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12/28 Big Ten Preview: Rutgers entertains Hartford in the conferences only game

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The Scarlet Knights look to rebound from its crushing overtime defeat to Stony Brook last Friday night

NCAA Basketball: Seton Hall at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

One is the loneliest number. And on Thursday evening we have exactly one Big Ten game on the schedule as Rutgers looks to close out its 2017 and non-conference schedule with a win over Hartford.

But hey, one game is better than no games right? Plus it makes my job of picking a Big Ten Game of the Day that much easier.

Big Ten Game of the Day

-Hartford Hawks at Rutgers Scarlet Knights

  • Time/TV: 7:00PM ET - BTN Plus
  • KenPom Spread: Rutgers (-17)

After a three game losing streak to Florida State, Minnesota and Michigan State earlier this year, the Scarlet Knights looked to have righted the ship in impressive fashion by rallying off four straight wins culminating in an impressive victory over No. 15 ranked Seton Hall.

But the euphoria of its win over the Pirates was quickly dashed as Rutgers ran into a brick, or should I say stone, wall in an overtime defeat to Stony Brook, who just happen to be the former team of current Scarlet Knight’s head coach Steve Pikiell, last Friday.

In its defense, the Scarlet Knights loss to Stony Brook defied conventional wisdom to a certain extent. Rutgers shot 44.6 percent from the field, including a 38.9 percent clip from beyond the arc, which outpaced the Seawolves who checked in at 37.3 percent overall and 24.1 percent from three.

But some sloppy play by Rutgers kept Stony Brook in the game, and a rough night from the line plus a buzzer beating prayer in overtime was enough to give the visitors the win in Piscataway.

The Scarlet Knights will look to rebound from that defeat, when it welcomes another American East foe in Hartford to the Rac Thursday night.

Luckily, the Hawks, on paper, should be much easier to handle than the Seawolves. Where Stony Brook has modest KenPom offensive and defensive efficiency ratings of 207 and 140, respectively, Hartford checks in at 271 and 325.

That defensive efficiency number should open the eyes of Rutgers leading scorer Corey Sanders as he looks to get back on track following a rough 4-for-14 night against Stony Brook.

And as a team, the Scarlet Knights 32 ranked defensive efficiency should prove to be a headache for Hartford, who relies on a trio of juniors in John Carroll, Jason Dunne, and J.R. Lynch to provide much of its offense.

All of that said Rutgers has plenty of reason to look past the Hawks as an incredibly daunting start to its Big Ten schedule awaits, which includes a home game against Wisconsin and trips to Purdue and Michigan State.

Still, Steve Pikiell will have his team ready to play and Rutgers should be able to easily handle its non-conference finale.

Pick Against The Spread: Rutgers

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Season Record vs KenPom’s Spread: 15-10-1