Game 21: Rutgers at Michigan Preview

Dylan Burkhardt
on
Basics
Who: Rutgers (6-14, 0-7 B1G) at Michigan (15-5, 5-2 B1G)  Rutgers_University_New_Brunswick[1]
Where: Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, MI
When: 7:00 p.m., January 27th, 2016
TV: BTN
Radio: 950 AM, 102.9 FM

Michigan hosts Rutgers tonight, a team that even John Beilein struggled to praise in his pregame press conference on Tuesday afternoon.

“Everyone’s a Division I player,” Beilein said. “Everybody can run and dunk and, with the three-pointer and foul trouble, anybody can win a game.”

By definition every Division I team can make shots, but there aren’t many that shoot the ball worse than Rutgers.

Rutgers has played 1731 possessions of Big Ten basketball since joining the conference last season and has won just 2 of 26 games while being outscored by .24 points per possession. The Scarlet Knights were bad last year, but they are worse this year. Through 7 league losses, Rutgers has been outscored by an unthinkable .36 points per trip — the per possession margin in Michigan’s worst loss of the season at SMU.

The Scarlet Knights

St. John’s (Big East) and South Florida (American) are the only major-conference offenses worse than Rutgers on the season. The Scarlet Knights are ranked 305th in adjusted offensive efficiency and are scoring just .9 points per possession in Big Ten play. Rutgers ranks last in the Big Ten in shooting — 45.2% on twos (13th) and 27.8% on threes (13th) for a 44.3 eFG% — and 13th in offensive rebounding. The only average area of the Rutgers offense is turnover rate, where the Knights give the ball away on 16.5% of their offensive possessions — 6th in the league.

Some good news for Rutgers? It surpassed a point per possession of offensive output against Iowa on Thursday, the first time it has accomplished that feat in league play. The Scarlet Knights still lost by 16 points at home to Iowa.

Defensively, Rutgers is better (ranked 219th nationally) but still worst in the Big Ten. League foes score 1.27 points per possession against the Scarlet Knights while the next worse defense in the league allows 1.13 points per possession. The Scarlet Knights have the worst eFG% defense in the Big Ten at 56.6% — allowing 56.5% two-point shooting (14th) and 37.8% three-point shooting (10th). They are also the worst defensive rebounding team in the conference, allowing opponents to rebound 43.4% of their misses. Rutgers doesn’t force many turnovers (14.9%, 12th), but does a surprisingly good job at avoiding fouls — allowing 30.8 FTA per 100 FGA.

Note: All team and individual statistics are Big Ten only unless otherwise mentioned.

Personnel

Freshman point guard Corey Sanders has a highlight reel worthy handle, but the point guard isn’t very efficient. He shoots 41% on twos and 34% on threes while turning the ball over on 29% of his possessions. He’s averaging just shy of 15 shot attempts per game, so he’ll get plenty of volume, but he’s also turned the ball over at least three times in all but one Big Ten game. Sanders is the most dangerous player on the Rutgers roster, but he hasn’t been consistent enough to lead Eddie Jordan’s team.

corey sanders

6-foot-2 sophomore Mike Williams isn’t a distributor (he has four assists in Big Ten play), but he’s a volume shot taker for the Scarlet Knights. Williams shoots 42% on twos and 29% on threes and is effective at the line when he gets there. He’s not a heavy-turnover player, but he’s wildly inconsistent with three games over 17 points and three games with 6 points or less in league play.

6-foot-3 senior Bishop Daniels  is a willing passer, but he’s turning the ball over on a fifth of his possessions. The majority of his offense comes inside the arc (41% 2-point shooter), but he’ll attempt the occasional three (29%).

DJ Foreman splits time between the four and five positions. He shoots 53% at the rim, but does a great job of getting to the free throw line (61 FTA/FGA). Only Nigel Hayes has gotten to the free throw line more often than Foreman in Big Ten play and he could pose a difficulty for Michigan with his 6-foot-8 size at the four position.

6-foot-9, 245 pound big man Greg Lewis starts at the five. He shoots just 37% on two-point attempts due to his affinity for the mid-range jumper. Lewis is also an above average shot blocker and offensive rebounder on the inside.

greg lewis

6-foot-6 freshman Jonathan Laurent returned against Iowa after missing the previous four games due to a concussion. Laurent made a big impact, scoring 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting in 29 minutes off the bench. 6-foot-4 Omari Grier was a former starter and one of Rutgers’ better perimeter shooters, but he came off the bench against Iowa to score 10 points on the wing.

Keys

  • Show up: Michigan came out flat and lackadaisical against Minnesota and faced a much-closer game than anyone anticipated. In games like this, a hot start and then a second run can be critical to stretch the lead early and put the game away. Rutgers has at least given a few teams a scare, but usually falls off — for example, the Scarlet Knights led Ohio State at the half before losing by 28.
  • Feed Aubrey DawkinsAubrey Dawkins made 11-of-16 threes and averaged 21 points per game against the Scarlet Knights last season. He’s quietly emerging as a reliable spark off of the bench and this could be a nice spot for him to have a breakout game. Of course, Duncan Robinson will get the first chance. Robinson should see plenty of open opportunities and could break out of his mini three-point shooting ‘slump’, making just 8 of his last 25 triples.
  • Mark Donnal: offensive rebounder: Mark Donnal is leading the Big Ten in offensive rebounding rate since conference play began. It would have sounded crazy to say a month ago, but he’s emerged as a legitimate threat on the offensive glass and Rutgers is the worst defensive rebounding team in the conference. A few second chances and putbacks or kickouts for threes could turn this one into a blowout sooner than later.

Bottom Line

According to KenPom, Michigan has only played two Division I teams worse than Rutgers — Delaware State and Bryant — which means the Scarlet Knights are ranked lower than the two teams that Michigan beat by record totals: Charlotte and Youngstown State. KenPom projects an 84-62 victory, giving Rutgers just a 3% chance at the road upset.

  • A2MIKE

    How did they beat Wisconsin last year?

  • Mark Worthley

    How are they in the Big Ten?

  • Mattski

    Would love to see Donnal have a monster game against them.

  • rlcBlue

    There’s not a whole lot to be gained from this outing, but it would be nice to see them do the following:

    1. Win the game
    [strike]2. Get LeVert some time on the court[/strike]
    3. Prevent Sanders from penetrating into the lane
    4. Get a productive shift from at least one backup big
    5. Get Walton and Irvin at least ten minutes of rest

    • Ethan

      The bullets for me are:

      1. Limit turnovers as much as possible. They’ve been really sloppy with turnovers of late.
      2. Quality minutes for DJ Wilson and Mo Wagner. I’d also like to see DJ score inside, instead of settling for threes.
      3. Overall offensive cohesion. Run the offense through Rahk, and let him pick up some more experience in that area.

      • Mattski

        I still think that some of the turnovers–though not defensible–have come from being casual rather than tight. The difference for me is that the players are trying stuff, staying loose and creative. And maybe that pays dividends down the road. Meant to ask Dylan’s take on this for the mailbag, especially re: NB. I think Beilein’s best teams here have played with a sense of freedom and fun, and therefore maybe overachieved. I think this team is going to need to have a little of that character to go deep this year.

  • Kenny

    Wilson and Chatman should get some minutes today.

  • Corperryale

    Sanders will become a very good player in time. Athletic, nice handle, nice step-back. I wouldn’t mind a player like him at Michigan. The rest of Rutgers’ team not so much.

    • I have found him painful to watch whenever I watch Rutgers. Obviously talented, but throws way too many possessions away and gives away too many defensive possessions IMO. Watch, he’ll probably go for 30 tonight now that I said it.

      • MAZS

        Because that’s a law

      • gobluemd16

        Haha! He takes some dreadful shots, but as you said, now they will probably go in.