Date: Wednesday, January 24th
Time: 6:00pm CST
Location: Piscataway, NJ
Mascot: Scarlet Knight
Coach: Steve Pikiell
2016-17 Record: 15-18 (3-15 Big Ten)
2017-18 Record: 12-9 (2-6 Big Ten)
The Scarlet Knights started last year off very well. Especially for a team that hasn’t had much success in their history. They nearly went perfect in their non-conference schedule going 11-2. Their only losses to Miami and Seaton Hall. It is worth noting their 11 wins were against fairly easy opponents. Many of them didn’t even make double-digit wins on their season.
This lack of competition in the non-conference ended up biting them in the rear once conference play started. The increase in competition showed the flaws in the team and they only had four wins the rest of the season. Penn State, Illinois, and Nebraska during the regular season and an upset of Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament.
Rugers started the year on another nice run. They went 6-0 until they met up with Florida State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. That loss started a three game losing streak that included Minnesota and Michigan State in early conference games.
A few easy wins eventually came for the Knights. Eventually they knocked off their first ranked opponent with a then #15 Seton Hall 71-65. It was a huge upset for a program that hasn’t had a significant win in years.
However, since that win they have only won two games, to struggling Wisconsin and Iowa.
They are lead by junior Corey Sanders. The point guard is averaging 14.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg, and 3.4 apg. Hes a decent threat inside but struggles at the three point line making less that 30% on the season. Nebraska will want to push him out to keep him in check. He was also clutch in the past two wins. If it’s a close game in the end, he will most likely be the one shooting.
Deshawn Freeman comes in as their main threat at forward. He is averaging 11.6ppg, and 7.4 rpg. His main threat is under the rim and if the Huskers continue to play defense like they have the past few games then he should be shut down early.
The biggest player to come out of the program this year would be freshman Geo Baker. He is playing 32 minutes a game while averaging 11.5 ppg, 2.4 rpg, and 3.3 ppg. You will not see another freshman in the conference see more court time than Geo. He’s athletic, smart, and adapts well to changes in the game. While he will most likely not win the Big Ten Freshman of the year, he should garner some votes.
Rutgers is an improved team. They may not score the most points but they have come to handle the ball well and are actually the top in the Big Ten in fewest turnovers at 10.9 per game. They also have a fairly salty defense, especially in defending against the three.
What they have right now is the start to something that could build into a decent Big Ten team, just not this year. They have some decent young talent and the coaching staff seems to be competent for once. This should all come together for them at some point, but in the future.
I expect a decent game since it is in Piscataway and it’s hard to win on the road during conference play. It may not be the game the Huskers want but I see them pulling this off in the end. The Huskers win game 15 on the season.
University of Nebraska 67 Rutgers University 59.