The Michigan Wolverines (15-12; 9-7) will be looking to earn a critical win versus the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (17-10; 9-7) on Thursday night. Both teams are fighting through injuries and trying to remain in contention for a top-four finish in the Big Ten.
Desperate for a Win
Michigan is in a must-win situation if they hope to earn an NCAA tournament bid. They have a record of 2-10 against Quad 1 opponents and a win against Rutgers would be huge for their postseason hopes. Rutgers has a defensive efficiency ranking of No. 4 nationally, and Michigan’s 40th ranked offense will have to step up their game to overcome their opponent.
Talented Michigan Players
Michigan’s roster is talented, big, and physical, according to Rutgers head coach Steve Pikiell. He said they have three first-round draft picks, and they pose a threat with their size, speed, and athleticism. Hunter Dickinson is a key player for Michigan, an elite offensive big man who can score in multiple ways. He makes 57.4% of his two-point shot attempts and has made 40.5% of his 42 three-point attempts. The Wolverines are 9th nationally in turnover rate at 14.4%, but just 277th in offensive rebounding rate at 25.4%.
Kobe Bufkin, the 6’4″ guard, has become a very efficient scorer for Michigan and is one of the key players that Rutgers needs to prioritize. He is a strong downhill player who can finish at the rim, but he is also turnover-prone. Moreover, Bufkin was recently predicted as a lottery pick in 2024 by ESPN reporter, Jonathan Givony.
Rutgers will look to limit Michigan in transition, and they will also be looking for opportunities to generate turnovers to create transition opportunities. Pace of the game will be something to watch for, as every transition basket will be valuable. Rutgers needs to control the pace and force Michigan to play their game.
A key individual matchup to watch in this game is between Hunter Dickinson and Cliff Omoruyi. Dickinson is an elite offensive big man, and Omoruyi needs to be careful not to get into foul trouble. Omoruyi must be poised and controlled when he has the ball in the paint, attacking the rim and Dickinson.
Rutgers point guard Paul Mulcahy’s leadership is always important, and he must maintain his poise. Rutgers can’t get caught up in Michigan trying to start anything and must stay above it. Mulcahy must take on the responsibility of keeping the team focused. He also needs to be locked in as a scorer in this game, and look for his shot early and often.
Expect a Fierce Battle
This series has been a spirited one for a few years now and tonight should be a hard-fought battle for 40 minutes. Michigan’s hopes of reaching the NCAA tournament this season have faded, but they have a chance to change that if they can win their remaining four games. This will be a battle of wills for two teams that play really hard.
Prediction: Michigan Wins a Close One
Michigan’s offensive game will have to be on point if they want to overcome Rutgers’ defensive prowess. Rutgers has faced a lot of adversity this season, but they need to stay true to themselves, play to their strengths, and stick together as a team. Bring it for 40 minutes tonight, and Michigan can earn a key win in the Big Ten.
The game will be played at the RAC and will air live on FS1 at 8:30 p.m. ET.
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