Preview and prediction: Michigan basketball vs. Rutgers

On3 imageby:Clayton Sayfie02/29/24

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Juwan Howard Reacts To Michigan Basketball 84-76 Loss To Purdue #GoBlue

Michigan Wolverines basketball (8-20, 3-14 Big Ten) will hit the road to take on Rutgers (14-13, 6-10 Big Ten) in a battle of two teams in line to play Wednesday night at the Big Ten Tournament.

The Maize and Blue have lost five straight games, while Rutgers has dropped three in a row, including the last two in blowout fashion, 96-68 to Purdue and 63-46 to Maryland.

Michigan will have sophomore point guard Dug McDaniel available. He’s set to play in his first game away from Ann Arbor since a Jan. 7 tilt against Penn State in Philadelphia, after serving a six-road-game suspension due to academics.

Here’s everything you need to know before tip-off, including our final score prediction.

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Game information: Michigan basketball vs. Rutgers

DateThursday, Feb. 29, 2024
VenueJersey Mike’s Arena
Time8:30 p.m. ET
TV / StreamFox Sports 1
On The CallBrandon Gaudin (play-by-play) and Jim Spanarkel (color)
RadioDetroit: WWJ-Radio (950 AM) | Ann Arbor: WWWW (102.9 FM) | Grand Rapids: WOOD (106.9 FM) | Stream: MGoBlue.com
On The CallBrian Boesch (play-by-play) and Terry Mills (color)
Betting LineMichigan +7, over/under 138.5 points
Kenpom PredictionRutgers 70, Michigan 65 (33-percent chance of U-M victory)

Michigan projected starters

Michigan starters: Sophomore guard Dug McDaniel, graduate guard Nimari Burnett, senior forward Terrance Williams II, redshirt sophomore forward Will Tschetter and sophomore forward Tarris Reed Jr.

Michigan injuries: Graduate forward Olivier Nkamhoua is out for the season after undergoing wrist surgery. Graduate guard Jaelin Llewellyn missed Sunday’s game against Purdue.

Rutgers projected starters

• #0 – Sophomore guard Derek Simpson (6-3, 165) — Averaging 9.1 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists per outing, while shooting 32.8 percent on twos, 30.2 percent on 63 threes and 86.4 percent at the free throw line. He produces 0.838 points per possession on ball screens (including passes) and has been inefficient in an increased role this season.

• #1 – Freshman guard Jamichael Davis (6-2, 175) — Registering 5.6 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2 assists per clash, while connecting on 40.7 percent of his shots from inside the arc. He’s 7-of-27 on three-pointers (25.9 percent). He’s aggressive defensively, with a 2.6-percent steal rate.

• #25 – Redshirt junior guard Jeremiah Williams (6-4, 177) — The Iowa State and Temple transfer has added a big boost to the team after being reinstated from suspension Feb. 3 against Michigan. He has the highest usage rate on the team (24.6 percent) and averages 12 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. He’s shooting 42.9 percent on twos and 3-of-12 from long range. He controls the offense by running a lot of ball screens, on which he’s generating 1 point per possession (80th percentile nationally).

• #3 – Senior forward Mawot Mag (6-7, 216) — A quintessential “glue guy,” Mag has been lauded throughout his career for playing strong team defense. He hasn’t been all that good offensively, though, with 9.1 points per game on 45.5 percent shooting from two and 24.5 percent on 49 attempts from three. He’s just 12-of-54 on catch-and-shoot jump shots. He adds 3.8 rebounds and 1.2 assists per outing.

• #11 – Senior center Clifford Omoruyi (6-11, 240) — Averaging 10.7 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. He shoots 51.1 percent on twos and is 1-of-5 from beyond the arc. A beast on the boards, Omoruyi also leads the country by blocking 13.4 percent of opponents’ shots when he’s on the floor. He draws 4.3 fouls per 40 minutes and shoots 59 percent from the free throw line. His offense has been what it is for the last few seasons. He’s producing just 0.871 points per post-up (including passes). He shoots 63.3 percent at the rim but only 37.7 percent on hook shots despite taking 53 of them this season.

Key bench contributors
• #5 – Senior forward Aundre Hyatt (6-6, 235) — Recording 11 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists per tilt, while shooting 45.6 percent on twos and 32.1 percent on 137 three-point tries. He has a 44.1 effective field goal percentage on catch-and-shoot jumpers, ranking in the 32nd percentile in the country.

• #10 – Freshman guard Gavin Griffiths (6-8, 193) — The former Michigan target is putting up 5.1 points and 2 rebounds in 16.7 minutes per game. He shoots 38.1 percent on twos and 25 percent on 80 threes.

What to watch for: Michigan vs. Rutgers

1. The last meeting
Michigan was out-scored 37-12 in the final 17 minutes the last time these two teams met, with Rutgers coming back to win comfortably, 69-59, at Crisler Center. Rutgers, which ranks 356th in the country in effective field goal percentage, won on the road with only 2 made three-pointers.

All in all, it was one of the Wolverines’ worst losses of the season. It also got the Scarlet Knights going, sparking a four-game winning streak that included impressive victories over Maryland, Wisconsin and Northwestern.

Michigan had major issues with defensive rebounding in its 84-76 loss to Purdue Sunday, and the Scarlet Knights also won the battle on the boards earlier this month, with 18 second-chance points. Adjustments for this matchup start with boxing out and securing the ball, a task made tougher with Nkamhoua out for the season.

Taking care of the ball after turning it over 19 times in the first meeting and getting quality shots against a team that ranks fifth nationally in block rate will also be crucial. Rutgers ranks 287th in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency but checks in fourth in defensive efficiency. In conference play, opponents are turning the ball over on 20.6 percent of their possessions versus the Scarlet Knights.

2. Dug McDaniel on the road
Michigan is expected to have McDaniel back from his road suspension due to academics, since it’s spring break and six games — the length the point guard mentioned in his statement on social media —  have passed.

As we saw Sunday against Purdue and in the home games during this six-week rollercoaster with him in and out of the lineup, the Michigan guard makes the offense go. In home games since Jan. 11, U-M is has 51.5 effective field goal percentage. In road games without McDaniel, that number is 45.2. Obviously, natural home vs. road differences play their part, but the offense is respectable with the point guard in the lineup. It should get even better no matter where they play if McDaniel is able to play on a consistent basis.

3. Key to victory
Unless Rutgers has an outlier of an offensive performance, this game will come down to Michigan executing on offense.

The Scarlet Knights are just 1-12 when opponents score 1 point per possession or more. That’s not that high of a bar to clear for Michigan. The Wolverines are averaging 101.8 points per 100 possessions and have hit 1 point per play in 20 of 28 games this year. One of the eight in which the bar was not cleared was the dismal 0.85 mark against the Scarlet Knights, though, so Michigan is going to have to play much better.

Prediction

Rutgers has been awful over the last three games. The Scarlet Knights can’t shoot, and the defense has gone down the drain, wit all three opponents scoring over 1 point per play. Michigan is short-handed and hasn’t played well on the road (or even close), but McDaniel being back, four days to prepare and no classes in between due to spring break should help.

Prediction: Michigan 68, Rutgers 64

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