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Game Preview: Rutgers Scarlet Knights

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IT'S A TRAP.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

GAME INFO:

Who? Rutgers Scarlet Knights (10-17, #204 KenPom)  v. Indiana Hoosiers (18-9 #51 KenPom)

When? 5:15 PM, Big Ten Network

Vegas? TBA

Pomeroy? INDIANA by 6, 73% chance of Indiana victory

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Doooooooooooooon't caaaaaaaaaaare

After a tough to swallow / fathom sweep by arch rival Purdue, that spoiled Indiana's bid for a perfect home season in conference play, the fanbase's frustration and disappointment seems to be turning into a bit of a malaise. While the team remains firmly in in line for a bid to the NCAA Tournament, disappointment in the season's turn since its 5-1 start in conference play has gripped the dialogue. But make no mistake, this team is not on the bubble, they're not even close.

Not yet.

Now, lose to Rutgers on Sunday? Then things start getting bubbly, and the Hoosiers slimming chances of a top-four finish become next to nothing. Should the Hoosiers win out, that should be enough for a double-bye thanks to the current top-four's strength of schedule, but Indiana's margin of error has been reduced to zero. Up until Purdue, the Hoosiers had avoided losing a conference game that KenPom had favored them to win, hopefully that doesn't become a trend as the screws tighten. There's nothing this Indiana team can do about last Thursday's game anymore, but winning out will likely help heal a few of those wounds.

LET'S CHECK THE TOP OF THE TABLE.

TEAM (B1G Record) B1G SoS Remaining Games
Wisconsin (12-1) 14th v. MIN, @ MARY, v. MSU, @ MIN, @ OSU
Maryland (10-4) 10th v. WIS, v. MICH, @ RUTG, @ NEB
Purdue (10-4) 9th v. RUTG, @ OSU, @ MSU, v. ILL
Michigan State (9-4) 13th @ ILL, v. MINN, @ WIS, v. PUR, @ IND
Ohio State (8-5) 11th @ MICH, v. NEB, v. PUR, @ PSU, v. WIS
Indiana (8-6) 3rd @ RUTG, @ NW, v. IOWA, v. MSU

As you've likely deduced, Indiana's season-finale in Assembly Hall against Michigan State could have massive conference tournament implications assuming they're sitting at 11 wins and MSU drops their road date to Wisconsin.

HERE WOULD YOU LIKE SOME FACTORS?

Four Factors
eFG% TO% OR% FT Rate
INDIANA (Offense) 55.6% (12th) 17.3% (51st) 35.2% (51st) 33.9% (262)
RUTGERS (Defense) 48.3% (140th) 18.7% (209) 31.7% (205th) 31.6% (57th)
eFG% TO% OR% FT Rate
INDIANA (Defense) 50.7% (246th) 16.3% (330th) 31.6% (202nd) 29.7% (32nd)
RUTGERS (Offense) 43.2% (339th) 20.4% (248th) 30.2% (199th) 32.6% (288th)

So, yes, the numbers for Rutgers are still horrendous, befitting of a team with 2 conference wins and a sub-200 KenPom ranking, but they've knocked off better teams than Wisconsin Indiana in their home arena and if Indiana walks into this game with heads hanging low, assuming they can roll the balls out and get past the Scarlet Knights while thinking about the missed opportunities against Purdue, they're going to get beat. Indiana played Rutgers immediately following the first loss to Purdue this season and had to put on a furious rally in the closing minutes to beat them by EIGHT.

Rutgers remains the Kadeem Jack and Myles Mack show, who account for over 50% of Rutgers' points in the first meeting against Indiana. The renewed health of Hanner Mosquera-Perea will help level the playing field against Rutgers' size advantage (47th in effective height). The Scarlet Knights to boast a top-100 defensive unit, so should Indiana allow their 304th ranked offense score at a healthy clip, they could find themselves in a tough spot. If Indiana wants to build momentum for the end of the season, a double-digit road win could go a long way in establishing that, but Rutgers won't just hand that to them.

Stuff to Watch For:

  • Will Hanner Mosquera-Perea play a usual amount of minutes? He started against Purdue, but foul trouble and a presumed "pitch count" due to his knee recovery limited him to seventeen minutes. Will he be able to put in a full afternoon's work against Rutgers? He looked excellent early against Purdue on the offensive side of the ball, giving Indiana another high-flying athlete and high-level rebounder. Indiana will need him down the stretch, so big minutes against Rutgers could show he's ready to fully contribute over the final chapter of the season.
  • Will Yogi Ferrell and James Blackmon Jr. atone? After missing the big shot at the end of the game against Maryland, Yogi responded against Minnesota with 11 assists as he directed the offense to one of their best performances all season. After coming up short, again, against Purdue, does Yogi have a similar big game to follow-up with? Similarly, JBJ followed up a dreadful performance against Maryland with 24 points and six three-pointers against Minnesota. After missing a couple big shots (and a big free throw) against Purdue, is he ready to pour in the points against Rutgers?
  • Is this game even really happening? A 5:15 road start against a B1G bottom-dweller following an emotionally crushing loss to a rival almost makes this game seem imaginary. I'm writing this preview on Saturday morning after finally acknowledging this game's existence last night. If the team's attitude towards this game at all reflects mine, the Hoosiers are in trouble.