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Nebrasketball Game Preview: ‘Buttgers’ no more, Rutgers is really good

Leave your ‘butt’ jokes at the door for this one, folks

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Rutgers Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Nebraska Cornhuskers have a tough one ahead as the Huskers head to Piscataway to take on the RV/RV Rutgers Scarlet Knights. In case you all have been sleeping under a rock this season, or really the past several, RU is an outstanding squad who currently holds a five-way tie for fifth place in the Big Ten standings following two-straight losses on the road this past week.

Those single-digit defeats came at then No. 18 Indiana and at Illinois. Rutgers also picked up a second-straight season of defeating then No. 1 Purdue thanks to a Jan. 2 65-64 win in West Lafayette earlier this season and a 70-68 victory over then No. 1 Purdue in Piscataway on Dec. 9, 2021 last season.

While Rutgers may sit at No. 5 in the league standings, hall-of-fame head coach Tom Izzo had nothing but praise for the Scarlet Knights just over a week ago as Michigan State fell to Rutgers 61-55. In his mind, Izzo believes “New York City’s Big Ten team” is the second best in the league and fans should leave the scoffing at the door.

I think people, especially at Nebraska, will say, ‘Well you lost to Rutgers.’ Rutgers, in my humble opinion, is the second-best team in the Big Ten. They’re not as good as Purdue, but they beat Purdue. So you figure that out. But I do think that they’re a really good team.

Okay, so Izzo didn’t actually include that “Nebraska” part. Still, the point remains here that if you clicked on this article expecting jokes about Rutgers being bad then you have had your head buried in the sand for several seasons of Big Ten men’s basketball at this point.

Rutgers’ head coach Steve Pikiell is in his seventh season at the helm in Piscataway and his 19th overall at the college level. Pikiell has amasses a 114-100 record leading the Scarlet Knights and, if it weren’t for 2020 being cancelled, would be looking at his fourth-straight trip to the big dance this March as RU is widely considered a lock to make the NCAA Tournament this season.

Center Clifford Omoruyi leads the Scarlet Knights in both points per game (13.5), rebounds per game (9.8), and blocks per game (2.0). Guard Cam Spencer is the only other player for RU averaging double figures in scoring with 12.4 ppg. Omoruyi is 17th in the league in ppg and Spencer is 25th. Nebraska’s Derrick Walker is the only Husker in the top-25 scoring for the Big Ten, averaging 13.5 ppg.

However, three players all average over 9.0 ppg as well for a balanced offensive attack. Guard Caleb McConnell averages 9.6 ppg and is second on the team for boards with 5.3 rpg and steals with 2.5 spg. Forward Aundre Hyatt adds 9.5 ppg and guard Paul Mulcahy 9.1 pgg. Mulcahy also leads the team in assists with 4.8 apg.

Rutgers strength is not in its offense, which is ninth in the Big Ten at 69.6 ppg, but rather its defense. RU holds opponents to a league low 60.0 ppg, besting Purdue’s 61.6 ppg. Nebraska, for comparison, is 12th in the conference in both scoring offense at 66.2 ppg and scoring defense at 69.1 ppg.

Tuesday night marks the 18th all-time meeting between the two programs with UNL holding a narrow 9-8 margin over RU in the series. The two played just three times before the Scarlet Knights joined the Big Ten, and the series dates to just 1999-2000. The Huskers were 1-2 against the Scarlet Knights before becoming conference foes, and the Huskers started league competition with five straight victories over Rutgers. Since then, Nebraska has gone 4-6, including 1-4 in the last five meetings and has dropped two-straight in the series.

Rutgers is 14-2 at home this season, has sold out every home matchup except a non-conference game against Central Connecticut State the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and has only lost one conference matchup at home, a 75-65 defeat at the hands of Iowa on Jan. 8.

  • When: Tuesday, Feb. 14 at 7:00 p.m. CT/8:00 ET
  • Where: A Cold War era airplane hangar, or Jersey Mike’s Arena, your pick
  • TV: Your significant other would like to have a word about how you neglect that significant other on Valentine’s Day to watch college sports
  • Announcers: See above
  • Radio: Huskers Radio Network; Kent Pavelka (play-by-play), Jake Muhleisen (analyst)
  • Broadcast Stations:
  • Also available on and the Huskers app.
    The pregame broadcast with Pavelka and Muhleisen begins one hour before tipoff.
  • Betting Odds: Tom Osborne believes gambling is the devil, so don’t do it.

Rutgers No. 16 in KenPom/No. 21 in NET
2022-23 Record: 16-9 (8-6)
Head Coach: Steve Pikiell
Record at RU: 114-100 (7th year)
Career Record: 311-274 (19th year)

Nebraska No. 102 in KenPom/No. 100 in NET
2022-23 Record: 12-14 (5-10)
Head Coach: Fred Hoiberg
Record at Nebraska: 36-81 (4th year)
Career Record: 151-137 (9th year)