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Minnesota Basketball: Here comes Rutgers, three keys to beating the Scarlet Knights

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Can the Gophers beat a red-hot Rutgers squad?

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Barn

11:00 AM

BTN

Rutgers

Believe it or not, but Rutgers is 5-2 in the Big Ten. The Scarlet Knights just beat Iowa, holding the Hawkeyes to 46 points, and have won 6 of their last 7 games.

Rutgers

Mascot: Scarlet Knights
Record: 11-6
KenPom Rank: 90

Despite the really nice conference record and recent success, Rutgers is currently ranked 90th according to KenPom and are actually not favored to win this game at The Barn? Why? Partly because they really have not played very well on the road. And partly because their strength of schedule is very weak.

Regardless, they’ve notched wins over Iowa and Purdue. They have won 5 of their last 6 Big Ten games. And the Gophers are in no position to take anybody for granted. Can the Gophers get this win and end their 4-game losing streak?

KEYS TO A GOPHER WIN

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Make threes - Rutgers, defensively, is very good at defending 2-point FGs. They are 20th nationally in this area. In their home wins, they have defended the 3 very well. In their road losses, they have not.

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Be ready for defensive toughness - Rutgers, under Steve Pikiell, has played defensive aggressively and physical. Michigan State is physical, but Rutgers is also aggressive. Sometimes it really puts the offense on their heels and it struggles to recover. Other times, it is over-aggressive and leaves the defense exposed. But you have to know it is coming and be ready for it. Iowa is one of the most efficient offenses in the country, they went into Piscataway on Wednesday and STRUGGLED, scoring just 46 points.

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Be sound on defense - The Gophers don’t have to be great on defense. They don’t have to out-tough the Scarlet Knights. The thing is, Rutgers isn’t that great on offense. Be sound, be in position to make sure they aren’t getting easy baskets.

PREDICTION

This is our win. The win we’ve been waiting for since before Christmas. Rutgers has really struggled on the road all year going 1-5 with losses to schools like DePaul, UMass and Penn State. Their lone road win was at Maryland.

Of course, this is going to be that first road game where they play great while the Gophers struggle. With a 5-2 conference record, this is a game that Rutgers needs if they want to finish near the top of the conference and have a high seed in both the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments.

I’m counting on a rejuvenated Gopher team.

Minnesota - 68
Rutgers - 63