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Game Preview: Rutgers Scarlet Knights

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In a rare non-conference matchup the Indiana Hoo- wait what?

John Munson/NJ Advance Media for NJ.com-USA TODAY Sports

GAME INFO:

Who? Rutgers Scarlet Knights (10-12, #179 KenPom)  v. Indiana Hoosiers (15-6 #50 KenPom)

When? 3:15 PM, Big Ten Network

Vegas? INDIANA -11.5

Pomeroy? INDIANA by 13, 90% chance of Indiana victory

_______________________________________

Righting the Ship

After a somewhat unbelievably 5-1 start to Big Ten play, Indiana is now reeling following two straight road blowouts to Ohio State and Purdue. While the season is far from over and Indiana can still achieve just about everything they set out to do this year, it certainly hasn't been an easy process to watch this past week. I have tried to figure out a more diplomatic way to say this, but there's no better way than directly:

This home game against Rutgers could not be coming at a better time.

After a couple tough road games, there may be no better cure for what is ailing Indiana than to spend a lovely Saturday afternoon playing KenPom's lowest-rated Big Ten team in the friendly and familiar atmosphere of Assembly Hall. Of course, if Indiana lets their minds linger on the mistakes of the past two games, Rutgers will be more than willing to steal away yet another victory. This Scarlet Knights team has already taken advantage of a Wisconsin team that was without Frank Kaminsky from the start and lost Traevon Jackson early in the game, so they won't roll over for Indiana because they need a win.

Rutgers possesses a single player with an offensive rating of over 100 and that's 5-10 Myles Mack. His rating is fueled by an excellent 29.8% assist rate and he hits 31.8% from deep, his matchup with Yogi Ferrell will be something to watch. It will be a rare time in which Yogi actually has a slight size advantage on his defensive assignment. Yogi's ability to deny guys the ball and stick to bigger guards has become well-known, it'll be interesting to see how he handles trying to lock up a fellow distributor.

Rutgers does have quite a bit of size to throw at Indiana, but nothing quite like Purdue's. Against Michigan State, the Scarlet Knights started three forwards: 6-7 Junior Etou, 6-9 Kadeem Jack, and 6-9 Greg Lewis, meaning that one of Indiana's guards will be tasked with defending a much larger player. Troy Williams and Collin Hartman, however, might be breathing a sigh of relief that this week's post assignments aren't nearly as huge (or effective) as the big men they faced on Wednesday night. We know Indiana can defend from the perimeter, but Rutgers isn't very perimeter oriented, so it'll come down to forcing misses on two-point shots, something Indiana has been completely inept at since the loss of Hanner Mosquera-Perea.

HERE WOULD YOU LIKE SOME FACTORS?

Four Factors
eFG% TO% OR% FT Rate
INDIANA (Offense) 55.5% (13th) 17.0% (43rd) 34.7% (66th) 36.2% (200th)
RUTGERS (Defense) 47.1% (104th) 18.7% (216th) 31.2% (177th) 30.8% (48th)
eFG% TO% OR% FT Rate
INDIANA (Defense) 49.5% (204th) 15.9% (335th) 32.2% (225th) 27.8% (22nd)
RUTGERS (Offense) 43.8% (329th) 20.0% (210th) 29.6% (223rd) 33.8% (257th)

What should jump out to you here is how inefficient Rutgers is when it comes to scoring the basketball. They don't rank higher than 210th in any offensive factor and are near the bottom of Division 1 basketball when it comes to getting the ball through the hoop. This is an excellent litmus test for Indiana's struggling defense that has been unable to stop anyone of late. Rutgers is a bad offense, but can Indiana hold them under a point per possession? This is something Indiana has only managed to do twice in conference play this season (@ Nebraska, v. OSU) and has a bad habit of making bad offenses find their stride for at least one game.

Rutgers is a top-100 unit on defense, but their inability to score often makes this statistic irrelevant. That said: should the Hoosiers come out in another shooting funk and also find themselves unable to stop even one of the worst offenses's in the country from scoring, then Saturday could torpedo the entire season. This isn't a likely scenario, but Indiana does not want to get into a slowed-down brickfight against Rutgers, that's one of the only types of games the Hoosiers may not win against this team.

Three Things to Watch For:

  • What's the crowd going to be like? This is the kind of dumb thing no one should ever worry about, but I always do anyway. When the Hoosiers were last in Assembly Hall, it was a Thursday night tip against a top-15 team and the Hall was electric. This Saturday afternoon, with potential heavy snowfall looming, a less-regarded opponent, and a bad week for the team, I'd expect the atmosphere to be closer to a paycheck game than anything else. Which is unfortunate, as I've said many times, it would be hilarious (and amazing) if Indiana fans treated every opponent that came through the doors like the #1 team in the country. Imagine how Rutgers' players would feel walking into the atmosphere Maryland had to walk into?
  • How does Rutgers handle a quick turnaround? Thanks to the east coast blizzard early in the week, Rutgers had to reschedule their home game against Michigan State, which they played last night. This is an NCAA Tournament-esque turnaround for the Scarlet Knights, but they don't get the luxury of staying in the same place. Not to mention they have to go play one of the two Big Ten teams that prefer their basketball to resemble a track meet.
  • Paging Nick Zeisloft. I noticed during the Purdue game that a lot of people on Twitter were very, VERY down on Nick Zeisloft, who hasn't been mad bombin' off the bench like we've expected from him. There's no question he had the requisite intensity for Wednesday night's rivalry game, but his foul situation made it very difficult for him to make an impact. The kid probably has the quickest trigger on the team but has seemed reluctant to rise and fire ever since the Illinois game (7 shots in three games since). Hopefully the team can generate him some good looks and he can find his groove again. (AS A SNARKY ASIDE: I'd be interested to see the Venn Diagram of people who complained about Tom Crean not using Matt Roth's final year of eligibility and those who are complaining about Nick Zeisloft's place on the team.)