The injury bug seems to have found its way into the Big Ten this season. Illinois is getting bit the hardest, but the most recent piece of news comes from New Jersey.
Junior forward Deshawn Freeman - who is third on the team in average minutes per game - will be sidelined for two weeks due to a sore knee, per Scarlet Knights coach Eddie Jordan. Freeman was establishing himself as a workhorse for Rutgers, and has earned the stripes to warrant a starting role after coming off the bench for the first two games.
The Scarlet Knights have a tough stretch of games as they transition from the Big Ten/ACC challenge and will look to finish their non-conference schedule on a positive note. With six non-conference foes left on the schedule - Freeman could possibly miss four of those - how will the Scarlet Knights move on without one of the best JUCO recruits from a year ago?
Let's take a look at the next four opponents that Freeman could be forced to miss.
- Seton Hall
The Pirates travel to the RAC to take on Rutgers Saturday, December 5 at 12 p.m. and will look to use an unconventional way of winning the battle on the boards. The 5-2 Pirates will look at 6'9" sophomore forward Angel Delgado and 6'7" sophomore guard Ismael Sanogo to grab the majority of rebounds. Delgado averages a steady 7.0 points and 9.3 rebounds per game, while Sanogo tallies a mere 5.7 points a game, but an impressive 7.9 boards from his guard position.
Rutgers will have their work cut out for them on the glass, as no member of the Scarlet Knight team averages six rebounds or more. Heading into the game on Saturday, Freeman is Rutgers' second leading rebounder at 5.3, per ESPN, and will bestow the rebounding totals to Jonathan Laurent, which could be beneficial for the program going forward as the freshman will develop starting experience in his stead. Laurent has the ability to clean up the glass with his 6'6" frame, as he hauled in seven rebounds on Monday against Wake Forest.
The matchup to watch will be the point guard battle between Rutgers freshman Corey Sanders and Seton Hall's Isaiah Whitehead, but Freeman's ruggedness and toughness on the glass could easily be missed on Saturday with Laurent still learning the collegiate game as a freshman.
- Central Connecticut
The Blue Devils are off to a tumultuous start this season with a 0-6 start, but do a solid job crashing the boards with an average of 41 per game - 68% of their rebounds come from the defensive end. 6'7" senior forward Brandon Peelleads the way for Central Connecticut on the boards with an average of 9.3 per game to go along with his 12.3 points. Rutgers big man Greg Lewis should be able to pick up the slack with Freeman out, and this could be a big opportunity for redshirt freshman Ibrahima Diallo to step up.
- George Washington
The Colonials came onto the national scene with an impressive win over then No. 6 Virginia. After displaying a solid game plan against the Cavaliers, the Scarlet Knights will have their work cut out for them. The 7-1 Colonials use a solid team rebounding philosophy and showed a propensity for attacking Virginia big man Mike Tobey en route to the upset. Freeman isn't a rim protector, but without his rugged approach, the Scarlet Knights could be in serious trouble as four Colonials average at least 4.5 rebounds per game.
There is a chance Freeman sees the court for this game, as it is just a few days after the two week timeframe. Monmouth, known for their bench mob celebrations and knocking off UCLA, USC and Notre Dame, will present an interesting challenge for Rutgers. Corey Sanders will have another challenge figuring out breakout star Justin Robinson, and the Scarlet Knights frontcourt could have a solid game pending Monmouth's three point shooting - the Hawks average close to 40% from the perimeter.
Freeman's stats throughout the season may not be dramatic or noteworthy, but losing the second leading rebounder on any team will be hard to replace. The quartet of Jonathan Laurent, DJ Foreman, Greg Lewis and Ibrahima Diallo will need to step up in Freeman's absence in order to control the glass. The opponents during the two week period could be tough for this young Rutgers group, but luckily for the Scarlet Knights, the injury didn't occur during Big Ten conference play.