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Eatman leads No. 3 Rutgers into Indiana for Big Ten Tournament

After ending the regular season on a three-game winning streak, the Rutgers women’s basketball team heads into the Big Ten Tournament with a double bye, meaning that it will not take the court at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana until the third round.

The No. 3 Scarlet Knights (21-8, 13-5) earned the third seed in the tournament, and will play either 11th-seeded Purdue or eighth-seeded Nebraska in the quarterfinals. The Boilermakers defeated 14th-seeded Illinois 72-60 on Tuesday.

Rutgers has defeated both of these teams this year, and it came in back-to-back games. On Jan. 13, it defeated the Cornhuskers 62-56 in Lincoln, Nebraska. In the following game on Jan. 16, it defeated Purdue at the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC) 65-63 in overtime.

If the Knights win their game tomorrow night, they will play 1 of 3 teams on Saturday. Either 10th-seeded Indiana, who the team beat twice, seventh-seeded Minnesota, who they split against, or second-seeded Iowa, who they lost to in a thrilling matchup in Iowa City, Iowa by a score of 72-66 on Jan. 23.

Even though they are the 11th seed, the Boilermakers could be the most troublesome matchup for Rutgers on Friday evening, even though they enter the tournament on a three-game losing streak.

Purdue gave the Knights quite the sum of trouble in Piscataway, and the tournament is played only about 60 miles from their campus in West Lafayette, Indiana. 

For what it’s worth, in last year’s second round, Rutgers escaped with a 62-60 win over the Boilermakers.

If the Knights win on Friday, their likely matchup will be the Hawkeyes. Iowa's Megan Gustafson may be the best players in the entire nation. At 6 feet 2 inches, she is the nation’s leading scorer and is fifth in rebounds.  

The Hawkeyes' Hannah Stewart also could give Rutgers issues, as she did in the first matchup.  

The most notable change under acting head coach Tim Eatman is that the Knights almost always use the full court press. On Friday, Rutgers will play a team that has played the previous day, and even maybe the previous two days. 

It will be extremely interesting to see how the opponent of the Knights handle trying to break a full court press for most of the game when they played the previous day or two days.

On the top of the bracket, top-seeded Maryland is the heavy favorite to advance to the championship. Rutgers went 1-1 against the Terrapins this year, with the road team winning each game. Maryland's Kaila Charles is a matchup nightmare for the Knights, should Rutgers and the Terrapins both advance to the championship.  

This past week, fifth-year senior forward Stasha Carey was named the Second Team All-Big Ten, with junior guard Arella Guirantes being named an honorable mention.

Those two, along with sophomore guard Tekia Mack are the three players to watch coming into the tournament. Mack has continued to build off her strong performance in Indiana two weeks ago, which is enormous given that the team dismissed junior guard Ciani Cryor last week.

For updates on the Rutgers women's basketball team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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