Friday, December 30, 2022

Preview & Keys to the Game: Coppin State at Rutgers (December 30, 2022)

photo courtesy of NJ Advance Media

Coppin State (5-11) at Rutgers (8-4, 1-1)

Rutgers will play its final non-conference game of the 2022-23 season against Coppin State on Friday, December 30 at 8 PM ET (BTN). Rutgers is fresh of the heels of its most recent blowout victory of Bucknell and will be in search of its 9th win on the season. The Scarlet Knights look to remain perfect against low-major competition and Q4 opponents. Rutgers is currently 5-0 against Q4 opponents. Rutgers has blown out all of its lesser competition by 30 or more points.

Coppin State enters Friday's contest with an overall record of 5-11, ranked 296th in the KenPom Ratings, and are currently ranked 264th in the NET Rankings, which means the Eagles will be a Q4 opponent for the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers enters the contest ranked 22 in the KenPom and are 25th in the NET Rankings.

Coppin State has recently dropped its last two games by an average of 28 pts but were able to pull off a stunning 107-100 upset of James Madison (66, Q2) less than nine days ago. Despite Coppin State's overall record and recent poor performance, the Eagles do rank well in several categories:

  • FT attempts per game - 70
  • FT made per game - 77
  • 3PT made per game - 66
  • Scoring offense - 119
  • Fastbreak points - 109
With some of the upside Coppin State has offensively, the Eagles are a very poor defensive team. Coppin State ranks nearly at the bottom of the country in defense in most categories including:
  • Scoring defense - 352
  • 3PT% defense - 271
  • Rebounds per game - 273
  • FG% defense - 333
  • Fouls per game - 335

Most of Coppin State's offense is ran through Sam Sessoms, a player the Scarlet Knights have grown familiar with over the last two seasons. Prior to the season, Sam Sessoms transferred from Penn State to Coppin State, and Sessoms has provided a much needed lift offensively for the Eagles. Currently, Sessoms is averaging 22.9 ppg (4th in the nation), 5.3 apg, and shooting 53.1% per game. These numbers are a career high for Sessoms. Rutgers has done a phenomenal job shutting down teams' high scorers and keeping teams' high scorers well below their season average all season long. Expect the Scarlet Knights to assign Caleb McConnell to defend Sessoms all evening. Another player Rutgers must keep an eye that poses a threat is Nendah Clarke, who is currently averaging 12.5 ppg, 6.1 rpg, and is shooting 43% per game.

Coppin State's Last Three Games:

12/28 - at Richmond (136, Q3), L 83-65
12/23 - at George Mason (105, Q2), L 91-53
12/21 - James Madison (66, Q2), W 107-100


Strong, fast start - Rutgers must get off to a strong, fast start in order to keep this game out of reach. If Rutgers gets off to a slow, sluggish start, they risk the potential of letting Coppin State hang around in this game. Rutgers has done a great job all year long at getting off to strong, fast starts and putting away its lesser competition early. Rutgers has to be smart and focused, work for good looks at the basket, force turnovers and score on the fast break in bunches. Last week, the Scarlet Knights set the tone against Bucknell with a quick alley-oop pass with a thunderous finish by Cliff Omoruyi right from the start. Bucknell was never able to catch up to Rutgers.

Keep Sessoms in check - Coppin State's offense runs through Sam Sessoms, and there is a good reason why. Sessoms is the nation's 4th leading scorer at 22.5 ppg; however, Sessoms turns the ball over a lot. Rutgers must amplify the pressure on Sessoms and force him into situations where he turns the ball over. Also, Rutgers must close in and shut down any good looks Sessoms tries to create offensively.

Feed the ball down low/Pound the paint - Coppin State is not a big team, and it's likely they will struggled to defend Cliff Omoruyi and Mawot Mag down low. If Rutgers can drive the lane consistently and feed the ball to Cliff and Mag, the Scarlet Knights will have success and win this game. Also, if Rutgers can drive the lane and pound the paint, they will likely draw fouls and earn trips to the line. Coppin State is the type of team that is not afraid to foul often.

Get Spencer and Cliff going - Rutgers is a better team when Cam Spencer is playing at an elite level. Spencer has put up big numbers in multiple games this season as he is averaging 12.4 ppg, 1.8 spg, 40% from 3PT range, and is 96% from the FT line. If Spencer can create space and separation on the floor and the rest of the team can find him, expect Spencer to take the shot. On the flip side of the coin, if Rutgers can get its big man Cliff Omoruyi going down low offensively, there's no stopping him. Several times this season, Cliff has had mental lapses on defense where he has committed numerous fouls early in the game and Coach Pikiell has no choice but to sit him on the bench for majority of the game. Cliff must avoid the early fouls and find himself in better position defensively.

Showcase your elite defense - This year's team is playing at an elite level defensively, and Rutgers should continue to showcase its elite defense. Do not allow any good looks for Coppin State on offense. Force turnovers. Lots of them. Limit any second chance opportunities Coppin State might have. It might benefit Rutgers if they apply full court pressure from the start to slow down Coppin State's offense since the Eagles like to play a high-tempo type of game.


Keep your foot on the gas - If Rutgers is able to jump out to a big lead, they must try to add to it. Blowout victories for the Scarlet Knights this year have certainly helped them in the NET rankings. Rutgers must keep its foot on the gas and have no mercy. Sorry, but in this day and age of college basketball, if you want to impress the committee and boost your metrics for the NCAA Tournament, you need to crush your opponent.

Saturday, December 24, 2022

NET Rankings of Rutgers' Opponents (thru games Dec 23)


photo courtesy of NJ Advance Media

NET Rankings of Rutgers' Opponents (thru games Dec 23)

Here are the NET Rankings of Rutgers' opponents for games played through December 23rd. There are plenty of opportunities for Rutgers to improve its resume for the NCAA Tournament when the Scarlet Knights return to Big Ten play starting January 2nd. There are several games Rutgers must win and avoid a loss which could cause potential damage to their resume, including games against Coppin State and Minnesota. For the time being, Rutgers is in very good shape and find themselves currently ranked 27 in the NET. As of now, Rutgers only has two remaining Q1 home games, while they have eight remaining Q1 road games. For a complete listing of the NET Rankings please click here.

Rutgers' Record in Each Quadrant
  • Quadrant 1: 1-2
  • Quadrant 2: 0-0
  • Quadrant 3: 2-1
  • Quadrant 4: 5-1
NET Rankings of Rutgers' Opponents
Nov. 7, Columbia, W (340, Q4)
Nov. 10, Sacred Heart, W (317, Q4)
Nov. 12, UMass-Lowell, W (79, Q3)
Nov. 18, vs Temple, L (209, Q4)
Nov. 22, Rider, W (239, Q4)
Nov. 26, Central Conn. State, W (343, Q4)
Nov. 30, at Miami, L (48, Q1)
Dec. 3, Indiana, W (21, Q1)
Dec. 8, at Ohio State, L (14, Q1)
Dec. 11, Seton Hall, L (91, Q3)
Dec. 17, Wake Forest, W (88, Q3)
Dec. 23, Bucknell, W (244, Q4)
Dec. 30, Coppin State, (256, Q4)
Jan. 2, at Purdue (4, Q1)
Jan. 5, Maryland (22, Q1)
Jan. 8, Iowa (57, Q2)
Jan. 11, at Northwestern (39, Q1)
Jan. 15, Ohio State (14, Q1)
Jan. 19, at Michigan State (68, Q1)
Jan. 24, Penn State (49, Q2)
Jan. 29, at Iowa (57, Q1)
Feb. 1, Minnesota (248, Q4)
Feb. 4, vs Michigan State (68, Q2)
Feb. 7, at Indiana (21, Q1)
Feb. 11, at Illinois (43, Q1)
Feb. 14, Nebraska (76, Q3)
Feb. 18, at Wisconsin (50, Q1)
Feb. 23, Michigan (80, Q3)
Feb. 26, at Penn State (49, Q1)
Mar. 2, at Minnesota (248, Q4)
Mar. 5, Northwestern (39, Q2)
Q1 home games are highlighted in yellow
Q1 road games are highlighted in green

Where Rutgers' Opponents Currently Rank, per KenPom

photo courtesy of NJ Advance Media

Let's take a look at where Rutgers' opponents currently rank compared to where they ranked at the start of the season, per KenPom

The Rutgers Scarlet Knights are 12 games into their 2022-23 campaign and a lot has already changed. Let's take a look at where Rutgers' opponents currently rank compared to where they ranked at the beginning of the season, per KenPom. 

Games Already Played
Nov. 7, Columbia, W 75-35 (start of season 316, now 340) -24 
Nov. 10, Sacred Heart, W 88-50 (start of season 304, now 317) -13
Nov. 12, UMass-Lowell, W 73-65 (start of season 170, now 116) +54
Nov. 18, vs Temple, L 72-66 (start of season 92, now 133) -41
Nov. 22, Rider, W 76-46 (start of season 186, now 216) -30
Nov. 26, Central Conn. State, W 83-49 (start of season 333, now 338) -5
Nov. 30, at Miami, L 68-61 (start of season 42, now 39) +3
Dec. 3, Indiana, W 63-48 (start of season 12, now 19) -7
Dec. 8, at Ohio State, L 67-66 (start of season 32, now 15) +17
Dec. 11, Seton Hall, L 45-43 (start of season 48, now 64) -16
Dec. 17, Wake Forest, W 81-57 (start of season 80, now 83) -3
Dec. 23, Bucknell, W 85-50 (start of season 283, now 243) +40

Future Opponents
Dec. 30, Coppin State (start of season 315, now 290) +25
Jan. 2, at Purdue (start of season 25, now 7) +18
Jan. 5, Maryland (start of season 56, now 23) +32
Jan. 8, Iowa (start of season 23, now 37) -14
Jan. 11, at Northwestern (start of season 70, now 45) +25
Jan. 15, Ohio State (start of season 32, now 15) +17
Jan. 19, at Michigan State (start of season 31, now 43) -12
Jan. 24, Penn State (start of season 46, now 34) +12
Jan. 29, at Iowa (start of season 23, now 37) -14
Feb. 1, Minnesota (start of season 109, now 196) -87
Feb. 4, vs Michigan State (start of season 31, now 43) -12
Feb. 7, at Indiana (start of season 12, now 19) -7
Feb. 11, at Illinois (start of season 33, now 31) +2
Feb. 14, Nebraska (start of season 108, now 89) +19
Feb. 18, at Wisconsin (start of season 55, now 35) +20
Feb. 23, Michigan (start of season 26, now 48) -22
Feb. 26, at Penn State (start of season 46, now 34) +12
Mar. 2, at Minnesota (start of season 109, now 196) -87
Mar. 5, Northwestern (start of season 70, now 45) +25

The biggest negative mover in the KenPom is Minnesota. The Golden Gophers started the season at 109 and are now ranked 196. The biggest positive mover in the KenPom is UMass-Lowell. The River Hawks started the season at 170 and are now ranked 116. The average for opponents in the remaining Big Ten slate is 54.


Friday, December 23, 2022

Preview & Keys to the Game: Bucknell at Rutgers (December 23, 2022)

photo courtesy of NJ Advance Media

Bucknell (7-5) at Rutgers (7-4, 1-1)

After the 81-57 demolition of Wake Forest this past Saturday, Rutgers will prepare for its upcoming showdown with Bucknell at The RAC on Friday, December 23rd (5 PM, BTN). This will be the 31st ever meeting between Rutgers and Bucknell with the Scarlet Knights leading the series 22-8. The series between the schools dates back to 1941. The last time both teams met on the hardwood was in November 2000 with Rutgers winning 78-48.

Bucknell enters this contest with a NET ranking of 224 and will be a Q4 opponent for Rutgers. This is a game the Scarlet Knights need to win to avoid any catastrophic damage to their tournament resume. Rutgers is currently 4-0 against Q4 opponents so far this season. Rutgers is currently ranked 39 in the NET. Rutgers has done a fantastic job putting away Q4 competition all season long and are beating Q4 ranked teams by an average of 35.5 points.

Statistically, Bucknell is led by their point guard Xander Rice, a new Jersey native and son of Monmouth head coach King Rice. Xander Rice is averaging 15.9 ppg, 4.3 apg, and 1.2 spg. Bucknell has several 3PT shooters with hot hands from deep. As a team, the Bison are shooting a very respectable 40% from 3PT range and are 7th in the nation for 3PT percentage. Xander Rice, Elvin Demonds, and Ian Motta are the trio that take a big bulk of 3PT shots. Bucknell is not a strong defensive team, but they can rebound defensively very well. Bucknell does not force a lot of turnovers on the defensive end and allows their opponents to shoot from deep.

Bucknell's Last Three Games:

12/21 - at Richmond (147, Q3), L 81-71
12/18 - vs Merrimack (357, Q4), W 61-55
12/6 - at LaSalle (307, Q4), L 82-72

No sleepwalking - Rutgers showed everyone every reason why they are still a very good basketball team after the Scarlet Knights crushed Wake Forest 81-57 last week. Rutgers must show up with the same intensity when they play Bucknell and put away the Bison early. Rutgers must play fluid on offense, set screens, create open space to shoot, and drive the lane to draw fouls. On defense, Rutgers must continue to battle in the trenches and do what it does best by forcing turnovers and force bad shots. The RAC must do its part and make the environment loud.

Defend the perimeter - The Bucknell Bison are a dangerous team when shooting from 3PT range. They are shooting a respectable 40% from deep, and are ranked 5th in the country in 3PT percentage. However, Rutgers is one of the best teams in the country in defending the perimeter. Rutgers is ranked within the top 5 in defending against 3PT range. Rutgers must continue to impose its will and make it difficult for Bucknell to shoot from deep.

Force turnovers, score points - Rutgers did a great job forcing Wake Forest to commit 22 turnovers last week. Like Wake Forest, Bucknell is another team that commits a lot of turnovers. If Rutgers can force turnovers it creates scoring opportunities on the fast break. 

Get Cliff involved early - Rutgers has to get Cliff Omoruyi going early in this game. Paul Mulcahy and Caleb McConnell have to feed the ball to Cliff down low to get him going but it won't be entirely on them. Cliff is going to have to find a way to get himself in good position to score. If Cliff can get going early down low, it will draw Bucknell defenders to him and create other open looks for other Rutgers players on the floor.

Finish around the rim - Rutgers did a great job finishing around the rim last week against Wake Forest, which is good because the Scarlet Knights entering that game were poor in finishing layups and shooting from close range. Rutgers needs to convert its layups and make its close shots around the rim. Even if Rutgers does miss an occasional layup or close shot, Rutgers is one of the best teams in the country in grabbing offensive rebounds and possibly creating second chance opportunities.

Identify key players and shut them down - In tonight's preview, we mentioned Xander Rice is one of Bucknell's top players, and it's likely Caleb McConnell will receive the assignment of defending him. If McConnell can shut down Xander Rice, it's going to be a long painful night for Bucknell. Also, Cliff Omoruyi may have a difficult assignment in guarding Andre Screen. Screen is averaging 11.5 ppg and is nabbing 6.2 rpg. Cliff is going to have to get physical in the trenches and out tough Screen.

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Keys to the Game: Seton Hall at Rutgers, Garden State Hardwood Classic (December 11, 2022)

photo courtesy of Getty Images

Seton Hall (5-4) at Rutgers (6-3, 1-1)
Garden State Hardwood Classic

New Jersey's Most Intense College Hoops Rivalry

Ah, the Garden State Hardwood Classic. The biggest and baddest college basketball rivalry in all of New Jersey. It doesn't get any bigger than this when it comes to college hoops rivalries in New Jersey. It doesn't matter what record the team has or who is playing in the game. This is the game college basketball fans across New Jersey cannot wait to see. Past games have been intense and extremely physical. Just check out some of the articles listed below of previous instances of this rivalry. This is Rutgers versus Seton Hall.


The Rutgers Scarlet Knights and the Seton Hall Pirates tip-off this Sunday, December 11 at The RAC at 6:30 PM ET, FS1. The Scarlet Knights will look to win this important rivalry game to not only bring the Garden State Hardwood Trophy back to its campus but also to get themselves back on track after suffering a heart-breaking 67-66 loss to the #25 Ohio State Buckeyes. The Scarlet Knights lost to the Buckeyes on a last second desperation shot which should not have counted after Big Ten officials blew two calls. The Big Ten released a statement on Friday, December 9th acknowledging the errors by the officials. (Click here to see the statement by the Big Ten.)

The Scarlet Knights enter tomorrow's contest at 24th in the NET Rankings (as of 10 December) and 27th in the KenPom. The Scarlet Knights, who boast the best homecourt advantage in all of college basketball, are currently 6-0 at The RAC this season. A win against Seton Hall will keep the Scarlet Knights from potentially dropping in the NET Rankings since the Pirates enter the contest as a Q3 opponent. Rutgers currently has one Q3 loss on its resume when the Scarlet Knights suffered a 72-66 setback against the Temple Owls on a neutral floor in late November. Since the return of their two key starters in Paul Mulcahy and Caleb McConnell, the Scarlet Knights have been playing high-level basketball and have produced the one of the nation's most elite defenses. Here is where the Scarlet Knights currently rank in several defensive categories in the country:

  • Scoring Defense - 6th
  • Forced Turnovers Per Game - 27th
  • 3PT % Defense - 2nd
  • FG % Defense - 11th
  • Steals Per Game - 13th

The Seton Hall Pirates enter Sunday's rivalry contest at 114th in the NET Rankings (as of 10 December) and 64th in the KenPom. Seton Hall lead the all-time series 41-31. Seton Hall is 1-3 against Q1 opponents but suffered a major setback when they lost 60-55 to Siena (Q4 opponent) in late November. The Pirates are coming off a blowout 91-65 road loss to the Kansas Jayhawks but defeated Division II opponent Lincoln (PA) 82-55 this past Wednesday at Walsh Gym. Seton Hall has been hampered with a few key injuries this year with Dre Davis only playing five games, and Tray Jackson missing Wednesday's action. The Pirates are led in scoring by Tyrese Samuel, Dre Davis, and Al-Amir Dawes. Al-Amir Dawes and Jamir Harris take a bulk of the 3PT shots for the Pirates as Dawes is shooting 44% from beyond the arc and Harris is shooting 28 percent. Tyrese Samuel is nabbing 7 rebounds per game. As a whole, the Pirates rank well statistically in the country in free-throw attempts per game (1st), free throws made per game (5th), 3PT% defense (43rd), and FG% defense (83rd). 

Keys to the Game

  1. Get the ball to Cliff - Rutgers should have the advantage down low against the Pirates and the Scarlet Knights need to get the ball to Cliff Omoruyi. Let Cliff go to work on Tyrese Samuel and inflict as much damage on Samuel as he can. Cliff needs to produce on the offensive end by drawing fouls, getting good looks, and finishing around the rim.
  2. Finish around the rim, no missed opportunities - The Scarlet Knights have had a habit of getting great looks around the rim but sometimes their layups or close shots do not fall, and possessions then turn into wasted opportunities. Rutgers has to do a better job of converting layups into points and finishing around the rim including grabbing offensive rebounds and converting second chance points because everyone knows this is going to be a very physical game. Rutgers ranks 20th in the country in offensive rebounding and Seton Hall is not very good at rebounding defensively. 
  3. No easy looks for Hall - The Scarlet Knights need to pack the paint and prevent the Pirates from driving the lane. If the Rutgers can force Seton Hall to shoot from beyond the arc or take long-range jumpers, the Scarlet Knights have a good chance at winning this game. Seton Hall is not particularly great at shooting from deep, and the Scarlet Knights have one of the best perimeter defenses in the country. Force the Pirates into taking poor shots.
  4. Drive the lane, draw fouls - Seton Hall fouls a lot and they let their opponents take many trips to the free-throw line. Rutgers needs to drive the lane and draw fouls. If the Scarlet Knights can draw fouls early in the game and put the Pirates into foul trouble early, it's going to be a long day for Seton Hall. Rutgers has improved from the charity stripe this year as they are shooting 70%.
  5. Get off to a good start - If Rutgers can get off to a good start and make some buckets early on, it's only going to further pump up an already raucous crowd at The RAC and make it difficult for Seton Hall to handle the rest of the way.

Additional Suggested Readings:
  • Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park Press - "Rutgers-Seton Hall basketball: Garden State Hardwood Classic scouting report, prediction" - Click here to read
  • Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park Press - "Seton Hall at Rutgers: 'the definition of a college basketball atmopshere'" - Click here to read
  • Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park Press - "Rutgers-Seton Hall basketball banquet: Oh, the stories" - Click here to read
  • Aaron Breitman of The Scarlet Faithful - "Rutgers faces an emotional test vs. Seton Hall" - Click here to read
  • Adam Zagoria of NJ Advance Media - "Seton Hall expecting 'loud, aggressive' environment in 'must-win' game at Rutgers" - Click here to read
  • Brian Fonseca of NJ Advance Media - "As Rutgers welcomes Seton Hall back to RAC, Corey Sanders recalls rivalry win that started renaissance" - Click here to read
  • Jersey Jumpshot Podcast - "Previewing Seton Hall vs Rutgers and a chat with Fox Sports' John Fanta" - Click to listen here