Rutgers men's basketball faces inflection point against Wisconsin
The Rutgers men’s basketball team will go back on the road to take on Wisconsin tomorrow. The Scarlet Knights (16-10, 8-7) will look to stop their three-game losing streak when they take on the Badgers (15-10, 7-8).
Last year, Rutgers split the season series against Wisconsin with both teams winning their respective road games.
The contest looks to be a defensive slow-paced showdown. The Knights average 69.3 possessions per game, the 217th most possessions in NCAA Division I basketball. The Badgers are an even slower team, currently averaging 66 possessions per game, the 342nd most possessions in NCAA Division I basketball out of a possible 363 teams.
Both teams also have strong defenses but struggle on the offensive side of the ball. Rutgers averages the 9th most points per game (PPG) in the Big Ten and holds its opponents to the least amount of PPG. Wisconsin scores the 13th most points per game in the Big Ten and holds its opponents to the fifth least amount of PPG.
This playstyle favors the Knights, as they are 8-0 in regards to holding opposing teams to less than 65 points.
Despite the defensive success of both teams, the game plans are very different. The Knights like to create pressure and cause turnovers. Rutgers will press before halfcourt on defense and likes to blitz when opposing teams pick and roll. This strategy has proved to be effective as the teams' opponents commit 15.3 turnovers per game, which is the most amount of turnovers forced in the Big Ten.
The Badgers play defense by not giving the opposing team the ball or the chance to have fast breaks. The team only commits 8.8 turnovers per game, which is tied for the least amount of turnovers per game committed in the Big Ten.
Winning the turnover battle will be key for both teams.
The battle for rebounds will also be key for both teams. The Knights hold a big edge in the facet of the game as they are fourth in the Big Ten averaging 37.5 rebounds per game (RPG). Wisconsin is last in the Big Ten, only averaging 31.1 RPG. Rutgers also averages 11.9 offensive rebounds per game, the second-best statistic amongst the teams in the Big Ten.
Junior center Clifford Omoruyi, who is averaging 9.8 RPG, will have a big chance to impact the scoreboard and give the Knights many second-chance points. If Rutgers wants to dictate the pace of play, it is going to need to control the glass.
Fifth-year senior guard Caleb McConnell will most likely guard Chucky Hepburn, who leads the opposing team with an average of 12.7 PPG and 73 assists. Hepburn is also a great three-point shooter, as he shoots 44.6 percent from beyond the arc.
McConnell recently discussed the team's struggles over the last two weeks.
"It's just basketball, every team has kinda went through it. Indiana went through it a couple of weeks ago," said McConnell.
"It is just about finding that spark at this point. There is no more Xs and Os. There is no more telling someone to pay attention to the details. It is just really about your heart and digging deep right now."
With the loss to Nebraska, this game has taken increased importance for the Knights. If Rutgers were to lose, it might find itself close to the bubble for the NCAA Tournament. The game will tip off tomorrow at noon and will be broadcasted on the Big Ten Network and 88.7 WRSU-FM.
"Wisconsin … one of the toughest places to play in the league, so we got to play better defense," said head coach Steve Pikiell after the Cornhuskers (13-14, 6-10) game. "These guys have done it before, (I have) a lot of belief in these guys and faith we will prepare well."
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