Odds & Pick for Rutgers vs. Penn State College Basketball: Thursday’s Value on Scarlet Knights
Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images. Pictured: Myles Johnson (15) and Ron Harper Jr. (24).
- The struggling Rutgers Scarlet Knights will take on the Penn State Nittany Lions in a Big Ten battle on Thursday night.
- In late December, there was Big Ten title buzz surrounding the Scarlet Knights, but now they're just hoping to make the tournament.
- Mike Calabrese breaks down the game below and explains why he expects Rutgers to get back on track against Penn State on Thursday.
Rutgers vs. Penn State Odds
|Rutgers Odds||+1 (-115)|
|Penn State Odds||-1 (-105)|
|Time | TV||Thursday, 7 p.m. ET | Big Ten Network|
The bloom is off the rose for Rutgers.
Losers of four straight, Steve Pikiell’s squad is suddenly in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament altogether. Back in late December, Bracket Matrix projected Rutgers on the four-line, and there was realistic Big Ten title buzz both inside and outside the program.
As of today, Rutgers has plummeted to a nine-seed in most projected brackets and currently sits in a tie for ninth in the conference. Times are tough in Piscataway.
Luckily for the Scarlet Knights, relief is on the way. Penn State, winless in Big Ten play, hosts Rutgers on Thursday night.
The Nittany Lions have battled through a prolonged layoff and three straight Big Ten road trips, proving they’re a tough out. But despite their valiant efforts, it’s clear they don’t have the defensive chops to slow down quality opponents. Teams are killing the Nittany Lions inside the 3-point arc (57.6%, 333th) and getting to the line an absurd 25 times a game (326th).
After a blistering start to the season (82.5 ppg in first six games), Rutgers has bottomed out, scoring just 55 points per game in its last three. This is the spot to “get right” for Rutgers, but should the fact that PSU is actually favored in Happy Valley be a red flag? Let’s find out.
Warning: Splits Ahead
The rap on Rutgers during its incremental climb up the Big Ten ladder was that teams didn’t want to catch the Scarlet Knights at the RAC.
But despite a handful of upsets at home, Rutgers is actually a surer bet on the road in the last two seasons. Dating back to the start of the 2018 season, the Scarlet Knights are 15-10 ATS on the road, which is the best performance at the betting window of any team in the conference.
Paging Ron Harper Jr.
Thanks to FanTrax, we can quantify Ron Harper Jr.’s Jekyll & Hyde routine this season.
In his first six games, he averaged 32.6 fantasy points per game, which placed him in the top 10 nationally among wings. In the following five games, that figure plummeted to 18.8. He’s been a shell of himself and was utterly lost against Wisconsin, shooting 2-for-13 from the field.
His statistical drop-off can be attributed, at least in part, to an ankle injury that has been nagging him since late December. Six days off can only help, but will it translate to Harper returning to form? That’s yet to be seen.
Big Man Issues
In Penn State’s last four games it’s faced Kofi Cockburn twice, and both Trevion Williams and Trayce Jackson-Davis once.
Those dynamic bigs combined to average 21 points and nine rebounds per game. Once the Penn State defense broke down on the interior, the floodgates were open for high-scoring games. For that reason, Myles Johnson will be a critical contributor on Thursday night.
When Johnson has hit double digits this season, Rutgers is 3-1 SU and undefeated against the spread. He’s played well as of late, and I have a feeling he’ll be ready for a larger role in this one.
Betting Analysis & Pick
Rutgers is in a tailspin, but the market has overcorrected in this case.
Penn State has taken body blows from the conference’s elite in the past month and only got worse defensively with each passing loss. Those defensive liabilities should awaken a Rutgers team that was barreling towards the AP Top 10 just six weeks ago.
Grabbing Rutgers in a bounceback spot at this price is too good to pass up.
Pick: Rutgers +1