RUTGERS SCARLET KNIGHTS (8-8, 0-3)
Game Time: Noon
Television: WHAS-11/ESPN Plus
Location: Louis Brown Athletic Center: Piscataway, N.J.
Favorite: Louisville by 12.5
All-Time Series: Louisville leads 4-1
Last Meeting: Rutgers won 65-56 in 2006.
Probable Rutgers Starting Lineup
G Mike Coburn.....6.3 ppg
G Earl Pettis.....2.4 ppg
G Anthony Farmer..11.2 ppg
C Hamady N'Diae....5.0 ppg
F Jaron Griffin...7.6 ppg
We're two weeks into the Big East conference season, and only a pair of things seem to be clear: There is a best team in the conference, and a worst team in the conference. Rutgers isn't the best team in the conference.
The Scarlet Knights were already having a difficult time putting the ball into the basket before their most naturally gifted scorer, freshman guard Corey Chandler, went down with a stress fracture in his right foot on Dec. 21 against Rider. He missed two games, and is just 2-of-20 from the field since his return on Jan.5, including an 0-for-7 performance in a 26-point loss to Providence on Wednesday.
Chandler's injury has forced even more of the scoring load to fall on the shoulders of junior forward JR Inman, the team's leading scorer (14.9 ppg) and rebounder (8.3 ppg). Inman doesn't start, but his average of 34.3 minutes per game is well above anyone else on the team. He plays a lot like Connecticut's Jeff Adrien, the major difference being that you can't leave him alone from beyond the arc, where he has connected on 19-of-49 (38%) tries this season.
Inman provides an experienced presence in the frontcourt, but he can't do anything about a backcourt that is extremely green. Chandler is talented but will still be playing in just his third league game today, and the man being asked to handle the majority of the ball handling duties - Mike Coburn - is also a freshman. Like Chandler, Coburn is undeniably talented and represents the future of RU basketball, but potential can't allow outside observers to overlook the fact that he has more turnovers (31) than assists (29) in his inaugural season.
The one calming presence in the Scarlet Knight backcourt is junior Anthony Farmer. Though he's averaging career highs in both points (11.2) and rebounds (3.0), Farmer's assist-to-tunrover ratio of 1.9:1.8 is also less than stellar. He's scored in double figures in six of Rutgers' last seven games, including 14 and 10 point performances against South Florida and Providence, respectively.
One of the few pleasant surprises for Fred Hill this season has been the defensive emergence of 6-11 sophomore center Hamady N'Diaye. The native of Senegal has blocked 55 shots in 15 games, good for eighth nationally and second in the Big East. He still isn't much of a threat to score (5.0 ppg), but his rebounding numbers (5.9 rpg) are up significantly from his freshman season.
The biggest thing Rutgers has going for it today is that the game is being played in the "RAC," which has commonly been referred to as the toughest place to play in the Big East for years. U of L fell to the Scarlet Knights the last time they came to Piscataway, but Quincy Douby was still residing in the Garden State then and that Louisville team was eventually headed to the NIT.
The other thing that should make U of L fans nervous is that so many Cardinals from the Jersey-area will be playing in front of friends and family. This quote in particular made me nervous:
"I can't wait. I'm actually 45 minutes away from there," said New York native Edgar Sosa. "My mother's anxious to see me, my brother, I've got my cousins coming up and all my friends from high school. It's going to be like a little reunion."
The only way Louisville loses this game is if Sosa, Earl Clark and Derrick Caracter start playing for the minority section of the crowd wearing Louisville-red, because on paper this about as large a mismatch as you'll see in the league this season.
CC Prediction: Louisville 71, Rutgers 58
No room to stumble in these games.