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Rutgers looks to take advantage of Bryant's deficiencies Thursday night

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! 

College basketball is back, and the Rutgers men’s basketball team takes on its non-conference opponent Bryant on Thursday night. The Scarlet Knights look to start off the season fresh with a statement win to put themselves on the map, and are certainly looking forward to a rowdy home opener in the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC).

The small school from Rhode Island is looking to make a statement as well, looking to beat a big program like Rutgers. With both schools playing with a chip on their shoulders, expect a well-fought two halves of basketball, regardless of the score. The Knights have a chance to set the tone early into the season with a win against the Bulldogs. 

What Rutgers is most excited for is the debut of its three newest members: True freshman guard Paul Mulcahy, junior guard Jacob Young and scoring machine graduate student forward Akwasi Yeboah. All of them are looking to contribute as soon as the ball is tipped.

All eyes are on Yeboah though, who just had an outstanding season at Stony Brook. Yeboah averaged 13.9 points and six rebounds at his former school. With the departure of former forward Eugene Omoruyi, the current players — Yeboah, Young and Mulcahy — will look to help the Knights in the scoring column on Thursday night. 

By analyzing the numbers, Bryant went 10-20 overall in the 2018-2019 campaign. Within those numbers, the team struggled on the road greatly, posting a 2-14 road record. The best thing Rutgers can do is take advantage of how much the Bulldogs struggle when playing on the road. Getting the crowd involved can really shake Bryant if the Knights go on a big run. 

Diving into deeper numbers, the Bulldogs averaged 32.3 rebounds per game last season. Rutgers, on the other hand, averaged around 37 rebounds per game. If the Knights can take advantage of this rebounding gap, expect positive things to happen for the offensive side of the program as well, since Rutgers is able to run the fast break on offense with an abundance of fluidity. 

Once the Knights get running, it’ll be very hard for Bryant to slow them down. 

Another flaw within the Bulldogs' offense is their 3-point game. The way the three ball has affected the college game impacts the way schools like Rutgers have to guard certain teams. With Bryant shooting only 32.5% from the three last year, the Knights know what to expect when it comes to guarding the three ball. 

The last weakness recognized in the Bulldogs' game comes with the number of assists the program tallies each game. Last year, Bryant averaged approximately 10 assists per game. In today’s day and age, that number will not fly — especially in a tough place to play like the RAC. 

Basketball is a team sport and if Rutgers' defense can effectively force turnovers, expect the Bulldogs to have a hard time on Thursday night. 

The Knights will have to play this game as if they were opposing a conference team. Keeping the “foot on the pedal” mentality will be a crucial factor going into this season. Even though Bryant won’t be the hardest challenge, Rutgers needs to come out with the same attitude as if it was facing Michigan State. 

Head coach Steve Pikiell has set a great culture around his locker room, having his men prepared for any situation thrown at them. This matchup is not only a must-win for the Knights, but also a test to see how well Pikiell’s culture is settling in within the locker room. 

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

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