooting 45.2% from the floor, 31.6%from three-point range and 62.4% from the foul line. In Big Ten play, they finished 9th in offensive efficiency and 6th in defensive efficiency.

Offensively, RU 4th in turnover rate and 7th in two-point shooting percentage, but are only 11th in three-point shooting percentage, 12th in free throw rate and 13th in free throw shooting percentage. Their tempo rate is 8th in league play.

Defensively, Rutgers has the best steal rate and block rate, as well as 2nd in turnover rate and 5th in both effective field goal percentage and two-point field goal percentage, as well as 6th in three-point field goal percentage. However, they are 11th in opponent free throw rate and just 13th in opponent offensive rebounding rate.

Rutgers’ strength of schedule is ranked 8th nationally per KenPom. They won double digit conference games in back to back seasons for the first time ever since joining the Big Ten and first time overall since the 1989-1990 and 1990-1991 seasons.

Steve Pikiell is 3-3 in Big Ten Tournament play and Rutgers defeated Indiana in the second round in 2018 by the score of 76-69.

Tonight’s game marks the first time Rutgers opened Big Ten Tournament play on the second day. They were scheduled to do so for the first time last season but the game was cancelled due to COVID-19.

Steve Pikiell Pregame Quotes

On playing in the Big Ten Tournament

“Excited to get out and play in this tournament. Remember last year, we didn’t get to play in any tournament. We were at the Big Ten championship and excited to play. I think our guys are excited about this year being able to play. We have done all our testing.”

Playing in front of fans

“I know our players are excited. I know it’s not a lot of people but I think heading back in that direction where there’s some new people in the gym, guys are excited about the opportunities that their families can come and be able to see them live. Looking forward to it. These tournaments are always awesome. It is as good as the league has been. It is going to be just a challenging tournament, but it is going to be exciting.”

On preparing for tournament play

“You got to go into a tournament like this loose and ready to play. You are going to play great teams and there are going to be obstacles but everyone knows each other so well. We just played Indiana very recently. You try to add a few new things and do a few new things but there is not a lot of time to perfect anything new. Hopefully we have learned from a lot of lessons that we’ve had. We have guys that have been there before. You rely on your veterans. Part of that is not having that experience last year with your younger guys.”

On the progress the program has made in his tenure

“I am pleased with where we are [as a program] but never satisfied. We have gotten through a lot of obstacles with the pandemic this year. I love the fact that our fans from day one have changed. We have more people involved, more people excited. More people come to games and that’s what it’s all about.”

How to prepare for playing in a football stadium

“There’s really not. We don’t play in those kind of arenas. We’re not allowed to shoot around because of Covid. Strict rules with everything. They’re going to have to go out there and figure it out. Still have to play good basketball. Obviously those arenas have a different depth perception and those kind of things. Use your hour before the game the best you can and go from there. It’s very different and with no opportunity to be there beforehand, you have no feel for it.”

For more on what Pikiell said about playing in front of fans, click here.

Keys to Victory

The postseason is finally here and Rutgers has an opportunity to start off in a positive way against a team they’ve already beaten twice and are staggering to the finish line. The idea that beating a team three times in one season is difficult is disproved by data, but of course RU still needs to play well to win.

It comes down to how they matchup and Rutgers has exploited a distinct advantage in the previous two meetings. The Scarlet Knights outscored Indiana 66-48 with points in the paint and 38-25 in fast break points in two meetings. They don’t need to shoot the lights out from three to win, even though the Hoosiers struggle to defend the three and RU has made 19 of 50 attempts for 38.0% from behind the arc in the previous two meetings.

The key on offense is dribble penetration, as Indiana couldn’t stop Jacob Young and Geo Baker when they attacked the paint two weeks ago at the RAC. It led to RU dishing out 22 assists on 30 made field goals as they generated a lot of good looks from inside the arc (19 of 33 for 57.6%) and behind it (11 of 28 for 39.3%). The more Young becomes a dual threat and looks to dish to open teammates when its the best option, the better this offense will be.

With having to adjust to playing in a big stadium, the Scarlet Knights need to good ball movement and look to attack the rim off the bounce early on to establish good offensive rhythm. They need to force Indiana to work on the defensive end as their core rotation wll be thin if Thompson and Franklin don’t play. The end of the Hoosiers bench is inexperienced. Don’t force three’s or it could be a struggle on offense.

Contending with Jackson-Davis is important but even with him having a big game at the RAC, it didn’t matter. Keeping Myles Johnson active on the offensive end is important and this could be a game Cliff Omoruyi makes a difference as well, especially if foul trouble for Johnson becomes an issue.

Guard play is huge in tournament play and Rutgers has the superior backcourt, especially if Franklin doesn’t play. Exploiting this on both ends of the court is key. Ball pressure on the defensive end and looking to run off of turnovers will be key. Not letting Indiana get easy baskets and forcing them to penetrate instead of getting open looks from three-point range is important as well.

I expect Rutgers to come out with energy and hopefully they play looser with the weight of chasing the NCAA Tournament seemingly off their shoulders. They don’t have to start off fast but they certainly don’t want to fall behind early either. RU always plays well when they clamp down on the defensive end and generate offense off of it. Their confidence should be high coming in and they need to rely on the leadership of Geo Baker, Jacob Young and Myles Johnson to not let a few missed shots lead to any extended minutes of poor play. This game is for the taking and they need to seize the opportunity.

Appropriate Music Selection

Now that it is the postseason, the stakes have changed. It’s time for Pearl Jam and “Alive”.

As Norman Dale says, “There’s a tradition in tournament play to not talk about the next step until you’ve climbed the one in front of you.”

Making the Big Ten quarterfinals for the second time ever and playing Illinois again would be a lot of fun with not much to lose, but they need to handle the task at hand and stay alive. Take care of business, end Indiana’s season for the second time in four years, this time in their home state and move on from there. This is a great opportunity to set the tone for the postseason and Rutgers needs to take full advantage. It’s all about surviving and advancing from here on out. At the end of the night, hopefully they can sing “I’m still alive.”