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Rutgers defense is impressing in multiple ways



Photo credit Rutgers Athletics

We know how good the Rutgers defense is by watching them on a game by game basis. We’ve seen Steve Pikiell teams play very good defense throughout his seven year tenure. However, this group is playing at an elite level on a consistent basis. The statistics proving this are overwhelming.

After Houston’s 82-71 win over UCF on Wednesday night, Rutgers moved up to No. 2 nationally in defensive efficiency per KenPom. On Tuesday, RU dominated Penn State in a 65-45 victory.

Penn State was the 13th different team that the Scarlet Knights have held to their season low in scoring this season. In fourteen home games, Rutgers has held foes to their season low 12 times.

The Scarlet Knights have now held three Big Ten foes to 50 or less points in wins over Penn State (45 points), Indiana (48 points), and Maryland (50).

In 20 games this season, Rutgers has held opponents below their scoring average all but once. 16 times foes have been held below their scoring average by 10+ points.

The key has been holding opponents to 65 points or fewer this season. They’re 14-1 overall and 6-0 in Big Ten play when this happens.

After holding Penn State to 30 points below their season scoring average, head coach Micah Shrewsberry said, “They’re great defensively and knew what they wanted to do. They took us out of some things we wanted to do.” He added, “Rutgers consistently plays hard.”

The players have been connected on the defensive end in a way that has made them a force that stops offenses dead in their tracks.

As Evan Miyakawa pointed out in a tweet this week, Rutgers is tied in forcing the most scoring droughts in college basketball this season. A scoring drought is defined by holding an opponent scoreless in four or more minutes.

Two of the teams that Rutgers is tied with total forced scoring droughts is Tennessee, who are No. 1 nationally in defensive efficiency, and Houston, who is now No. 3 nationally.

Of course, it takes a complete team effort on a consistent basis in holding opponents below their scoring average so often and producing scoring droughts at a high rate.

That leads to a tweet from my business partner Anthony Wright, owner of the Full Ride Network. Utilizing data from Bart Torvik’s excellent site, he compared player usage and player defensive ratings within the Big Ten. It’s not surprising that Rutgers has multiple players at the top of this chart. However, it’s still striking to see so many of them listed.

All five starters have the five lowest defensive ratings in the Big Ten along with freshman big man Antwone Woolfolk. That is pretty unbelievable. Sixth man Aundre Hyatt has a sub-85 rating as well, which is generally considered the marker for elite defenders. He is right with Zach Edey of Purdue and slightly above Dain Dainja of Illinois. Reserve Dean Reiber is just below that 85 rating. Freshman Derek Simpson isn’t much further below. Lastly, Jalen Miller is Rutgers’ 10th player who qualifies and his defensive rating of 90 is good and better than most others in the conference.

Really take a look at this chart. It’s unbelievable that Rutgers has so many players rated at such a high defensive level. No weak links. No average links either. This is a big reason that Rutgers is able to produce so many scoring droughts, hold opponents to such low scoring nights and close out games in such an efficient way.

What is usage rate? It “calculates what percentage of team plays a player was involved in while he was on the floor, provided that the play ends in one of the three true results: field-goal attempt, free-throw attempt or turnover. On average, a player will have a usage rate of 20 percent.”

While it’s no surprise to see Caleb McConnell at the top of all players in the Big Ten in defensive rating, seeing Cliff Omoruyi there alongside him and with a much greater usage rate. It is both surprising and encouraging.

We know the Rutgers defense is playing at an elite level. However, data highlighted in this article demonstrates how impressive the Scarlet Knights defense has truly been this season so far.

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  1. InPikeWeTrust

    January 27, 2023 at 3:45 am

    Dude, I realize not all statistics are equally reliable and trustworthy but if that chart is ridiculous! It also highlights my boy Woolfolk who is going to be a monster on defense. He has a chance to be the best defender Pike’s had and that’s saying a heck of a lot.

  2. thevinman

    January 27, 2023 at 5:13 pm

    Wow, what an impressive showing by Rutgers defense!!

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