The Rutgers Scarlet Knights come to Milwaukee tonight to face off with YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles. Rutgers comes into the game with an overall record of 12-15 and a Big East record of 4-10. They are currently on a 5 game losing streak and have won a total of 2 games all year away from the RAC: At Pittsburgh, which is much less impressive than it would have been in years past, and a neutral site game against Stony Brook (your current America East Conference leader) that was played at Madison Square Garden.
I could go through the usual statistical assessment of Rutgers, but it's not terribly fun to point out that there's not much to get excited about here. I could talk about their offensive rebounding, but it's not as impressive if you're only looking at Big East games. They do a good job of creating turnovers, but Marquette is exceptional at protecting the ball.
This is not to say that Rutgers is not without ability. What we'll do today is look at two results from Rutgers' season that should cause your average Marquette fan to say, "Well, if they can do that to those guys, our guys need to be careful." Follow the jump for more...
December 29, 2011: Rutgers 85, #10 Florida 83 (2 OT) - What the H? Rutgers didn't even take a lead in this game until there was almost 6 minutes left! Eli Carter went crazy for 31 points on 12-24 shooting, including the bucket that tied things up with 18 seconds left in the first overtime and the basket that gave Rutgers the lead for good. Carter wasn't just shooting, either. He ended up with seven rebounds and seven assists to give Rutgers the win over the #10 team in the country, which is the same spot in the polls that Marquette currently occupies.
January 16, 2012: Rutgers 65, Notre Dame 58 - This was the last time that Notre Dame lost. The Irish have been on an eight game winning streak since this loss, launching themselves into the NCAA Tournament picture and head coach Mike Brey towards the Big East Coach Of The Year award. And yet, Rutgers found a way to extinguish the Burn offense. In response to the old adage, "The best defense is a good offense," Rutgers hit 5 of 8 three pointers in the first half. A hot shooting start to a game? Marquette fans almost expect their opponents to do this at this point.
Something that jumps out at me from looking at the box scores of both of those games? Neither of them had a noticeable contribution from Gilvydas Biruta, the sophomore 6'8", 250 lb. forward who was last seen hanging 21 points and 7 rebounds on Syracuse on Sunday.
We don't want Marquette to be the next victim on this list of nearly inexplicable victories by Rutgers. A win by Marquette gives them 12 Big East victories for the second time under Buzz Williams and just the second time since joining the conference, and more importantly, gives Marquette three shots at compiling their best record in conference play since joining the Big East.