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Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Michigan Wolverines Preview: Heavy Competition

Few teams are struggling as much as the Wolverines, and one comes to Ann Arbor on Saturday.

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament Second Round - Michigan vs Rutgers Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

No one will be shocked if the Michigan Wolverines claim the dreaded No. 14 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, and it would be hard to say it is undeserved if that does transpire. The Wolverines have just one win since mid-December and are underdogs in nine of their final 10 games, with a Wednesday Big Ten Tournament contest all but finalized.

That lone game where Michigan is favored currently comes on Saturday against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. They do have a pair of wins in their last six, but a hot start to the season — against lesser competition, it should be said — has evaporated into a .500 record. If the Wolverines are going to stay out of last place, it will be thanks to Rutgers, and this game will have a big impact on that.

This is going to be a great case study in a movable force vs. a stoppable object, as Kenpom sees this offense right around 300th, and obviously last in the Big Ten. Michigan’s defensive issues are infamous at this point, so expect ugliness from both of these units when they go head-to-head on that end of the floor. Whichever unit does less bad is likely going to get their team the win.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (10-10, 2-7) at Michigan Wolverines (7-14, 2-8)

Date & Time: Saturday, Feb. 3, 4 p.m. ET
Location: Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, MI
TV/Streaming: BTN

Rutgers’ offensive profile is a whole lot of scarlet, with league-worst two-point and three-point shooting and 13th-best free throw percentage. The Knights have broken 1.00 PPP just once in their past seven games and have just two players averaging double-digits: Aundre Hyatt (12.0 PPG) and Cliff Omoruyi (10.8). Neither is exceptionally efficient and both are somewhat one-dimensional in their own way.

As bad as the offense has been, the Rutgers defense has been exceptional, ranking second in the conference in adjusted efficiency. Teams are hitting shots against the Knights, but blocks and turnovers are common as well, making this a top-10 defense nationally. The conference’s elite has had success against them, but that is not an accurate descriptor of the Wolverines.

“I. Understand. Nothing.”

The first half in East Lansing shows this Michigan squad does have talent on offense and the ability to score in bunches, but unfortunately that quality has been inconsistent and dormant at the worst times. Having Dug McDaniel available Saturday should help, but this Rutgers defense is going to cause a lot of issues for the home team.

The bigger intrigue is if the Wolverines will struggle even against the conference’s worst offense. There (allegedly) are strong individual defenders on this team, but it is almost impressive how terrible this unit looks most of this time. Like the Michael Scott Paper Company, this program is in need of a restart, but unfortunately that likely will not happen until the offseason. Until then, we are stuck watching horrors of this defense; if there was one time to look competent though, it would be this weekend.