Indiana Basketball: Conference Play Opens with Rutgers

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Game Info:

Indiana Hoosiers (10-3) vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (6-7)

Louis Brown Athletic Center  Piscataway, New Jersey

When: Wednesday, December 30th at 1:00 pm ET on ESPN2 and WIUX 99.1 FM (I’ll be on the call)

Line: Indiana -12.5

Pomeroy: Predicts Hoosiers victory by 13 with 87% chance of victory

With Indiana’s undeniably easy non-conference schedule finally behind us, I am excited to say it’s time for Big Ten basketball.  Let’s quickly take a look here at Indiana’s first matchup of the Big Ten season. Who could it be?  What challenging matchup will this Indiana basketball team be thrust into?

OH COME ON! NOT RUTGERS!

Nothing against Rutgers, but this game is hopefully just going to be a slightly harder version of the Kennesaw State game. I stress “hopefully”, as a poor performance here should strike fear into all.

At Big Ten Media Day, sophomore forward D.J. Foreman and sophomore guard Mike Williams both stated that they wanted to get through non-conference play without a blemish on their record, a perfect 13-0.

Rutgers is currently rocking an “impressive” 6-7 record after notching up “big” wins against Howard and…

*Crickets*

Safe to say that they may have had set their goals a little too high.

So, quite simply, Rutgers has not had a very strong start to their season.  Although this may be the case, they still remain confident as a group that they can rally and cause some sort of shake-up in the Big Ten.

The Big Ten may not be as deep as it was a year ago and Rutgers wants to try to do something with that.  The conference as a whole is much more top heavy, featuring No. 1 Michigan State, which just lost to Iowa, No. 4 Maryland and No. 14 Purdue.  The Scarlet Knights face all three of these teams in the upcoming month, so maybe they can cause some chaos?

Senior guard Omari Grier wants to silence the doubters saying, “I feel like a lot of people, just based off the way the team played last year and the way we’ve played this year at times, have their doubts about our team going into the Big Ten. At the end of the day, we still have to play the games. Everyone can have their assumptions or opinions about the games but we still have to play them. If we prepare and continue to play with confidence we can win games. We know that.”

Unfortunately for Omari, it’s not really doubters that lack faith in this Rutgers team, but it’s realists.

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It’s completely unjustified to think that a team that is 260th in forcing turnovers, 220th in offensive rebounds, 260th in giving up offensive rebounds and 326th in losing the ball to a steal, has any chance in Big Ten play.

So what does Indiana have to do?

Demolish them.

Now is Indiana’s opportunity to prove something. They need to run Rutgers out of the gym.

There are 5 keys to this game:

1) Can Rutgers restrict Indiana’s 3-point shooting?

  • Probably not, but it would help their case.

2) Can Indiana’s guards find Thomas Bryant down low?

  • Rutgers heads into Big Ten play with an eight-player rotation that features just two players (Greg Lewis and D.J. Foreman) taller than 6-6. Due to this lack of size, Rutgers has been egregious on the boards and are allowing a huge amount of points to big men.

3) Who’s going to win the turnover battle?

  • IU secures a lot of steals.
  • Rutgers loses the ball a lot.
  • IU turns the ball over a lot.
  • Rutgers can’t seem to force turnovers.

4) Who’s going to win the rebounding battle?

  •  IU is surprisingly great at offensive rebounding.
  • Rutgers gives up a lot of offensive rebounds.

5) How will Indiana’s depth come into play?

  • Indiana has a large rotation of players.
  • Rutgers is restricted to 8 players thanks to injury.
  • In Hoosier wins, IU is shooting 62.9% from the floor and 54.4% from three-point range in the final 10 minutes of games compared to its opponents shooting 38.7% from the floor and 25.5% from long distance during the conclusion of contests.

This game should be a cake walk, and if it’s not, I reserve the right to be mad.

Dec 23, 2015; Piscataway, NJ, USA; Rutgers Scarlet Knights guard Corey Sanders (3) brings the ball up court during the second half against the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights at the Louis Brown Athletic Center. Rutgers Scarlet Knights defeat the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights 72-64. Mandatory Credit: Jim O

X-Factors:

Rutgers: Corey Sanders

  • Sanders was the Big Ten Freshman of the Week this past week. He leads Conference freshmen in scoring (14.0) and steals (1.6), and is second in assists (3.5).
  • Sanders has also posted double figures in eight of the 11 games he has played this season. He leads the Scarlet Knights in scoring, steals, assists and minutes (30.9).

Indiana: Tim Priller

  • Tim Priller recently made a killer Tuna sandwich.
  • Tim Priller also doesn’t play for Rutgers.

Prediction: Indiana 84, Rutgers 66