It’s the start of the final week of the season and every team only has a handful of games left to make one final push before postseason play. Two Big Ten bubble teams face off when Rutgers hits the road to battle it out against the Penn State Nittany Lions. It will be a contrast of styles as one of the most efficient defenses in Rutgers has to withstand the lethal offensive onslaught that is to come from Penn State. Who will win a pivotal Big Ten matchup with serious March Madness hopes on the line?
Rutgers Vs. Penn State Odds
Oddsmakers lean towards Penn State on their home court as they opened the Nittany Lions as a -2.5 favorite. Bettors are also backing them, taking PSU up to -3 as of writing in some shops. In a motivational aspect, they are in a more desperate state as they currently sit as the first team out in Joe Lunardi’s bracket. Rutgers is right there with them, still firmly in the tournament field. Still, no bubble team is safe as we have a few games left as well as conference tournaments.
As for the total, points are expected to be scored at a moderate pace as oddsmakers opened the total at 132. Bettors are leaning towards the over, taking it up a tick to 132.5 as of writing. The total is heavily predicated towards Rutgers level of play as they are a more contrast of two styles in terms of efficiency on offense and defense. Because of the previous statement, I am backing off the total as Rutgers brings too much variance into this matchup. Even with both running at a slow pace that is friendly towards the under, PSU is capable of putting up points in a flash.
Rutgers Vs. Penn State Prediction & Pick
The Pick: Penn State -2.5
Rutgers took some heavy resistance when this number hit +3, making Penn State -2.5 widely available. That is where I will be putting a small position as I believe they have the offense to space out Rutgers vaunted defense while the Scarlet Knights anemic offense will not be enough to take advantage of a poor Nittany Lion defense. It’s going to be a slow paced chess match with half court sets a plenty, playing in favor of the Nittany Lions offense.
When it comes to cracking an elite defense, perimeter play is a must as you need to space out the defense to create gaps. That is exactly what Penn State is capable of doing as one of the more efficient perimeter offenses in the nation. They rank 14th in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency while shooting over 39% from the perimeter. By either allowing motion to develop from the top or starting the set down low, Penn State consistently runs off screens for catch and shoot opportunities from deep.
Luckily for us, Penn State shoots from deep at one of the higher rates in the nation as the interior will provide them little to no use. Rutgers is one of the best interior units in the nation, smothering looks for one of the best defensive completion percentages in the nation. Especially near the rim, limiting Effective Field Goal Percentage at a high rate. Penn State already runs small as is, relying on a brunt of their scoring production at the guard position. As of writing, PSU’s top six scorers are all guards with Jalen Pickett leading the way with 18.8 points per game.
Rutgers Vs. Penn State Key Matchups
Can Penn State limit Rutgers anemic offensive production?
Penn State interior defense vs Rutgers low post scoring
If Rutgers could find any sort of life on offense, then this would be a very lethal unit. One poised for a deep run in March. Sadly, that is not that case and plays towards our ticket as Penn State’s lack of defensive efficiency should still be enough to slow down Rutgers.
Rutgers does not pose a threat from the perimeter, relying on a brunt of their scoring production in the interior. This is intriguing as Penn State runs small, but is still capable of collapsing on Rutgers to force them to kick it back out for a mid range jump shot.
Rutgers runs as a poor shooting unit overall, failing to create movement for more open looks. Should Penn State be wise enough to clamp down near the rim, then their defense should be able to survive Rutgers shooting woes.
Back the Nittany Lions at the current number in what is a must win situation for Penn State.