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Indiana at Rutger: Hoosiers look to avoid embarrassing loss to the Scarlet Knights

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With only one top-60 opponent left on the schedule, Indiana could get on a bit of a roll to close the year.

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Game Info / How to Watch:

Who? Indiana Hoosiers (12-12 (5-7), #92 KenPom) at Rutger Scarlet Knights (12-13 (2-10), #138 KenPom)

When? Monday, February 5th, 7:00 PM, BTN

Where? Louis Brown Athletic Center, Piscataway, NJ

Vegas? Indiana -3.5

Pomeroy? Rutger 64-63, 49% chance of Indiana victory

_____________________________________________________

R U T G E R D A Y

Credit to the Big Ten for doing the basketball scheduling equivalent of a news dump and dropping this game the day after the Super Bowl so that it can be played, concluded, and then have its existence disputed for a generation. With the Hoosiers playing on Saturday, I wasn’t even considering the possibility of another game just two later on the east coast but HEY JIM DELANEY THANKS. CAN’T WAIT FOR THAT BIG APPLE BIG TEN TOURNAMENT THAT TAKES PLACE IN [squints] twenty-three days.

Neither of these teams are good and neither play a particularly watchable form of basketball. Indiana’s team eFG% is sitting at 46.7% in conference play. Rutger? 40.9%. The Scarlet Knights are 2-8 over their last 10, riding a 5-game losing streak while Indiana comes to Piscataway losing 5 of 6 with a 4-game losing streak.

As they say: form is temporary, class is permanent— these two teams just happen to be bad in both cases.

Listen, no one is going to blame you if you don’t watch this game. There’s a decent chance Indiana loses and that isn’t something you need right now. Mondays are hard enough. Watch the new Cloverfield movie instead, it looks dope.

Rutger FOUR FACTORS

- eFG% TO% Off. Reb % FT Rate
- eFG% TO% Off. Reb % FT Rate
INDIANA (#102 adj. offense) 50.0% (197th) 17.7% (108th) 32.7% (67th) 36.3% (102nd)
RUTGER (#19 adj. defense) 46.7% (26th) 21.5% (34th) 29.5% (210th) 29.8% (90th)
-
RUTGER (#283 adj. offense) 43.7% (345th) 17.0% (69th nice) 33.1% (59th) 30.7% (248th)
INDIANA (#94 adj. defense) 51.8% (224th) 19.8% (119th) 28.6% (162nd) 31.3% (128th)

The first thing that should pop out of these numbers is Rutger’s impressive defensive scores. They’re a top-20 defense! That’s not unexpected from a Steve Pikiell outfit, as he consistently had better than average defenses on a national scale while at Stony Brook. That said, while KenPom does adjust for opponent, it should be noted that the Scarlet Knights played the 348th strongest non-conference schedule (there are only 351 D1 teams) and in conference play, Rutger ranks a mere 9th in the B1G in defensive efficiency, surrendering 9 more points per 100 possessions than they did outside of conference play.

On offense, they’re miles worse than the Hoosiers overall and are also scoring nearly 12 points less per 100 possessions in conference play– a dreadful 0.87 PPP. That would rank second to dead last in Division 1 basketball, with only 4-21 Coppin State of the MEAC preventing them from hitting rock bottom.

(And, yet, they just put up 1.17 PPP in an upset bid that fell just short against the conference’s best team! The Big Ten is something else.)

The Scarlet Knights only have two B1G victories, but both came against teams ranked similarly to Indiana at home, so it’s not as if a Rutger victory would be uncharted waters. At the same time, they did drop consecutive home games to 237th ranked Stony Brook and 215th ranked Hartford so it’s not as if their home arena is an impregnable fortress.

Rutger is lead by a familiar face— point guard Corey Sanders. The junior remains the Scarlet Knights’ go-to guy, as he eats up more possessions and shots than anyone else on the team but remains as inefficient as he’s ever been. His ORtg for the year sits at 92.8, which is better than last year’s 89.5 but not by much and still pretty bad overall, particularly for a guy that takes as many possessions as he does.

He shoots 22.5% from 3 and 42.3% from 2 and both numbers are even worse in B1G play. He’s not much a rebounder on either end but he does post excellent assist and turnover numbers for a point guard. One can only wonder how much better Rutger could be if Sanders played more to his strengths (distributing) and less to his glaring weaknesses (shooting / scoring).

Freshman guard Geo Baker has shown a lot of promise for a freshman, he’s one of only two currently available and healthy Rutger players running an above-average ORtg. Both him and Issa Thiam are the team’s only consistent threats from beyond the arc (Baker is hitting 37.9%, Thiem is at 40.9%) and Baker adds in a positive A/TO ratio to his toolbox as well. Thiem’s 6-10 frame would typically be an issue for Indiana’s size deficiency, but Thiem is far more perimeter-oriented and that’s reflected in his shot selection (twice as many 3s as 2s) and dreadful rebounding numbers.

STUFF TO WATCH FOR:

  • Deshawn Freeman: the do-it-all forward for Pikiell’s squad is coming off a 14/9 performance against Purdue and could be a nightmare for Indiana to try and handle in the post. While he’s not a particularly efficient player (eFG of 39.8%) he’s a tremendous rebounder on both ends while also contributing big-time plays on defense with steals and blocks. He’s also rather adept at drawing fouls and is the kind of player that can really muck up a defensive game plan by generating extra possessions on offense and sending Indiana’s best players to the bench with foul trouble.
  • Speaking of steals and blocks: The Scarlet Knights do an excellent job of generating turnovers without constantly committing fouls in the attempt. Their dTO% is 34th nationally (3rd in B1G play) and they have upper-third marks in blocks and steals. And yet, their dFTR remains above average as well, meaning they’re adept at getting all-ball when they gamble for the block or steal. The Hoosiers must be cognizant of this, as it’s a big part of what Rutger tries to accomplish defensively. The Hoosiers have done an alright job of protecting the ball this year, but a lapse on this front tonight could lead to disaster.
  • If you believe in momentum, Indiana could start to build some tonight: The Hoosiers just finished a six-game stretch that included 5 games of opponents ranked 39th or better on KenPom, and 4 games of opponents ranked 14th or better. It was as brutal a stretch as can be conceived given the state of the Big Ten this year. But, on the flip side, that means the run-in is more than reasonable. The Hoosiers close the regular season with games against #138 Rutger, #90 Minnesota, #94 Illinois, #103 Iowa, and #61 Nebraska before the season finale rematch with Ohio State. Now, Indiana certainly won’t be favored to win all of those games nor should they be expected to, but if the effort that brought close losses to Purdue and Michigan State can be replicated against the Illinois and Iowas of the conference, Indiana will likely come away victorious.
  • Vegas vs. KenPom: As a sports gambling enthusiast, I’m constantly looking for ways to gain an edge on the spread. While KenPom is far from a perfect predictor (and, given its popularity, already baked into the spread anyway) I’m always interested to see what his numbers say vs. what the books put out. They’re often pretty lockstep with one another but every now and then you’ll see a huge discrepancy and we have one tonight. Pomeroy likes the Scarlet Knights in a 1 point victory while Vegas opened with the Hoosiers as a 1-point favorite, which has since pushed all the way to -3.5 at the time of posting.

PREDICTION:

Rutger wins after being down most of the game and there are 900 comments from users with the initials ‘RU’ somewhere in their username on this game preview by midnight. I scoop out my eyeballs with a melon baller.