Rutgers Scarlet Knights basketball hasn’t made the kind of strides the football team has. In the last decade or so they have never finished with a winning Big East record and have consistently battled DePaul for bottomfeeder status in the conference. But since Mike Rice took the head coaching job the Scarlet Knights have started to turn the corner. While the record didn’t reflected the change in his first two seasons it’s finally starting to show in his third year at the helm. The Scarlet Knights are now boasting an 11 – 3 record, just 4 wins shy of their best record in the Big East since Rice took over and with half a season left to accomplish that goal. I’m betting they’ll break that mark.
Right now it seems like Rutgers and Cincinnati are going in opposite directions. The Scarlet Knights look like they’re starting to hit their stride having won 7 of their last 8 games including knocking off a ranked Pitt Panthers team last Saturday. The Bearcats however are reeling from two straight losses and haven’t been able to put together a complete game in weeks. Normally a team with the history of the Scarlet Knights wouldn’t scare me but with the way both teams have been playing of late, and how Cincinnati played at the RAC last season, Rutgers definitely has my attention.
After facing one of the most efficient offensive teams in the country in the Notre Dame Fighting Irish the Cincinnati Bearcats will be happy to know that they will be facing one of the most sloppy offensive teams in the nation tomorrow night. Rutgers just flat out doesn’t move the ball enough (just 13.7 assists per game), commits too many turnovers (3rd most in the Big East), and as a result doesn’t score that many points. But the Scarlet Knights play hard on offense and try to get to the free throw line, where they are the best in the conference in getting free points from the stripe. So Rutgers should be out-shot from the field but they could make the game interesting if Cincinnati gets into foul trouble and lets them shoot a good portion of freebies.
Players to Watch
Eli Carter (#5) vs. Cashmere Wright: Just like they were in last year’s game, these two will be butting heads at the point. And hopefully it doesn’t go the same way this time around. Last year Cash had perhaps the worst game of his career, scoring just 3 points in 34 minutes on the floor while Carter tallied 17 en route to a Rutgers victory. This time around Cash will need to perform much better running the offense and especially with UC’s woes on this side of the court, the Notre Dame game notwithstanding. On the opposite side Cincinnati’s point guard will also be tested as Carter is clearly a prolific scorer.
Myles Mack (#4): Fellow sophomore Myles Mack is also a skilled scorer from the guard position and will run the Scarlet Knight offense frequently. He’s also a menace on defense. Only 5’9″, Mack is extremely dangerous with his hands averaging 2.1 steals per game which is 6th best in the Big East. Any of the guards who find themselves manned up by the Rutgers guards will need to be aware of this as Mack can turn a mistake into quick points for the Scarlet Knights.
Final Thoughts and Prediction
Carter and Mack are Rutgers’ primary weapons on offense. But after them there’s a massive drop off in production. The Scarlet Knights’ next leading scorer averages just 8.7 points per game. No wonder they are 10th in the Big East in this category. So if Cincinnati can slow down Carter and Mack, which is not an easy task, they should be sitting pretty at the end of the game. Despite the troubles in recent weeks the Bearcats should win this game, they have to win. Otherwise something electronic and expensive will be hurled out my living room window.