Busting Brackets

Indiana vs. Rutgers: 2020-21 college basketball game preview, TV schedule

Jan 15, 2020; Piscataway, New Jersey, USA; Rutgers Scarlet Knights center Myles Johnson (15) drives to the basket against Indiana Hoosiers forward Trayce Jackson-Davis (4) during the second half at Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC). Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 15, 2020; Piscataway, New Jersey, USA; Rutgers Scarlet Knights center Myles Johnson (15) drives to the basket against Indiana Hoosiers forward Trayce Jackson-Davis (4) during the second half at Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC). Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports /

TV schedule: Sunday, January 24, 12:00 pm ET. B1G Network

Arena: Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Indiana

Hot off the heels of a dominant showing at Iowa, the Indiana Hoosiers will look for another significant Big Ten win on Sunday, hosting a Rutgers Scarlet Knights squad that has – bizarrely and in sudden fashion – fallen from the graces.

The Hoosiers (9-6) have endured an up-and-down season in Archie Miller’s fourth year, recording winning and losing streaks of just two games – and nothing more.  Indiana has picked up a few noteworthy victories, including over Providence, Stanford, and Penn State – but struggled to close out narrow games against premier competition, falling to Florida State, Illinois, and Wisconsin – all by single-digits.  Their luck changed, however, in an 81-69 shellacking of Iowa just days ago.

The Hoosiers desperately needed that win, having lost by the same score to Purdue just a week prior – and Indiana toppled the Hawkeyes in stunning fashion.  Trayce Jackson-Davis lived up to his status of being one of the best in college basketball this year, recording a team-high 23 points (9-14 2PT) while hauling down seven boards.  He wasn’t alone, however – Rob Phinisee (18 points, game-high three steals), Aljami Durham (14 points, 9-10 FT), and Armaan Franklin (11 points) all recorded double-digits.

This was a game that the Hawkeyes appeared primed to run away with, leading by as much as nine (53-44) with 12 minutes left to play and with Indiana’s Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson both riding the bench for most of the second half in foul trouble, as well as starter Trey Galloway out due to injury.  The exact opposite happened, however, as the Hoosiers held the most efficient offense in the nation scoreless from the floor for exactly 11 minutes, embarking on a 29-10 run in the process.

Arguably, this was the biggest – and most impressive win – of Archie Miller’s tenure with the Hoosiers.  They overcame a 28-point showing by Luka Garza while locking down the Hawkeyes defensively, holding them to 47.5% (19-40) inside and an astonishing 21.7% (5-23) outside – all the while making 35 trips to the charity stripe to 21 for Iowa.

If the Hoosiers hope to continue to prove their legitimacy, they will have to follow up that performance with a struggling – but still upset-capable – Rutgers squad.  The Scarlet Knights (7-6) have been one of the oddest – and most shocking – stories of the 2020-21 season.  After starting the season 7-1 with wins over Syracuse, Illinois, and Purdue, the Scarlet Knights have stumbled to begin the calendar year, losing five-straight to begin 3-6 in Big Ten play.

The catalyst of this losing streak – a 77-75 loss to Iowa on January 2nd – did not indicate this would be the fate of Rutgers, given that that game was, arguably, one of the best games in basketball this year.

But the Scarlet Knights‘ struggles, which included a 23-point loss at Michigan State, were recently capped off by Rutgers’ worst loss of the year on Thursday, falling at Penn State, 75-67.  To put into context just how abysmal Rutgers has been in that five-game stretch: they are recording marks of 40.1% (130-324) on FGs, 28.6% (26-91) on 3PTs, and 40.6% (23-57) on FTs.

If there have been any positives for the Scarlet Knights, it is that their performance against Penn State was, statistically, their best since the loss to Iowa.  Ron Harper Jr. – who was playing like an All-American caliber talent prior to the losing streak – recorded 18 points (7-15 FG), his highest output since December 23rd.  Joining him in double-figures was Myles Johnson, who – behind 14 points – enjoyed his first double-digit game since the loss to Iowa.

Likewise, the Scarlet Knights enjoyed their best shooting performance in the five-game losing streak, recording clips of 45.5% (20-44) on two-pointers, 41.2% (7-17) on three-pointers, and 54.5% (6-11) on free-throws.  Where they struggled, obviously, was on the defensive end – they allowed the Nittany Lions to shoot a blistering 58.3% inside while allowing 24 trips to the free-throw line.  Additionally, the struggles of starters Geo Baker, Montez Mathis, and Jacob Young ailed them – the trio of guards went a combined 9-26 (34.6%) at Penn State.

Both these teams are similar in a few statistical categories, including being in the top 60 nationally in both offensive and defensive efficiency, as well as in turnover percentage – Indiana turns the ball over on just 16.8% (54th) of their possessions, while Rutgers ranks 12th at 15.0%.  On the negative end of the spectrum, both squads are awful from the charity stripe, with the Hoosiers ranking 287th (65.9%) and the Scarlet Knights among the worst at 57.0% (346th).

Offensively, both teams rely heavily on the two-ball.  Rutgers sees a 13th-best 59.5% of their points come from there, while Indiana ranks 83rd at 54.1%.  Neither bank much on long-range bombs, but where their offense differs – and what may ultimately give Indiana a substantial edge – is the reliance on the charity stripe.

Again, Rutgers is among the nation’s worst, and that reflects in their point distribution, where just 13.7% (331st) of their offense comes from.  On the other end, while Indiana struggles from the line, at least 20.4% of their point distribution comes from the charity stripe – the 98th-highest mark in college basketball.

Indiana’s season-long inconsistency may leave some hesitant of the Hoosiers’ chances in this game, but – with the exception of Northwestern – the Hoosiers have proven they can knock off bubble teams.  The Scarlet Knights rank 46th in KenPom, and Indiana is currently 4-0 against teams that rank between 60-40 (Providence, Stanford, Penn State, Maryland).

Likewise, Rutgers’ ongoing woes are too substantial to ignore.  Their best chances to end their losing streak are during this four-game stretch, which consists of Penn State, Indiana, Michigan State, and Northwestern – and the Scarlet Knights have already lost to, arguably, the worst of those four.

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Having to take on an Indiana squad hot off its best win of the season is already difficult – and they have to take on one of college basketball’s best in the process in Jackson-Davis.  Rutgers will eventually snap this streak, especially if the Scarlet Knights hope to finally reach the NCAA Tournament – but it is difficult to see it coming against the Hoosiers.

Prediction: Indiana 79 – Rutgers 65