Rutgers’ Jacob Young during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Wisconsin, Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, in Piscataway, N.J. Wisconsin defeated Rutgers 60-54.(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
- Rutgers (9-6, 5-6 Big Ten) battles Northwestern (6-8, 3-7 Big Ten) on Sunday, Jan. 31, at 7:30pm ET
- The Scarlet Knights are coming off their best defensive performance of the season, while the Wildcats have dropped seven games in a row
- The odds for the game, as well as matchup analysis and a pick, can be found in the article below
For the Northwestern Wildcats, 2021 has already been a long year. Northwestern has lost all six of its games this calendar year (as well as its final matchup of 2020), and now enters Sunday’s battle against Rutgers (tip off at 7:30pm ET) desperately searching for a bounce back.
The Scarlet Knights, on the other hand, held their last opponent to under 40 points last time out and will look to ride that defensive wave. Here’s how the odds look for Sunday:
Rutgers vs Northwestern Odds
|Rutgers||-4 (-110)||N/A||Over 140.5 (-110)|
|Northwestern||+4 (-110)||N/A||Under 140.5 (-110)|
Odds as of Jan. 30th, 2020.
How They’ve Fared Recently
Rutgers is coming off its most impressive win of the season, a thoroughly dominant 67-37 win against Michigan State on Thursday. The Scarlet Knights held the Spartans to just five free throw shots and a 20% clip from 3-pt. range while forcing 21 turnovers. Not half bad.
— Rutgers Basketball 🏀 (@RutgersMBB) January 30, 2021
The Scarlet Knights have a fine offense (66th in NCAA Division I in adjusted efficiency), but the defensive side is where they shine. They have the 19th-rated adjusted defensive efficiency in D-I and are top-20 in both block rate (19th) and steal rate (13th).
Northwestern, as we’ve mentioned, has been dreadful for weeks. The Wildcats have dropped seven in a row, six of which came by 10 or more points. They almost broke through in their most recent game, losing by three last weekend against Penn State as 5.5-point underdogs.
Maybe that’s a positive sign of things to come. But it’s also another loss, and they’re really piling up. The Wildcats’ last win was a great one — over #13 Ohio State — but it came more than a month ago.
Rutgers is 7-7-1 against the spread this season, with a recent pair of consecutive ATS wins following four straight losses. The Scarlet Knights are 2-3 ATS on the road, though they failed to cover in their only instance as a road favorite.
Northwestern is 6-7 ATS, having covered in their most recent game to snap a streak of six consecutive ATS defeats. The Wildcats are 4-3 ATS as the home team this year, but have lost their two most recent home games by an average ATS margin of 16 points.
This is just the beginning for @ChaseAudige
Believe that. #B1GCats | #PoundTheRock pic.twitter.com/CHy1R6fC4B
— Northwestern Basketball (@NUMensBball) January 29, 2021
Given what happened in Rutgers’s last game, it might not be wise to bet the over. But these teams have combined to see the over hit in 16 of 28 games (57%).
In the previous two seasons, Northwestern has won two of three ATS over Rutgers, while Rutgers has won two of three straight up. They only played once last season, a 77-73 overtime win for the Scarlet Knights as 10.5-point favorites.
Both teams return four starters from that game, so neither side really stands out in that regard. Against common opponents, Rutgers is 3-6 and Northwestern is 3-6, too. Again, a stalemate.
But the Scarlet Knights have the distinct advantage of not being stuck in a massive slump, and their efficiency ratings on offense and defense are both better than the Wildcats’ marks.
A final feather in Rutgers’s cap: the road team is 5-2 ATS in recent meetings between these teams.
Pick: Rutgers -N/A (-110)
Jordan Horrobin is a sports journalist whose MLB, NHL, NFL and NCAA work has appeared in outlets such as The Athletic, MLB.com, the Detroit Free Press and more. He is currently based in Toronto, also working as a contributor for Forbes.com and a freelance editor for Sportsnet.