The Red Storm come into the year with NCAA Tournament expectations after making some noise late in the season last year. They will return one of the top players in the Big East and added one of the most high-profile transfers in the country this year, which should put them in the national conversation as a potential tournament team.
Ponds, Heron make Red Storm a dangerous group
The Red Storm come into the year with high expectations after returning dynamic scorer Shamorie Ponds, who figures to be in the conversation for Big East Player of the Year. Ponds was the leading scorer in the Big East as a sophomore, averaging 21.6 points and 4.7 assists per game, but was often left as the lone catalyst for the Red Storm offense. That should change this year hough, as Chris Mullin’s squad also added Auburn transfer Mustapha Heron, who averaged 16.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game as a sophomore last season. He will be joined in the starting lineup by do-it-all guard Justin Simon and former Michigan State transfer Marvin Clark, who will help space the floor on offense.
44 points for Shamorie Ponds in a win over Marquette! 🐐 pic.twitter.com/A5kYVXmbJW
— Courtside Films (@CourtsideFilms) February 10, 2018
The Red Storm enter Friday’s matchup ranked at No. 39 in the KenPom rankings after winning their first two regular-season games against Loyola MD and Bowling Green. The Red Storm are scoring 108.2 points per 100 possessions (53rd in the NCAA), while allowing just 94.9 points per 100 possessions on the defensive end of the floor (41st in the NCAA). While the Red Storm have considerably more scoring options this season, they will still rely on their defense to win games this year. They ranked first in the Big East in defensive turnover percentage last season and are eighth in the country so far this year, forcing opposing teams to turn the ball over on 28.2 percent of their offensive possessions.
Rutgers looking to improve heading into Big Ten season
Rutgers lost arguably the most hyped recruit in program history when junior guard Corey Sanders decided to forego his senior season and declare for the NBA Draft. Sanders, formerly the No. 32-ranked high school player in the country, averaged 15.2 points and 3.1 assists per game as a junior for the Scarlet Knights and leaves behind a talented roster that features standout sophomore Geo Baker and consensus top recruit Montez Mathis, who could force his way into the starting lineup before the conference season. The Scarlet Knights are expected to count on Baker and Mathis, along with center Eugene Omoruyi to should most of the scoring load this year.
.@CoachPikiell has a favor to ask of Rutgers Nation.
— Rutgers Basketball (@RutgersMBB) November 15, 2018
After not making a three-pointer during the first two seasons of his collegiate career Omoruyi has been working hard on his game in the offseason and it has produced immediate results. He entered play on Friday night with six makes from beyond the arc on eight attempts this season and most recently went 4-for-4 from three-point range in the team’s 95-66 victory over Drexel.
Rutgers comes into this matchup slotted at No. 118 in the KenPom rankings. The Scarlet Knights are scoring just 100.4 points per 100 possessions (197th in the NCAA), while allowing 96.1 points per 100 possessions on the defensive end of the floor (55th in the NCAA). The Scarlet Knights have connected on 56.5 percent of their three-point attempts on the year (3rd in the NCAA), but have struggled with turnovers, coughing up possession of the basketball on 20.6 percent of their offensive possessions (234th in the NCAA).
- Under is 4-0 in the last 4 meetings.
- Under is 4-1 in the last 5 meetings in Rutgers.
- Scarlet Knights are 9-19 ATS in their last 28 games vs. a team with a winning % above .600.
- Red Storm are 4-1 ATS in the last 5 meetings in Rutgers.
- Road team is 6-0 ATS in the last 6 meetings.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
St. John’s has an undeniable edge in the backcourt in this game, but I wouldn’t discount Rutgers in this spot. The Scarlet Knights have a major height advantage over the Red Storm, who rank 33rd in the country in effective height, while Rutgers ranks in the top-10 in that category with an average height of 79”. That should help the Scarlet Knights control the glass, but unless they find an answer for Ponds, it could be a long day for Rutgers. I’m going to side with St. John’s on the road in this spot, as they are clearly the more talented team heading into this one.
Prediction: Pick: St. John’s Red Storm -2
Full-Game Total Pick
These two teams have gone under the projected total in each of their last four meetings and four of their last five games in Rutgers. Both of these teams make their living on the defensive end by making the opposition uncomfortable and forcing turnovers, so whoever takes care of the basketball will likely win this game. With that being said, I expect this to turn into a bit of a sloppy defensive affair, which has me leaning towards the under at the Louis Brown Athletics Center on Friday night.
Prediction: Under 145