What is Dispatches from Blogfrica? Pretty simple: I ask questions of an blogger for an opposing team; he (or she) answers. A truly revolutionary idea, no? Today: David from On the Banks, SB Nation's fine blog for all things Rutgers.
1) Rutgers shocked a hell of a lot of people by winning two of their first four Big Ten games (especially that stunner over Wisconsin) -- what went so right for the Scarlet Knights in those games? Conversely, what's been going so wrong for Rutgers during their current 9-game losing streak?
DAVID: Quite simply, in those wins, Rutgers best players made shots (Kadeem Jack against Northwestern, Myles Mack and everyone else against Wisconsin). Rutgers offense has been the problem all years (which is the opposite of last year's defensive mess). But during the losing streak, when they've made shots, the other team has been just a bit better (Maryland, the first Indiana game) or Rutgers has missed a ton of shots. Rutgers isn't super talented right now beyond Mack and Jack (though there are pieces). They're also extremely thin and Jack and Mack play a ton of minutes. Basically, they're exhausted at this point, and even when they dig deep, it's just not enough.
2) Overall, how has Year One in the Big Ten gone for Rutgers? About as you expected? Better? Worse?
DAVID: It's a tough call, and one I won't really be able to answer until the season is over. I mean, Rutgers beat Wisconsin when they were ranked #4. The Scarlet Knights had never beaten a top 5 team before then. So, that is definitely a step forward, but since then, things have gone horribly downhill. Honestly, it's about what most people expected so far, but another win or two would show signs of progress going forward.
3) Rutgers has some brutally bad offensive stats -- they rank near the bottom of the country in every shooting category: 2FG%, 3FG%, FT%. Unsurprisingly, they also have one of the least efficient offenses in the nation. Does Rutgers just lack shooters or is there some other flaw with the offense?
DAVID: Rutgers definitely lacks shooters. The best shooter on the team is Mack. Beyond that, no one can shoot consistently, even when they're open. I don't think there's a flaw in the offense, but I do think Jordan simplified it and went away from the cuts to the hoop this year in order to highlight Jack and Mack. Add those cuts back in and there are probably a few easier baskets and a few extra points.
4) Defensively, what does Rutgers like to do? Northwestern's zone defense left Iowa absolutely flummoxed on Sunday, so I'm hoping Rutgers didn't see any tape of that game.
DAVID: Rutgers should play zone, but they don't much. They play a lot of straight up man, which puts them as a middle of the pack defensive team. I'd expect to see more of that. The Scarlet Knights rarely try to take advantage of the opposition's flaws, but instead tries to beat them on Rutgers' own terms. It's not working this year, but I think Jordan is coaching for a few years down the line.
5) Tell us a little but about Kadeem Jack and Myles Mack -- they're among Rutgers' leaders in points, rebounds, assists, and steals this season. What are they especially good at? What are their weaknesses? Are there any other Rutgers players Iowa fans should be familiar with before Thursday's game?
DAVID: Mack is good at just about everything offensively. He can shoot 3s, free throws, get in the lane, pass you the ball. He's what makes Rutgers tick. Jack is very good when he's attacking the rim, but too often can float out to the 3 point line to try and make that shot. He can make it, but not with any major consistency. Iowa fans should also look out for Junior Etou, our sophomore wing, who plays very good defense and has potential to be a key piece going forward. If he's on, Rutgers maybe able to hang in there.
6) OK, prediction time -- who ya got?
DAVID: Oh, gosh. I don't know. Rutgers has had a week off, so Mack and Jack should have their legs again. And they've played better on the road. But Iowa is good and angry right now. I'll say... 70-55 Iowa.
Thanks for being a good sport, David, but I still hope your team gets mollywhopped on Thursday. You can check out the On the Banks crew at On the Banks. You can also follow OTB on Twitter at @OTB_SBNation. The Iowa-Rutgers game is in Iowa City, IA on Thursday, February 19, and is scheduled to start at 7:00 pm CT, with TV coverage from ESPNU.