The Rutgers Scarlet Knights are understandably very upset about being excluded from the NCAA Tournament field. And unquestionably, BetOnline patrons have seen many instances where teams like that have been too busy brooding to put forth the requisite effort to win in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT).
Will this be one of those times? We are going to find out, as Rutgers has a very quick turnaround to face the Flying Dutchmen of Hofstra at 7 PM ET at the Jersey Mike's Arena in Piscataway, NJ.
In the NIT, teams (the higher seeded ones) host games, and Rutgers comes into this event as a #1 seed. They had a record of 19-14 and put together some credentials early in the season, beating Indiana and winning a game AT Purdue. In the Big Ten, they scored victories over Maryland, Penn State and Michigan State. They looked to be on their way to their third straight NCAA Tournament appearance,
But then things started to slip, and that coincided with a knee injury suffered by the invaluable Mawot Mag. Rutgers went 3-7 in the last ten games of the season without him. In the conference tournament, they beat Michigan but then lost to Purdue. And the NCAA Selection Committee was not impressed with their finish, or the roster of non-conference opponents they faced.
Hofstra registered what was, for them, some very strong wins over the likes of Iona, Princeton and Charleston (all of whom are in the Big Dance). They were 16-2 in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA), and had a 12-game winning streak going before losing to NC-Wilmington in the conference tournament.
They've also had some rough losses, dropping decisions to Saint Mary's (by 28), Purdue (19) and Towson (a 21-point drubbing).
This is a team that can shoot from anywhere on the floor, and so Rutgers' defense (fifth in the nation in efficiency rating) will be a challenge.
In the NIT basketball betting odds posted at BetOnline, Rutgers, the home team, is favored:
Rutgers Scarlet Knights -7.5
Hofstra Flying Dutchmen +7.5
Over 136 Points -113
Under 136 Points -107
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Rutgers, playing in its first NIT since 2006, is a poor shooting team, hitting just 31.8% of their triples. And Hofstra does a pretty good job at defending the perimeter (just 31% allowed), so the Knights will need to hit some two-point shots. But it's still going to be a rough proposition, since they are below 48% in that regard.
It's clear that Rutgers is going to depend on defense to get where they want to go. They've done a great job at stopping threes (30.5%) and twos (46.1%). and with 6-11 Clifford Omoruyi, they have a bona fide shot-blocker.
But Hofstra has firepower. They're going to be able to put two or three guys who can shoot triples on the floor on any given night. One of those guys is Aaron Estrada, who previously played for St. Peter's and Oregon and averages 20.5 points a game.
These guys are going to have to spread out a little to mitigate their height disadvantage. But Rutgers is a decidedly non-explosive, and they have very little capacity to pull away because they aren't going to get many treys. Coach Steve Pikiell has said that he does not want to end his team's season, but there was some real Rutgers heartbreak, and not a lot of time to get over it.
These points are well worth taking.
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