Rutgers Scarlet Knights Preview
Date: Friday, January 3rd
Time: 7:00 pm CST/8:00 pm EST
Location: Pinnacle Bank Arena, Lincoln, NE
2018-19 Record: 14-17 (7-13 7T-10th in Big Ten)
2019-20 Record: 10-3
All-Time Series Record: 8-4 overall, with the Huskers on a one game win streak. Since Rutgers joined the Big Ten in 2014, Nebraska is 5-2 against the Scarlet Knights. Nebraska also owns the longest win streak in this series at five, from 2007 until losing in January of 2017.
Mascot: Scarlet Knights
Head Coach: Steve Pikiell (4th season, 51-56)
How To Watch: BTN
Rutgers had what amounted to their most successful season in men’s basketball since joining the B1G, a whopping 14-17 overall record with no post-season after a first-round exit from the B1G Tournament at the hands of the Huskers, and a school best 7-13 conference record. I want to throw shade at that, but I suppose the Huskers have only done that twice themselves, so I shouldn’t mock too hard. And to be fair, they were also a young team (330th in experience last season) and Pikiell, unlike Chris Ash’s tenure, has shown himself to make steady forward progress in Piscataway and be the right man for the job. There was even reason for optimism given their strength at offensive rebounding—which was needed given their 31.2% three point shooting and 47.2% inside the arc—and quick pace of play, ranking fourth in the conference. However, Eugene Omoruyi transferred to Oregon in the off-season, along with his team best 13.8 points and 7.2 rebounds a game.
The Scarlet Knights are off to a great start this season by their standards. With their schedule currently 65th toughest, Rutgers has played some quality opponents to balance out the abundance of bad. They also have a few quality wins in the mix of games as well. FIrst up on the list of now quality wins? The Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks, who, after losing to Rutgers by 12 points, went on to upset the #1 ranked Duke Blue Devils in overtime their very next game. At Duke! Their actual notable wins, however, are over Wisconsin and then #22 Seton Hall. The Seton Hall Pirates also had a healthy Myles Powell for a good chunk of the first half, before he left with a concussion. Rutgers just dominated in this one, however, with a 68-48 win. Their home win over Wisconsin was impressive as well, with the final score 77-65.
Rutgers three losses are ones to generally be respected given one is to the #11 Michigan State Spartans in East Lansing and another at the Pittsburgh Panthers. However, their neutral-court loss to Saint Bonaventure Bonnies (8-5, 143rd in RPI) is a bit harder to swallow.
As for statistical rankings, Rutgers currently sits at 31st in RPI. KenPom has them at 51st, and 29th in adjusted defense. Adjusted offense, however, is all the way back at 108th, and tempo is 151st.
As for players to watch, sophomore guard Ron Harper Jr. leads Rutgers in points with 11.8 per game, while also averaging 6.1 rebounds and 1.2 steals. Second in scoring is junior guard Geo Baker with 11.4 points per game. However, Baker leads in assists, 4 per game, steals, 1.8, and minutes played, 30.5.
Meanwhile, 6’10” and 255 lbs. sophomore center Myles Johnson leads the team in boards with 8.7 rebounds per game, while averaging 9.1 points and 1.5 blocks. Johnson is also shooting 72.2% from the floor.
Rebounding wise, this team is extremely strong on the boards as they average 41 rebounds per game. They need it, however, as they only manage 47% shooting from the floor, and just 29.5% from three.
While the Huskers have generally had success against Rutgers since the Scarlet Knights joined the conference, it hasn’t been a guarantee with two losses in the series. This Rutgers team continues to improve year over year and be a tough out. As for Nebraska, this team is hot and cold on shooting and difficult to predict who will show up any given night so far. While my heart says the Huskers keep their perfect record at home against Rutgers in conference play in-tact, my head says there is not an easy prediction here. So with that in mind, I think home court advantage will be the decisive key in swaying my decision. Let’s call it:
Huskers 55-Scarlet Knights 54