The 2022 NCAA Tournament continues on Wednesday with two more First Four games as teams compete for spots in the Round of 64. The Big Ten will return to action with Rutgers facing off against Notre Dame in the late matchup.
Let’s take a look at the slate.
Game of the Day:
-No. 11 Rutgers Scarlet Knights vs. No. 11 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
- Time/TV: 9:10 PM ET (truTV)
- KenPom Spread: Notre Dame by 2
Talk about an odd season for the Scarlet Knights. The team entered the fall with high expectations but stumbled out of the gate. The struggles were significant enough to make most think the team’s postseason chances were dead. But right when it seemed hopeless, Rutgers reeled off four straight marquee wins to earn themselves an NCAA Tournament bid. It’s the program’s second straight appearance, which was a first since 1976.
Unfortunately, Rutgers’ resume was only good enough to earn a First Four bid, meaning the Scarlet Knights now find themselves facing off against a tricky Notre Dame squad. The Irish are led by do-it-all freshman Blake Wesley on the wing and a top 30 offense. Slowing him down will be the biggest challenge for the Scarlet Knights on Wednesday.
From a stylistic perspective, Notre Dame plays a slower style of basketball premised on maximizing possessions and committing few turnovers. The Irish are 28th nationally in offensive turnover rate and rely extensive on the team’s outside play, ranking 18th in three-point percentage. The team also relies heavily on its starting lineup, ranking 317th in bench minutes this season with players like Wesley and Dane Goodwin leading the way.
This matchup is almost certainly going to come down to how Rutgers defends the wing group. Wesley is the team’s usage leader (by a far margin) and Goodwin and Paul Atkinson aren’t too far behind him. If Rutgers holds up there, Notre Dame is going to have trouble getting its offense going. It’s a huge opportunity for Caleb McConnell to impact things.
Rutgers will also have plenty of opportunities at the other end of the floor. Notre Dame’s defense is decent, but not exactly stellar either. The Irish rank 83rd nationally in defensive efficiency and do little to pressure the ball or block shots at the rim. Simply stated, players like Geo Baker and Ron Harper will have openings. The pace will also be nothing new for Rutgers, who ranks 290th in tempo as well.
All told, expect this to be a slower game that gets downright ugly for segments. What’s interesting is how the strengths of both sides seem to play into each other. That should make for a great game and could pose a great advantage for Rutgers if the team’s role players step up. We’ll have to wait and see if they can pull it off.
- Pick: Rutgers