The Rutgers Scarlet Knights will look to basically stamp their ticket to the NCAA Tournament on Wednesday evening as they travel to State College to take on Penn State. The Scarlet Knights seemed to be a pretty safe bet for the dance, but struggles on the road have plagued them all season and have lost two consecutive games and five of their last seven have put their postseason in limbo.
Rutgers has not made an NCAA Tournament since the 1991 tournament and has not advanced beyond the opening weekend since 1979.
Penn State is much like Rutgers in the sense that they have far exceeded expectations this season. The Nittany Lions are a lock for the tournament at this point, sitting at 20-7 overall and 10-6 in a very strong Big Ten, but have lost two consecutive games.
Pat Chambers’ bunch is averaging just 0.87 points per possession on offense in their last two games and has shot just 6-33 from beyond the arc in those games.
These two teams hooked up on Jan. 7 at the RAC, and the Scarlet Knights took the win, 72-61. The Nittany Lions offensive performance in that game was very similar to their performances during their current two-game skid.
Rutgers is currently the 12th ranked team in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency while holding opponents to just 62.2 points per game.
Penn State is a 5.5-point favorite at home, with the over/under set at 137.5.
Weary from the Road
Winning on the road is hard, but quality teams should at least be mediocre. Rutgers is an abysmal 1-9 straight up away from the RAC this season and 1-7 in true road games. Despite the lack of victories, they are 5-3 against the spread in true road games.
Rutgers has been good against the spread over the entire season at 16-10-1. As a dog, the Scarlet Knights are just 2-8 this season, and the total has gone over in five of their eight true road games.
Is it time to worry about Penn State?
The Nittany Lions have been arguably the biggest surprise this season as their stars Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins are leading them to their first tournament since 2011. Penn State has been consistent everywhere this season, but have been especially good at home at 13-2 straight up and 9-5-1 against the spread at the friendly confines.
On the season, the Nittany Lions are 15-10-2 against the spread overall and 7-2-1 ATS in their last 10 games. They have been inconsistent with the totals at 13-14 o/u this season, but the total has gone under in 7 of their last 9.
Both teams need this win, but it means more for Rutgers
The Scarlet Knights need this win in the worst kind of way, but do we really think that they are going to magically get better at this point? Going 1-9 is a strong trend away from home. However, in their last four games away from home, they have lost by a total of 25 points.
This could be the perfect opportunity for them to pick up this win and potentially punch their ticket against a Penn State team that is struggling defensively as well as offensively from distance.
If the Scarlet Knights can put the clamps on the three-point line, then they can keep this close. I am not sure Rutgers wins this game straight up, but I think they cover, and I am taking the (way) under.