Busting Brackets

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

ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN - JANUARY 06: Marcus Carr #5 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers drives to the basket against Michigan Wolverines during the first half at Crisler Arena on January 06, 2021 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN - JANUARY 06: Marcus Carr #5 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers drives to the basket against Michigan Wolverines during the first half at Crisler Arena on January 06, 2021 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images) /

TV Schedule: Thursday, February 4th, 9:00 PM ET. FS1

Arena: Rutgers Athletic Center, Piscataway, New Jersey

As the season progresses toward March the B1G has continued to impress as one of the best conferences in the country. Every game is a challenge and they currently project to have nine teams in the field of 68. These nine teams include both Rutgers and Minnesota. Even though both the Scarlet Knights and Golden Gophers are comfortably in the tournament and have been for some time, this game carries immense weight for both teams.

As the conference crown moves further out of reach for both Rutgers and Minnesota, both teams have a chance to get back on track after an up and down season. Rutgers has won their last two games and needed it. After beginning their season underestimated and under-ranked Steve Pikiell’s group finally found their way into the top twenty-five and began to move up the pole until crashing and burning. Bit by the injury bug coupled with underperforming in games ranked teams should win, Rutgers was the victim of the buzz saw that is their conference.

Recently, the team has seemed to find their footing once again after dominating Michigan St. and squeaking out a win against Northwestern. They will look to add to their win streak and keep the momentum moving forward against Minnesota at home.

Similar to Rutgers, Minnesota was also underrated and underappreciated at the beginning of the season. After winning four of five at the end of December, which included two ranked teams, it seemed like the Golden Gophers were going to find themselves in the mix for a top-four seed in one of the NCAA tournament regions.

However, the spark that they once had has seemed to dim as we move deeper into the season. Their offense has begun to struggle and without the high powered scoring they usually tout, better teams have taken advantage of the defensive lapses they have been able to cover up in the past. Even with Marcus Carr continuing to produce at an elite level the offensive depth that the Gophers relied on throughout the season has not been as effective in recent games.

Without that depth, when Carr has an off-night (vs. #24 Purdue) or fills up the box score (vs. Maryland) the result is the same. If the Gophers want any chance to win this game or compete in the tournament, they have to regain their offensive firepower.

Overall, both of these teams are going to come out swinging tonight and the matchup features multiple tipping points on what could determine the final score of this game. First, can Minnesota get back on track offensively? In a perfect world, Marcus Carr will be firing on all cylinders and the offensive depth around him will come back to life however playing in the RAC against a locked-in Rutgers defense could derail any type of consistency for Minnesota on the offensive end.

Secondly, will Rutgers stars make the impact they have shown they can? Ron Harper Jr. went through a stretch of games on fire and while he has come back down to earth as the season progressed he still has the ability to hand a struggling Minnesota team buckets. So who gets the edge?

In my opinion, the offensive output of Carr and Harper Jr. is destined to offset each other and the players around them will have to turn up their level of play if they want to come out with a win. Outside of Carr and Harper Jr., this will be a guard focused game as four of the top five scorers on Rutgers and three of the top five scorers on Minnesota play the guard position.

When it comes to the edge, Rutgers may score fewer points per game but has a more balanced scoring rotation and can still win games when Harper Jr., Young, or Mathis has an off game. As Minnesota lacks the offensive power without Carr hitting shots and because of this the matchup edge goes to the Scarlet Knights.

Home court advantage even without fans is still extremely important this season, especially for Rutgers. The team has felt the most comfortable on their home floor going 7-3 in the RAC while playing .500 basketball (3-3) on the road. Based on these factors Rutgers should have no problem picking up the win against a struggling Minnesota team.

Both teams will find their way into the tournament and while this game does not have major implications in regards to seeding it could make or break a deep tournament run and instead lead to a first-round exit. This is because the NCAA tournament is a wildly unpredictable set of games where even the best teams may not advance if they have an off night.

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The reason a game like this is so important is that it allows guaranteed tournament teams a way to gauge if they are truly good enough to compete in March. A win will inspire confidence in the coaching staff and players that they can compete and have a chance to make a deep tournament run while the loser, may begin to feel the mental strain of playing elite teams the rest of the way.

Prediction: Rutgers 72 – Minnesota 65