Two of the more surprising teams in the Big Ten lock up Wednesday night as the Rutgers Scarlet Knights go on the road to take on the Iowa Hawkeyes. The Scarlet Knights are possibly the most surprising team in the nation, making an appearance in the AP Top 25 for the first time in 40 years. Steve Pikiell’s group sits at 14-4 (5-2) and is No. 24 in the nation, while Iowa is currently the No. 19 team in the nation with a record of 13-5 (4-3).
Rutgers has made the 2019-20 season a successful campaign through stellar play on the defensive end of the court. The Scarlet Knights currently rank seventh in Kenpom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric as well as sixth in effective field-goal percentage defense.
Rutgers is also allowing just 58.7 points per game to opposing teams, another number that places it in the top 10 in the nation.
Rutgers is led by Ron Harper Jr. (11.8 points, 5.8 rebounds) and has recently welcomed back junior guard Geo Baker from injury. Baker has only averaged 22 minutes per game in his last two games, but you can expect those numbers to climb as the season progresses.
Sophomore center Myles Johnson leads the frontcourt with 9.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.
Iowa continues to win despite the loss of Jordan Bohannon to a hip injury for the rest of the season. Junior forward Luka Garza is playing himself into the national player of the year picture at 22.9 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game.
Guards Joe Wieskamp and CJ Frederick have been fantastic in the backcourt, combining for over 25 points, eight rebounds and nearly five assists per game. They are also dead-eye shooters at 39 and 50 percent, respectively.
Iowa is a 5.5-point favorite at home, with the over/under set at 138.5.
Can A Big Ten Team Win On The Road?
The Big Ten is daunting this season, with 12 teams ranked inside Kenpom’s top 41 teams. Road teams are 8-42 in league play, and the Scarlet Knights are currently 1-4 in road/neutral-site games.
Rutgers is a sparkling 12-4-1 against the spread on the season and 3-1 ATS in true road games. Rutgers is also 9-0 ATS in its last nine games overall.
The total has gone under in 10 of the Knights’ 18 games and in each of their last seven games.
As Luka Goes, So Goes Iowa
Garza has been nothing short of spectacular this season. At home this year, the 7-footer is averaging 23.2 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks while shooting 50 percent from behind the three-point line.
The Hawkeyes are 8-1 straight up in home games this season as well as 9-2 straight up as the favorite. Overall, Iowa is 12-5-1 against the spread and 7-2 ATS at home.
The Hawkeyes are 7-1-1 ATS in their last nine games and have gone under in 12 of their 18 games, including seven of their last nine.
The Knights Or The Natives? Pick
Both teams are extremely hot as well as well-coached. The road record in Big Ten play can not be ignored, however. Iowa is favored by 5.5 points, but I don’t see this one being that much of a margin. Rutgers’ defense is good enough to keep it close. The question will be if Johnson can hang with Garza. I’d take Iowa to win straight up, but Rutgers to cover. Play the under.