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The Layup Line: Rutgers

The Scarlet Knights haven't played a road game in over month as the Bearcats welcome them to Cincinnati on Saturday night.

Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

So Rutgers (7-8) comes to town after absorbing a respectable 7-point loss to Louisville (if there's such a thing) in which the Cards drained 41 free throws. In fact, the Scarlet Knights had Louisville down early until the Cards employed their press and took over the game. File that away for later use, please...

Here's what I think I know about this Bearcats squad: they should be favored in each of their next 5 games. And I think they'll drop one...

  • Game: Saturday, January 11 @ 6:00pm ET
  • Location: Fifth Third Arena/Shoemaker Center; Cincinnati, OH
  • TV/Radio: CBSSN (Johansen and Wolf, again); 700WLW

Call me a pessimist, but it's the law of averages - the 'Cats have won 7 in a row, and I don't think they'll pocket 12 consecutive victories this year (meaning they win the next 5). They'll have a head-scratching loss that will send Twitter into a frenzy. But will they lose to Rutgers at home on Saturday? Read on...

Maybe it's because these teams have played 3 times in the past 2 years, but I feel like Mack & Jack have been at Rutgers forever. That'd be Myles Mack (#04 in your program), Rutgers' point guard and leading scorer at 16.1 a game, and Kadeem Jack (#11) the 6'9" forward who averages 14.1 points a game. Mack n' Jack; that's gotta be trademarked somewhere, right?

Anyway, Mack - just like Joe Jackson from Memphis - is a short, quick guard looking to wreak havoc on UC. He's tied for 3rd in the AAC for steals (2/g), and he leads Rutgers in 3-point attempts. Jack, on the other hand, is 8th in the conference in blocks (1.7) and 7th in field goal percentage (54.6%).

The Scarlet Knights don't have a ton of depth to their roster, but they do have three other upper-classmen that put up some points. J.J. Moore (#44) starts and tallies 12.6 points while Wally Judge (#33) also starts, mans the post, and puts up 9.1 a game. Finally, Jerome Seagers (#01) comes off the bench but averages 9.5 points a game. Overwhelmed, yet?

Finally, I'm curious whether the Scarlet Knights length will give the Bearcats fits. Rutgers starts 4 guys 6'6" or taller. My gut says it won't be an issue, but Pitino talked about how physical Rutgers was during their game last weekend.

What the 'Cats have to do to win:

  • Press. It worked for Louisville, and it should work for the Bearcats. When you break it out by half, Rutgers is giving up an average of 7 more points in the second half - a statistic that I think shows their lack of depth.
  • Attack either Mack or Jack. This one's a stretch because I don't think they HAVE to neutralize either Mack or Jack in order to win, but it sure would help.
  • Play Transition Defense. The press will work well if they can force turnovers and limit layups on the other end. Do you get the impression I think the press is important?

My prediction: Is there any way a team with a losing record comes into Fifth Third Arena and upsets the red-hot Bearcats? I'm currently writing this post under the influence of cold and sinus medicine, so maybe I'm off balance. A week in Vegas can do that to you.

Anyway, I'm not brave enough to pick the upset, but this game doesn't sit well in my stomach. Rutgers has had the week off to adjust to Cincinnati's press, and the Bearcats haven't handled success well in the past. I don't think the Scarlet Knights have the horses to pull this off, though: Bearcats win 66-62.