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Michigan vs. Rutgers Preview: It’s do or die time for the Wolverines

A team can learn a lot about itself when faced with adversity, and Michigan is facing a ton of it right now.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Rutgers Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight begins a four-game homestand for the Michigan Wolverines as they welcome in Rutgers for a huge game in Ann Arbor at the Crisler Center.

Michigan is coming off an embarrassing loss to the Wisconsin Badgers on Sunday. It wasn’t necessarily embarrassing because of the on-court performance — although that wasn’t great, either — but due to the obvious: Juwan Howard’s postgame skirmish with Greg Gard that ignited a brawl between the two teams. It resulted in his suspension for the rest of the regular season and a hefty fine.

The last thing the Wolverines needed was some more adversity, but they self-supplied some more following Sunday’s game in Madison. Now they must take on a scorching-hot Rutgers team without their head coach. They also won’t have Moussa Diabate and Terrance Williams, who were suspended one-game for their involvement in the skirmish.

Meanwhile, the Scarlet Knights have defeated Michigan State, Illinois, Wisconsin and Ohio State all in the month of February. The Scarlet Knights are coming off a tough road loss to Purdue — a team they took down back in December when the Boilermakers were the No. 1 team in the country — but they still have a lot of momentum and have plenty of quality wins to be considered for the NCAA Tournament.

Michigan Wolverines (14-11, 8-7) vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (16-10, 10-6)

Date & Time: Wednesday, Feb. 23, 7 p.m. ET

Television/Streaming: Big Ten Network

Location: Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Big Ten Standings: MICH t-7th, RUT 5th

DraftKings Sportsbook Odds: MICH -5, O/U 135

If Michigan wins this game, it won’t go a long way toward getting into the NCAA Tournament. However, if the Wolverines lose, it could be detrimental. Rutgers, somehow, doesn’t have a great NET ranking (80) despite being 6-3 in Quad 1 games this season. So, if my math is correct, this game is a Quad 3 game for Michigan since it is played at home.

Should Michigan win, it will gain two quad score points. But if Michigan loses, it will lose three quad score points, which would really be a blemish on its resume, especially considering Michigan has already lost to Rutgers this season.

Matchup Highlights

Keep an eye on the sophomore center for Rutgers, Clifford Omoruyi. He has scored in the double digits in every game in the month of February. He also had a huge double-double (15 points, 13 rebounds) in the win against Illinois last week. At 6-foot-11 and 240 pounds, he will provide Hunter Dickinson a huge challenge in the paint. He only had four points against the Wolverines in their first matchup, but did collect 12 boards.

But the heartbeat of this Rutgers team comes from its guards — senior Ron Harper Jr. and senior Geo Baker. Harper Jr. averages 15.5 points per game while his counterpart averages 12.2 points per game. They have carried most of the heavy lifting for the Scarlet Knights all season long, and it would be foolish to leave them unaccounted for.

In the Wolverines’ first game against Rutgers this season, they allowed Harper Jr. to go off for 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting and 5-of-6 from beyond the arc. Baker was even better against Michigan earlier this year, scoring 27 points on 10-of-15 shooting and 3-for-7 from his three-pointers.

It would be wise for the Wolverines to learn from their previous mistakes and guard those two a bit better, especially from three-point land.