Rutgers (14-9; 8-5) at No. 14 Wisconsin (19-4; 10-3)
How To Watch, Listen, News & Notes
Where: Kohl Center in Madison, Wisconsin (Capacity 17,230)
Tip-off: Saturday, February 12 at 2:00 p.m. ET
TV: FS1 - Lisa Byington and Brian Butch
Stream: FOX Sports Live
NET Rankings: Rutgers No. 92; Wisconsin No. 20 (Quad 1 opponent)
KenPom Rankings: Rutgers - No. 84, four spots better following a 66-64 victory over Ohio State on Tuesday at home. Wisconsin - No. 23, eight spots better following a 70-62 win over Michigan State on Tuesday.
Efficiency Rankings: Rutgers - Offense 104.8 (125th) Defense 95.7 (54th); Wisconsin - Offense 110.3 (50th) Defense 93.5 (31st)
KenPom Prediction: Wisconsin 69 Rutgers 60; Rutgers is given a 23% chance to win.
Vegas Line: Wisconsin -8.5
Series History: Wisconsin leads the all-time series 9-3 including a 60-54 win in Madison last season, where Rutgers has never won.
Wisconsin: 6’5” sophomore Johnny Davis- 20.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.3 steals, 34.9% 3-pt FG; 6’4” senior Brad Davison - 14.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 36.2% 3-pt FG; 6’9” junior Tyler Wahl - 11.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 51.6% FG; 7’0” sophomore Steve Crowl - 9.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 31.7% 3-pt FG; 6’2” freshman Chucky Hepburn - 7.6 points, 2.1 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.2 steals, 33.3 3-pt FG; 6’2” freshman Lorne Bowman II - 3.3 points, 1.2 rebounds, 41.4% 3-pt FG; 7’0” senior Chris Vogt - 2.5 points, 3.4 rebounds; 6’9” sophomore Ben Carlson - 2.0 points, 2.0 rebounds; 6’4” junior Jahcobi Neath - 1.7 points, 1.4 rebounds
Rutgers: 6’6” senior Ron Harper Jr. - 15.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.3 steals, 40.7% 3-pt FG; 6’4” redshirt senior Geo Baker - 12.3 points, 4.2 assists, 2.4 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 33.3% 3-pt FG; 6’11” sophomore Cliff Omoruyi - 11.4 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.3 block, 61.1% FG; 6’6” junior Paul Mulcahy - 8.5 points, 5.4 assists, 4.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 31.6% 3-pt FG; 6’7” senior Caleb McConnell - 6.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.2 steals, 27.5% 3-pt FG; 6’6” sophomore Aundre Hyatt - 4.9 points, 2.8 rebounds; 6’8” freshman Jaden Jones - 3.6 points, 1.2 rebounds; 6’7” sophomore Mawot Mag - 3.4 points, 2.2 rebounds; 6’10 sophomore Dean Reiber - 2.9 points, 1.2 rebounds, 53.3% FG; 6’8” senior Ralph Gonzales-Agee - 2.2 points, 1.1 rebounds, 52.2% FG; 6’8” sophomore Oskar Palmquist - 1.6 points, 5-11 3-pt FG; 6’2” freshman Jalen Miller - 1.0 points
The Badgers are tied for first place in the Big Ten and are coming off a massive road win at Michigan State earlier this week. They aren’t a great shooting team, but they take care of the basketball and play a physical style on both ends of the floor. They 8-4 against KenPom Top 50 teams and are 11-4 against KenPom Top 100 teams. They average 71.1 points per game and allow 66.1 points per contest.
Wisconsin has lowest offensive turnover rate in the nation at just 12.3%. They’re shooting just 48.0% from two-point range (245th) and just 31.6% from three-point range (279th). Overall, their effective field goal percentage is only 47.8% (266th). However, they are shooting 74.9% from the foul line (65th).
On the boards, they are just 240th nationally with an offensive rebounding rate of 26.5%, but are 45th in holding opponents to just 24.4% on the offensive glass.
Defensively, Wisconsin is average in holding opponents to 48.8% from two-point range (144th) and 33.0% from three-point range (146th). They don’t force takeaways often as their defensive turnover rate is only 17.3% (263rd).
One interesting note is the Badgers are the 3rd luckiest team in the country per KenPom and opponents are shooting just 66.6% from the foul line, which is 16th lowest nationally.
In Big Ten play, Wisconsin is 8th in offensive efficiency and 4th in defensive efficiency. They have the lowest turnover rate in league play at 11.7% and play with the third fastest tempo, but are dead last in shooting just 31.4% from behind the arc. Their best qualities defensively in league play is limiting opponents on the offensive glass (3rd) and trips to the foul line (5th).
Wisconsin is a big team inside but lacks length with its guards on the perimeter. They are tough as usual and don’t make a lot of mistakes. Johnny Davis is a both a Big Ten Player of the Year candidate and All-American candidate who is a great rebounder for his size and good passer. He is a bulk scorer who takes 32.2% of the entire team’s shots. They are high volume shooters from behind the arc, averaging 7.0 makes per game despite shooting a low percentage.
For the season, the Scarlet Knights are averaging 68.2 points per game and allowing 64.8 points per contest.....RU is shooting only 48.3% from two-point range (229th), 33.5% from three-point range (178th) and 70.2% from the foul line (208th)......They are ranked 10th nationally in assist rate at 62.8%, 17th in two-point defense in holding opponents to 44.6% shooting, 39th in defensive block rate at 12.8% and 68th in defensive steal rate at 11.0%.......Rutgers is 10th in offensive efficiency and 3rd in defensive efficiency in Big Ten play so far this season......RU is 3rd from three-point range at 37.5% shooting ad 6th in offensive rebounding rate at 29.6% in league play........They are in the top four in five of eight defensive categories in Big Ten play including 2nd in steal rate and turnover rate, 3rd in block rate and free throw rate, while 4th in two-point shooting at 46.7%....The last time Rutgers won a road game against a ranked foe was against No. 22 Iowa in 2019......A win over No. 14 Wisconsin would mark the first time Rutgers would have beaten three ranked foes in consecutive games and would be the highest ranked road win since beating No. 13 Pittsburgh in January 2008.
Keys To Victory
The most important part of this game is that Rutgers doesn’t bury itself into a double digit deficit in the first half which they have done in all six Big Ten road games this season. That means limit turnovers, come out ready on the defensive end and be aggressive on the boards. Wisconsin is a good team, but they aren’t a great team. Rutgers can turn this into a rock fight and make it a low scoring game which would give them a chance down the stretch to pull the upset.
Limiting second chance scoring opportunities is something Rutgers has to do a better job of and they were fortunate they weren’t burned more by Ohio State in that area. Wisconsin has size inside and while they aren’t a great rebounding team, RU needs to make sure that continues on Saturday.
The Scarlet Knights were very effective in transition off of turnovers and misses against the Spartans and Buckeyes. If they can control the glass against the Badgers, it will be their best opportunity to run with turnovers likely coming at a premium. Wisconsin is really good at getting back in transition, so penetration and then kicking it back out to the perimeter could be their best strategy to score on the break.
The evolution of this team with the offense running through Paul Mulcahy has really pushed this team forward, but the key is now being consistent. We’ve seen far less iso ball from Rutgers of late but they have a tendency to fall into that trap on the road. Attacking the basket with penetration and Mulcahy crafting his way into the paint can create good looks from the perimeter against Wisconsin. Expect some zone as well but regardless, Rutgers has to share the basketball and make the Badgers content with ball reversals to generate open looks. Spacing has been much better and needs to continue.
Finishing at the rim and the foul line will be paramount for Rutgers to score enough points to win. It’s going to be a physical game and if they can go strong to the hoop, they’ll have a chance to capitalize.
As for matchups, Ron Harper Jr. vs. Johhny Davis will be a big one. RHJR has struggled offensively of late but his defense has been good. He needs to be more active on the glass and get downhill to the rim more so in this game. Harper Jr. is due a big game offensively and needs to keep up with Davis. Caleb McConnell defensively needs to be disruptive as usual, whether it’s on Davis or whoever. Cliff Omoruyi will have plenty of size to contend with in the post, but his athleticism could win out. His two man game with Mulcahy off of screens has been effective and is something to watch for in this matchup. A classic matchup will be between Brad Davison and Geo Baker, both tough guards who have been through plenty of wars. The winner of that matchup could determine the outcome.
The x-factor is the bench. Wisconsin doesn’t play their reserves much at all. I’d love to see multiple defensive looks including fullcourt pressure early on. Pikiell always gives his bench a chance to make an impact in the first half, but tightens the rotation in the second half depending how guys are playing. If RU can get quality minutes from Aundre Hyatt, Mawot Mag and Dean Reiber, it could go a long way towards wearing Wisconsin down and pulling off the upset.
For this game I selected “Across That Fine Line” by Nation of Language. It’s a new song I’m into and has a 80’s vibe to it. The title also plays into the situation Rutgers is in for this game.
There is always a fine line between winning and losing, but even more so on the road. Rutgers has squandered opportunities away from Piscataway due to their own mistakes. Aside from falling behind early, they have to limit mistakes like turnovers and defensive breakdowns. This team plays at another level at times and did so in the second half in their last road game at Northwestern. They won the game before at Nebraska with a huge two final minutes. Coming off two ranked wins in a row at home, this team should be confident but they also seem to be figuring themselves out more as well.
On Saturday, walking that fine line will be key and if they can play within themselves and together, I really believe they can win. In a season that’s been the most unpredictable that I can remember, it wouldn’t be that crazy if it happened. Of course, self inflicted mistakes will make that a very difficult task.