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1/19 Big Ten Preview: Minnesota Travels to Rutgers

Preview Sunday’s Big Ten action.

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Minnesota Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

There’s only one game set for today with Minnesota looking to win their third in a row after knocking off Michigan and Penn State.

Game of the Day:

-Minnesota Golden Gophers at Rutgers Scarlet Knights

  • Time/TV: 1:00 PM ET (BTN)

Rutgers has made waves at 13-4 and will host a 10-7 Minnesota early this afternoon. While Rutgers has seemingly came out of nowhere, the Gophers were written off by a lot of fans of the conference after falling to 8-7. That record is interesting because the Gophers have a schedule full of quality opponents that they played tight before ultimately losing. So far the Gophers have lost games by single digits to Oklahoma, Butler, Utah, DePaul and Purdue. That’s five of their seven losses.

Minnesota hasn’t been able to win close games in these situations but they’ve also knocked off Clemson, Ohio State, Michigan and a recently ranked Penn State. Daniel Oturu has easily been one of the best players in the conference and Marcus Carr is adding 16.5 points per game. The duo took control against Michigan, scoring 51 of their teams 75 points, before dropping 53 of the 75 points they scored against Penn State. Or in other words, the Gophers are a tough out whenever Oturu and Carr are on.

Rutgers is 13-4 and looking decisively better but just how good are they? A home win against Seton Hall (that saw the Pirates lose their best player) is so far their best win (and only major non-conference win of note). Wins over Wisconsin, Penn State and Indiana are huge for Rutgers, but Indiana is a mess and Wisconsin and Penn State have been uneven. It probably won’t be until a decisively tougher stretch in February where we’ll be able to see if Rutgers is truly for real, though they still have a tough stretch this month with Minnesota, Iowa and Purdue making up three of their next four games (Nebraska is also in there).

So what do we know? Rutgers plays very good defense. And Rutgers is very good at home. Today’s game is at home and Big Ten teams have been laughably awful on the road this season, so one has to think Rutgers should be in good shape.

The one area Rutgers hasn’t excelled that much at is offense. While they’ve been strong inside (60th in the nation for two point shooting percentage), they’re 318th in three point percentage, 328th in free throw shooting percentage and 184th in scoring. With Ron Harper Jr. and Geo Baker leading the scoring with 11.8 and 11.1 points per game, the Scarlet Knights spread the scoring around pretty evenly. The real wild card here is if Marcus Carr can stay hot (averaging 24 points per game the last two games). If Carr can get hot that means Rutgers will have to keep pace with Minnesota and that’s not good news for the Scarlet Knights.

If Oturu and Carr play like they did last week then Minnesota should win a third game straight. But if there’s any struggles on the offensive side of the ball, which could happen considering Rutgers defense and the game being in New Jersey, and Rutgers could improve to 5-2 in the conference. That being said, it’s hard to pick against Daniel Oturu and it looks like the center is set to carry his team once again.

  • Pick: Minnesota