Previewing the Rutgers Scarlet Knights: We Do So Play Basketball!

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What’s that you say? Rutgers has a basketball team? And this is the first you’re hearing about this? Well surprisingly they do and the fact that you didn’t know Rutgers played basketball before arriving at this post isn’t shocking in the least. Despite playing for the last 105 years, Rutgers has only made the NCAA tournament six times. Their best year came in 1976 when they made the final four but only returned to the tourney four times since. Their most recent appearance was in 1991 and haven’t made the Big Dance since joining the Big East. In the last decade, the Scarlet Knights have been hard to watch going 151 – 169 overall and 46 – 122 in conference. In these 10 years, they have only posted winning campaigns in three of those seasons, never had a winning record in the Big East, and were typically regulated to ‘bottomfeeder’ status in the conference.

But things are looking up for the Scarlet Knights as new coach Mike Rice appears to know what he’s doing in Piscataway. Despite going 5 – 13 in the Big East last season and laying an egg against freakin’ DePaul at home last night, Rutgers has played markedly better this year knocking off ranked Florida and UConn. They also have a slew of better recruits which I will talk about in a bit but first let’s get to some stats of interest in this game:

Key Numbers

The Scarlet Knights are one of the worst teams in the country at scoring points (67 per game). Only two Rutgers players are in double figures in points per game. It sounds like only a few players run the show and if Cincinnati can shut them down, their entire offense will sputter. Rutgers doesn’t do a whole lot of things well but they do play very sounds basketball offensively. While they struggle to generate points, they the best team in the Big East at both not turning the ball over and not drawing fouls. If you’re going to beat the Scarlet Knights they will make you do it straight up instead of on the free throw line or with fast-break points.

Players to Watch

– Eli Carter: The true freshman took a few months to adjust to the speed of college ball but he has excelled in recent months bringing his scoring average up to 13.3 points per game. He runs the team from the point guard position and garners the most minutes. As a true freshman that’s very impressive and he will be a load for Cash/Dixon/Guyn/Davis whoever will be in charge of covering him. UC’s perimeter defense hasn’t been able to stop anyone recently and if left alone, Carter can do serious damage.

– Yancy Gates/Cheikh Mbodj: Rutgers doesn’t rebound well at all. They’re 14th in the Big East in rebounds per game and don’t have anyone dominating enough to match up against Yancy. If he plays the boards as well as he did against Syracuse I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t have double-digit rebs by halftime. This could also be a coming out party for Cheikh Mbodj who has been coping with a nagging injury throughout the season. This game could give him some confidence down the stretch.

Final Thoughts and Prediction

The Scarlet Knights are extremely young. Their leading scorer is a freshman. Their second leading scorer is a freshman. Their third leading scorer is a sophomore. Mike Rice has definitely upped the talent-level in Piscataway and they did have some nice wins at the beginning of the season but the arduous Big East schedule is beginning to wear on the young fellas. While this is a home game and the RAC is no easy place to win, Cincinnati should be highly motivated from the close loss to Syracuse on Monday and well rested from nearly a week off. The Bearcats are a veteran team with a wide-variety of scoring options that the Scarlet Knights will struggle to keep up with.

Cincinnati: 75

Rutgers: 64