Michigan and Rutgers get the Thursday afternoon action started in Chicago (noon, BTN) in what has been deemed a play-out game for the NCAA Tournament. The loser won’t have much to look forward to on Sunday, while the winner gets a coveted shot against Purdue on Friday to punch their ticket once and for all.
The Scarlet Knights
Rutgers is a team headed in the wrong direction. The Scarlet Knights have dropped six of their last eight games and wasted gutty road efforts at Wisconsin and Penn State by losing at Minnesota and home against Northwestern in the final week of the regular season. Since Mag’s injury on Feb. 4., Rutgers is ranked 131st on Bart Torvik — 239th in offense and 53rd in defense. This was a terrific team in December that appears to have lost its way down the stretch.
The stats are ugly across the board:
Comparing those two spans, Rutgers is -14.6 points worse per 100 possessions since Mag’s injury — its offense scoring six less points and its defense allowing 8.6 more points. The Scarlet Knights are shooting 2.1% worse on two-pointers, 3.1% worse on three-pointers and 15.8% worse from the free throw line without Mag.
But the most glaring issue is on the other end: Opponents are shooting 10.3% better on two-pointers (53.4% compared to 43.1%) against Rutgers since Mag suffered his injury, turning arguably its biggest strength into a major weakness.
It does not help that Aundre Hyatt, who replaced Mag in the starting lineup, has struggled mightily of late. He averaged 4.8 points on 26.9% shooting (37.5% on twos, 22.2% on threes, 20% on free throws), 1.3 assists and one turnover in 24 minutes across the final four games of the regular season.