Rutgers prepares for 1st Big Ten home game of season

After starting the season off strong, the Rutgers men's basketball team has a tough stretch coming up. 

As conference play kicks up this month, the Scarlet Knights (6-2) will go up against Wisconsin on Wednesday and in-state rival Seton Hall on Saturday. Two respected programs back-to-back are something head coach Steve Pikiell will have his student-athletes prepared for. 

Playing the No. 11 Spartans (5-3) in East Lansing, Michigan, Rutgers will have its first real test of the season, getting a chance at "the title fight." A win in Michigan would go a long way and would help put the Knights on the map regarding the Big Ten and the NCAA, respectively.

After the matchup on Sunday night, the Knights come back home for another Big Ten matchup against the Badgers (5-4). Wisconsin bested Indiana in its first conference matchup of the year in a blowout win, 84-64. 

Kobe King paced the Badgers with a game-high 24 points on a 10-for-15 shooting night. He has been a consistent three-point shooter, as well. He only missed 1 of his 3 attempts against the Hoosiers (8-1).

King is shooting 72.2% from the foul line on the season while averaging 12.1 points per game as the team's second-leading scorer. 

Nate Reuvers leads Wisconsin with an average of 15.4 points per game. While he can score in transition and in the paint, he lacks a three-point shot in his arsenal.  

Reuvers is shooting less than 40% from beyond the arc, shooting a 31% clip from behind the three-point line. Reuvers is averaging approximately five rebounds per game. He grabbed 14 boards against Eastern Illinois back on Nov. 8. 

A versatile scorer that the Badgers bring in is Aleem Ford. He dealt with a knee injury last season, but has since recovered as a consistent wing this season. He had 13 points against Indiana this past weekend.

Ford has shown signs of being a lockdown defender in the paint, but his hands have not generated many steals. He only has amassed five steals through nine games into this season.

On the glass, Ford has averaged exactly five rebounds per game, with his season-high coming at seven against NC State. Ford has started this whole season as a forward.

Wisconsin is holding opposing offenses to an average of 62.8 points per game. The team has forced opponents to 109 turnovers through nine games. 

In their last matchup, the Badgers defeated Rutgers 69-64 in New Jersey last December. In five meetings, the Knights have a record of 2-3 in Big Ten matchups against Wisconsin. 

The Badgers have also matched up with talented teams such as Saint Mary's and Big East powerhouse Marquette. Coming off of a long four-day rest, Wisconsin will be ready to pounce at the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC).

A win against the Badgers would go a very long way for the Knights. Expect big games from sophomore guards Ron Harper Jr. and Caleb McConnell. Harper Jr. leads the team in scoring with 13.3 points per game. 

Although posting no points in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, McConnell has the poise and relentless to bounce back and have a big game against Wisconsin. 

Rutgers will look to start its home Big Ten slate on the right foot against a Badgers team that has been receiving votes in the AP Top 25 Poll.

"We have to continue to get better and learn," Pikiell said following the Knights' 11-point loss in Pittsburgh. "This is life on the road. When you're competing against Big Ten and ACC teams, you have to play better."

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

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