Rutgers vs #3 Michigan Road to March Madness

Rutgers vs #3 Michigan Road to March Madness | 2021 NCAA Basketball Expert Analysis

Written by on February 17, 2021

It was almost easy to forget about No. 3 Michigan in terms of favorites to win the 2021 NCAA Tournament because the Wolverines hadn’t played in so long due to COVID protocols. They are back and look as good as ever and will be double-digit NCAAB favorites on Thursday against Rutgers in Big Ten action.

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Last Meeting

This is the only scheduled meeting of the season between the schools. Last year, the also played once and Michigan won 60-52 in New Jersey. Zavier Simpson had 16 points with five assists and two steals, while Franz Wagner added 12 points. Simpson is no longer at UM. Rutgers entered that 17-0 at home last season. Rutgers has never defeated Michigan, with the schools playing 12 previous times, dating back to 1933. Rutgers joined the Big Ten in 2014.

Why Bet on Rutgers? | 2021 NCAA Basketball Expert Analysis

Rutgers had been ranked but fell out of the Top 25 on Monday after going 1-1 last week, losing by 13 at ranked Iowa and then beating horrible Northwestern 64-50 on Saturday. The Wildcats were held to 33% shooting in their lowest-scoring game of the season. Northwestern led by as many as 10 early in the first half at 14-4, but Rutgers would go on a run of their own to go into the break up 37-27 and the Knights wouldn’t trail again.

“After they jumped on us quickly, I thought we settled down,” Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said.

Myles Johnson (12 points, 14 rebounds) and Ron Harper Jr. (14 points, 11 rebounds) each had a double-double. Jacob Young scored 15 points to lead all scorers. The Scarlet Knights shot 14-of-16 (87.5 percent) at the free throw line and out-rebounded the Wildcats 43-31.

“We were locked in,” Pikiell said. “It was a really good basketball game. Our defense was really, really good and they’re a good offensive team. I loved the fact that we out rebounded them and we got contributions from everybody. Our bench gave us great energy and everyone chipped in here, which was important. Every game in this league is a war and this one was no different.”

The win represented Rutgers eighth conference win, the second most conference wins for RU since joining the Big Ten. Rutgers has only reached eight conference wins once over the past 18 seasons (last season).

As noted, Rutgers held Northwestern to 50 points. It was their season-low, and the third lowest points allowed in by RU in a conference game during the Big Ten era. Both of the lowest outputs by a Big Ten team with Pikiell as the head coach have come this season (37 vs. Michigan State, 50 vs. Northwestern). It is the first time Rutgers has held two conference opponents to 50 points or less in the same season since 2005-06 in the Big East (holding USF to 44 points and Seton Hall to 48 points).

Rutgers stands at 30 in the NET rankings. The Scarlet Knights have four Quad 1 wins on the year, with victories over Illinois (4), Purdue (23), at Maryland (39) and at Indiana (48).

Why Bet on Michigan? | 2021 NCAA Basketball Expert Analysis

Michigan played Sunday for the first time since Jan. 22 and won 67-59 at No. 21 Wisconsin. After trailing most of the way, Michigan scored the game’s final eight points. Wisconsin collected just six points and one basket over the final 7:45. The Badgers shot 7 of 28 in the second half and missed their last 11 3-point attempts.

After that Jan. 22 win over Purdue, Michigan announced the next day it was pausing all athletic activities after several people linked to the athletic department tested positive for a COVID-19 variant that transmits at a higher rate.

Senior Isaiah Livers scored a game-high 20 points to mark his ninth career 20-point game. He made four three-pointers, including a clutch second-chance triple with 2:48 remaining in the contest. Freshman Hunter Dickinson had his fourth career double-double, tying a career-best 15 rebounds and adding 11 points and added a career-best five blocks to his stat line. He became the first Wolverine to post 10+ points, 15+ rebounds and 5+ blocks since 2004 — Courtney Sims vs. Purdue (Feb. 7, 2004; 11 points, 15 rebounds, 5 blocks). Dickinson was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week on Monday. Dickinson is third nationally in field-goal percentage (68.8).

Sophomore Franz Wagner also put together a double-digit performance with 14 points, while Mike Smith dished out a team-best six assists and Eli Brooks added nine points, four rebounds and two steals. Michigan scored 15 second-chance points, 10 points off Wisconsin turnovers and added 30 points in the paint.

Should Rutgers win here, it would highest ranked win in program history. Rutgers’ lone top-5 win in history came on Jan. 11, 2015, a defeat of No. 4 Wisconsin. The highest ranked team defeated under head coach Steve Pikiell is No. 9 Maryland (last season on March 3, 2020).

Michigan as a team ranks third nationally in defensive rebounds per game (30.5) and third nationally in field-goal percentage defense (37.4).

Expert College Basketball Prediction

Michigan 74, Rutgers 65


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