Chapel Hill, N.C. - Dean E. Smith Center
7 p.m., TV - ESPN2
"I feel much better about our team now and I think we have made strides, but again, we have a major challenge in front of us going down to North Carolina and playing them at their place. It's going to be a great experience and you love games like that. You just toss the ball up, go play and you see what happens." -- Rutgers coach Fred Hill
Season to Date: The Scarlet Knights come to Chapel Hill on a five-game winning streak, a key turnaround after an ugly start to coach Fred Hill's RU career. Rutgers started the season 1-5, with its only win coming against a non-Division I opponent. The losses included a stunner at home against Jackson State, and double-digit defeats at the hands of Bradley, Miami (Ohio), and Temple. Their 5-0 record in December hasn't been against elite opposition, but wins over Nebraska, New Hampshire, Princeton, Iona and Lehigh have boosted their confidence.
Indubitably: There's no doubt Rutgers misses Quincy Douby and the 25.4 points per game he averaged last season. Douby was the only Scarlet Knight who averaged double-digit points in 2005-06. With his exit as a first-round NBA draft pick, Rutgers' offense has struggled. If you remove the game against Division II St. Thomas Aquinas, RU is averaging only 59.7 points per game against Division I opponents and shooting just 39.5 percent from the field. This includes a 19.1-percent shooting performance in the season opener against Kansas State and a 27.1-percent outing against Miami (Ohio) in late November. Only one RU starter, Adrian Hill, is shooting better than 43 percent this year, and he averages less than five shots per game.
Size Advantage: Even without starting center Byron Joynes, a 6-9, 265-pound senior who has missed all 11 games with a broken foot, Rutgers still has a big lineup. The starting frontline of J.R. Inman and Adrian Hill provides athleticism on the boards (combining for 13.0 rpg), while freshman Hamady N'Diaye comes off the bench and is the team's leading shotblocker (1.6 bpg). With 6-7 Jaron Griffin starting at small forward and 6-5, 205-pound Marquis Webb at the off guard spot, the Scarlet Knights have been able to utilize their size and athleticism to stifle opposing offenses. Opponents are averaging just 62.0 points per game against Rutgers.
Series History: North Carolina leads the all-time series against Rutgers, 7-1. The two teams last played in the 2002 Preseason NIT in Chapel Hill, a 71-67 comeback win for the Tar Heels, who were led by 19 points and 10 rebounds from freshman Sean May. The one Rutgers win in the series came in 1921.
Background Location: New Brunswick, N.J. Enrollment: 33,500 Conference: Big EAST Nickname: Scarlet Knights Colors: Scarlet & White Head Coach: Fred Hill Record at RU: 6-5 (1st year) Last Year: 19-14 (7-9)
Projected Starters: 2 Anthony Farmer (6-1, 190, So.) – 8.4 ppg, 2.8 apg 1 Marquis Webb (6-5, 205, Sr.) - 8.6 ppg 32 Jaron Griffin (6-7, 210, So.) – 9.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg 15 J.R. Inman (6-9, 220, So.) – 12.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg 4 Adrian Hill (6-8, 245, Sr.) – 7.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg Key Reserves: 3 Courtney Nelson (6-1, 180, So.) – 4.2 ppg 5 Hamady N'Diaye (6-11, 235, Fr.) – 3.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg
Hill ....... Inman
Webb ....... Farmer
Griffin ....... N'Diaye
(Photos courtesy AP)