Match-up: Rutgers Scarlet Knights (12-8) vs. #23 Michigan Wolverines (16-5)
Date: Sunday, January 21st, 2018
Location: Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Line: Michigan (-12)
Michigan basketball looks to right the ship at home on Sunday. Coming off a twenty point loss at Nebraska, the Wolverines have questions they need to answer.
Meanwhile, for Rutgers, they are coming off a nice win against Iowa. The Scarlet Knights are no pushover this year. They upset Seton Hall and took Michigan State to overtime in East Lansing.
Beilein and the Wolverines will need to play a complete game to avoid their second straight upset loss. According to the sportsbook at BetOnline.ag, the line on this game is Michigan (-12).
Second-year coach Steve Pikiell has some nice young talent on his roster. Although Rutgers owns a 2-5 record in Big Ten play, they have nearly pulled off some nice upsets this season. #9 Michigan State (twice) and Florida State both went down to the wire with Rutgers.
Those performances have been tremendous and are reasons to believe that Pikiell has them on the rise, but the ugly losses raise serious questions. Home losses to Stony Brook and Hartford don’t look good at all, and a near loss to Central Connecticut State at home makes Rutgers seem like a cupcake game on your schedule.
It’s dangerous to view a team like that. If Rutgers plays as they did against the Spartans, Michigan could be in trouble depending on how the Wolverines play. If they play like how they did against teams like CC State and Hartford, Michigan may as well start the team managers.
Rutgers’ play-making point guard is going to cause problems in Ann Arbor on Sunday. He had the Breslin Center on the edge of their seats as he almost led Rutgers to an upset victory.
He has scored fifteen or more points in nine games this year and has eclipsed twenty in four of those contests.
Michigan’s point guards struggled a lot on Thursday night. Beilein even went with a no point guard look at one time. Sanders will make them pay for any mistakes made on Sunday.
Zavier Simpson must bring his A game with Sanders coming to town.
Baker, a true freshman, completes an outstanding one-two guard combo for Rutgers.
He averages nearly twelve points per game and is the perfect sidekick for Sanders.
Michigan’s guards struggled all night with Nebraska. Rutgers is just as good if not better at guard, giving the Wolverines yet another chance to grow.
Freeman is leading in rebounds for Rutgers. He averages seven boards a game with eleven points and grabs offensive rebounds at a substantial rate.
Livers will match-up with him most of the night and will look to shut his scoring down. Livers, Teske, and Wagner need to secure rebounds and limit the extra shots for the Scarlet Knights.
Michigan has been a good rebounding team all season and that trend must continue on Sunday.
Keys to the Game
Michigan’s seniors continue to underwhelm this year. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman has struggled the last week mightily while Duncan Robinson has struggled all year. Michigan needs these guys to step up down the stretch if they have aspirations of going deep in March.
Michigan needs a leader on offense. Simpson emerged from the group of point guards up until Thursday when he looked lost against Nebraska. Simpson can prove he belongs at the point in Beilein’s offense, or he can let one bad game end his tenure as the starter.
Michigan struggled to shoot the three against the Cornhuskers, hitting just twenty-two percent of their shots from deep. Rutgers has the best three-point defense in the Big Ten and will provide the Wolverines a stiff test. Michigan needs to find their stroke again for the offense to get clicking.
Michigan was riding high until Nebraska grounded them. Rutgers should not be taken lightly, and Beilein knows that. Sanders will light up Crisler while Michigan’s guards struggle, but it will be Moe Wagner and Jordan Poole who display their offensive talents en route to a close Michigan victory.
Prediction: Michigan 68 Rutgers 64
Emery D’Arcy: 88-64 Michigan
Jake Rossler: 61-58 Michigan
Andrew Shadler: 75-59 Michigan
Charlie Bolone: 77-61 Michigan
Seth Berry: 75-67 Michigan
Max Schnell: 79-65 Michigan
Josh Swerdloff: 71-65 Michigan
Evan Lynch: 81-65 Michigan