Where: Breslin Center, East Lansing
When: 7:00 pm (EST)
TV/Radio: Big Ten Network/Spartan Sports Network radio
Rutgers 6-2: #75 (Kenpom)
1 - Baker (6’4” jr), Jacob Young (6’2” jr)
2 - Montez Mathis (6’4” so)
3 - Caleb McConnell (6’7” so), Paul Mulcahy (6’6” fr)
4 - Ron Harper (6’6” so), Akwasi Yeboah (6’6” sr)
5 - Myles Johnson (6’10” so), Shaq Carter (6’9” sr), Mamadou Doucoure (6’9” jr)
Rutgers is a bit of an enigma, they have beat up on 6 poor teams, lost to both of the better teams they have played (St. Bon Kenpom #125, Pitt Kenpom #73), and yet they are not a bad team at all I don’t think. They haven’t shot the ball well (28.3% from 3!!!); so expect them to drill like 15 3’s in the Breslin Center. They are very good from 2pt range (~57%, #14 in the country), don’t shoot well from the line, and get a fair number of shots blocked.
Defensively, this team doesn’t give up easy or quick shots, they block a ton of shots, contest well inside the arc, and don’t give up a ton of trips to the line. Baker and Harper are their main guys, though both are in a Rocket Watts-esque shooting slump (both right around 27% from 3 on a lot of attempts). Bottom line this team certainly has weak spots, but they won’t just roll over. They compete well, we know they have moxie, and they have a number of big bodies to throw at the paint.
We must own the glass, and get out and run even without Watts: Rutgers is good in the half-court defensively, and we are really struggling in the half-court right now given our lack of competent low-post scoring. Always remember the UVA-postulate: low-scoring, low possession games favor less-talented under-dogs. Hitting some shots early would be a blessing, and really testing Johnson and Baker in the PnR will be vital.
I expect Brown and Henry to have field days (and even for Kyle Ahrens to have a good game), as Rutgers’ wings are not strengths for them. If Baker gets going we could be in for a long night, but I think Cash will be up for this one knowing just how vital the start to this B1G campaign is for the season’s fortunes. Look for Cash to get a double-double, and for Henry and Brown to each get something along the lines of 15 pts, 6 rebounds lines.
How we handle Harper (who can be a really tricky match-up given his strength, savy, and general skill) will be crucial. This will be a great opportunity for each of the 4’s to show their strengths. Bingham jr may be able to overcome Harper’s strength and explosion with his length, but Kithier and Hall seem like better match-ups to me.
It sucks to have Watts out, and I hope he gets fit soon, but a spell on the sidelines is likely going to do wonders for him and the team. I think this gives Loyer one last back-to-the-wall shot to show that he should be a part of the rotation and a continuing part of the team, and this FORCES Izzo to start Brown (watch him start Ahrens just to spite me). The starting group of Cash, Gabe, Aaron, Bingham jr, and X is maybe our best lineup and should start the rest of the season (health-willing). When Watts comes back in a couple of weeks, he can return as scoring punch off the bench, and I am sure his shot will start falling.
Any which way, this one feels like the end of the nightmarish beginning of the season to me, I am feeling the tides beginning to turn.
MSU 80 Rutgers 64