If it wasn’t for Zach Edey locking up the wooden award for a monster start to the season, then you could make a serious case that Tracye Jackson-Davis as to why he should be the front runner. His past few weeks have been nothing short of magical, dominating the glass and interior on a nightly basis. Indiana suffered from a slow start to the season, quickly ramping back up their production and making a case for the Big Ten title. Can they continue their run against a tough Rutgers defense?
Rutgers Vs. Indiana Odds
Oddsmakers think so as they opened the Hoosiers as a -3.5 favorite on their own home court. Bettors are in agreement, taking Indiana up to -4.5 in some shops as of writing. This comes as no surprise as they have been red hot as of late, and just knocked up number one Purdue after an impressive first half performance. They let the Boilermakers back in with a late run but sealed the win behind an impressive defense stretch that negated second chance points.
As for the total, points are expected to be scored at a moderate pace as oddsmakers opened the total at 131.5. Bettors were quick to hammer the over before it became widely available, taking it up to as high as 135.5. While Indiana’s offense has vastly improved, their defense has faltered a bit and may give the Rutgers anemic scoring output a chance to find some consistency. I still am skeptical of the Scarlet Knights offensive ability, making this a pass for me.
Rutgers Vs. Indiana Prediction & Pick
The Pick: Indiana -4
With that said, I will back Indiana at no higher than -4 as I believe their improved offensive play will carry over against one of the best defenses in the nation. It will be no easy feat as Rutgers currently ranks second in the nation in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency, but Indiana has found life behind a more fluid offensive identity. It will be interesting to see TJD in this matchup as looks should come slightly easier without Zach Edey being wedged in between him.
Without Edey manning the paint, TJD should have little issue creating his open scoring opportunities which is exactly what Indiana will need out of him if they want to find their offensive groove. Should Davis get cooking early, he will command more help defense down low, leaving holes around the perimeter for Indiana to exploit. This is vitally important as Rutgers is top-20 in the nation in opposing three-point percentage, defending the perimeter at a high rate.
Indiana’s increase in perimeter production has drastically vaulted their Adjusted Offensive Efficiency ranking, sitting at 18th in the nation per Kenpom. They also qualify as a historic national champion by comfortably sitting above 112 metrics wise. The perimeter inconsistencies were their main offensive weakness early on, turning that into a strength by now shooting 38.1% from the deep.
Keeping an elite defense constantly reeling is the key to beating them as constant movement leaves holes for Indiana’s offense to exploit. This gives an added emphasis on Jalen Hood-Schifino scoring production, being able to exploit these openings from his movement from atop the perimeter.
Rutgers Vs. Indiana Key Matchups
Can Indiana’s reeling defensive level of play still be enough to stop Rutgers scoring output?
Indiana interior defense vs Rutgers scoring output
While Indiana’s offense has drastically improved, their defense has taken a bit of a hit in production as they have dropped to 41st in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency. This is a sharp contrast from their level of play earlier, once qualifying as a unit that fits the national championship historic metrics.
Lucky for Indiana, Rutgers does not pose as much of an offensive threat as they rank 119th in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency. They prefer a slow style of play to let their halfcourt sets develop, running at a pace well below league average in Adjusted Tempo.
Heavily involved in their halfcourt sets is fellow big man Clifford Omoruyi, leading the team in scoring with 13.4 points per game. Rutgers will use motion to try and free up Omoruyi to get space in the paint, battling it out against Tracye Jackson-Davis who has stepped up in on-ball defense as of late.
Back Indiana at no higher than -4 as they have key advantages on both ends of the court. This is a must win game for the Hoosiers should they want a chance at the Big Ten title, giving them the tiebreaker over Rutgers for second in the conference.