by Aaron Hanshaw / Just Play Solutions – Analytics Academy
After finishing 20-11 last year with an 11-9 record in the Big Ten, everyone should’ve known Rutgers was for real. But if there was any doubt headed into this season, Steve Pikiell’s group has erased it, starting off 7-1 and winning three of their first four games in conference.
The Scarlet Knights have taken a step forward in part because their leading scorer has done the same. Last year, Ron Harper Jr. was productive, averaging 12 points and 6 boards per game while shooting 45% from the field. But this year, Harper is another monster entirely.
Harper is averaging 23 points and 7 rebounds per game through seven games, and he’s doing it with absurd efficiency. As you can see in the above shot chart from Just Play’s analytics tools, Harper is scoring at will in the lane where he’s taken 43 of his 110 shots this season. And while his numbers from beyond the arc are impressive, it’s his work in the lane where Harper has taken the biggest jump.
Last year, Harper shot 66% around the rim and a touch over 42% in the lane outside of the restricted arc (2019-2020 Shot Chart). This year, he’s in the top ten percentile in both areas, shooting 77% from around the rim.
But as impressive as Harper has been, the Knights are not a one-man show. Against Purdue on Tuesday, playing without Harper who sat with an ankle injury, Pikiell’s crew remained efficient.
As you can see from the above shot chart, Rutgers got in the lane and finished well around the rim while sprinkling in a good mix of catch-and-shoot threes. And it was no fluke; that’s how this group has scored all year (2020-2021 Rutgers Shot Chart).
When Harper comes back, and with guys like Montez Mathis and Jacob Young alongside him, you can expect more of the same. Whether inside the key or shooting threes, the Knights and their high-powered offense are here to stay.
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