Thursday night features an intriguing Big Ten matchup as the Rutgers Scarlet Knight’s (12-7) take on the No. 3 Michigan Wolverines (14-1). The Wolverines will host this one at the Crisler Center, with tip-off scheduled for 9:00 pm ET.
Rutgers has been pretty impressive lately, winning five of their last six games. Their lone loss was a 79-66 road loss to No. 11 Iowa. In their victories, they held opponents to under 60 points three times, including allowing just 37 points to Michigan State. They will need their defense to step up again against a really strong Michigan team.
Speaking of Michigan, they played their first game since January 22 on Sunday and beat the No. 21 Wisconsin Badgers 67-59 on the road. Hoping that their COVID-19 issues are behind them, the Wolverines will look to reclaim their dominance as the regular season winds down.
Michigan is the overwhelming favorite playing at home. They are -620 to win while Rutgers’ moneyline sits at +410. The spread features Rutgers +10 while the over/under for total points is set at 136.
By The Numbers
Offensively, Michigan has been the superior team. They rank 27th in the nation in scoring averaging 78.9 points per game. Rutgers ranks 146th, averaging 71.8 points per game.
Defensively, it is once again the Wolverines with the advantage. They rank 46th in scoring defense, allowing opponents just 64.9 points per game. Rutgers ranks a respectable 95th allowing 68 points per game.
Rutgers Looking For Big Road Upset
At 12-7 overall and 8-7 in the conference, Rutgers has had a solid season this year in a loaded Big Ten. As they hope to boost their postseason resume, a win over Michigan would go a long way towards finishing the regular season off strong.
Leading the way for Rutgers this season is junior guard Ron Harper Jr. He is averaging 16.2 points on 45.6% shooting. He is also adding 6.1 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game.
The Scarlett Knights have two others averaging double digits in guard Jacob Young (14.1 points, 3.5 assists, 1.8 steals) and guard Geo Baker (10.1 points, 3 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.3 steals).
Michigan Hopes To Ramp Up Ahead Of Postseason Play
Now that they are back on the court, Michigan is hoping to use their remaining schedule to ramp up for postseason play. With a rested and dangerous Michigan team on the court, it could be bad news for Rutgers.
Head coach Juwan Howard’s squad is led by forward Isaiah Livers. He is averaging 15 points per game on 49% shooting (including 45.7% from behind the arc). He is also averaging 6.1 rebounds per game.
Other significant contributors include Hunter Dickinson (14.9 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.7 blocks) and Franz Wagner (12.1 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.2 blocks).
Speaking to their depth, the Wolverines have three others (Eli Brooks, Chaundee Brown, and Mike Smith) averaging over 8 points per game.
Taking Michigan To Win And Cover
With how well Rutgers has played recently, I was tempted to pick them being spotted 10 points; however, Michigan doesn’t seem to have lost a step. Despite having lost a few weeks due to the virus, they picked up right where they left off, dominating Wisconsin on the road. Coming back home, where they are 10-0 this season, makes Michigan an even tougher matchup.
The one concern that I have is whether Michigan will overlook Rutgers as they keep an eye on a showdown with No. 4 Ohio State this weekend, but I think Juwan Howard will keep his guys focused. For my money, I like Michigan to win and cover the big 10-point spread.