NCAA Tournament First Four Matchup
Wednesday, March 16 at 9:15 p.m. ET in Dayton, Ohio airing live on truTV.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Overall Record: 22-10
ACC Record: 15-5 (second place finish)
NET Ranking: 52 (Rutgers 74)
Head Coach: Mike Brey, 22nd season. 470-258 record. One Big East regular season title. One ACC Conference Tournament title. 13th NCAA Tournament appearance, Three Sweet 16 and two Elite Eight appearances. First NCAA Tournament appearance since 2017.
KenPom Top 50 Record: 2-8 (Rutgers 8-6)
KenPom Top 100 Record: 7-8 (Rutgers 11-9)
Best Wins: KenPom no. 3 Kentucky 66-62 at home on 12/11/21; KenPom no. 29 North Carolina 78-73 at home on 1/5/22.
Worst Losses: KenPom no. 132 Boston College 73-57 away on 12/3/21; KenPom no. 109 Florida State 74-70 away on 3/12/22
Like for Like Opponents: Illinois, Indiana, Clemson (Notre Dame 2-2; Rutgers 3-1).
ND lost to Illinois on the road 82-72 and vs. Indiana on a neutral court 64-56. They swept Clemson 72-56 and 76-61.
Rutgers lost at Illinois 86-51 and won at home 70-59. Rutgers beat 74-64 at home and beat Indiana 66-63 on the road.
Strength of Schedule: Notre Dame 70th; Rutgers 44th
Series History: Notre Dame leads 20-13 as both teams were former members of the Big East conference. The Irish won the last three meetings including the last two in a season sweep in the 2012-2013 season. Rutgers last beat Notre Dame on January 16, 2012 at home 65-58 with Eli Carter scoring a team high 13 points. Current radio color analyst Austin Johnson scored 10 points off the bench on 5 of 9 shooting.
KenPom Ranking: Notre Dame 52; Rutgers 74
Offensive Efficiency: Notre Dame 112.0 - 29th; Rutgers 106.4 - 107th
Defensive Efficiency: Notre Dame 98.4 - 84th; Rutgers 95.5 - 43rd
ACC Efficiency ranks: 6th offensive efficiency - 109.3; 2nd defensive efficiency - 100.7
Notre Dame Efficiency Strengths: Offensive - 6.5% non-steal turnover rate (9th); 37.7% three-point shooting (19th nationally); 54.0% effective field goal percentage (28th); 15.5% turnover rate (28th); 75.9% free throw shooting (43rd); 52.0% two-point shooting (87th); Defensive - 22.9% Free Throw rate (22nd); 24.1% opponent offensive rebounding rate (39th); 31.7% opponent three-point shooting (76th)
Notre Dame Efficiency Weaknesses: Offensive - 22.1% offensive rebounding rate (334th); 27.6% free throw rate (263rd); 9.1% block rate (203rd); Defensive - 4.8% block rate (347th); 15.0% turnover rate (336th); 7.3% non-steal turnover rate (333rd); 7.6% steal rate (304th)
6’5” freshman Blake Wesley - 14.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.2 steals, 41.2% FG, 31.8% 3-pt FG, 65.4% FT
6’6” senior Dane Goodwin - 13.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 50.2% FG, 44.8% 3-pt FG, 85.5% FT
6’9” graduate transfer Paul Atkinson Jr. - 12.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 57.8% FG, 76.1% FT
6’10” senior Nate Laszewski - 9.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, 51.0% FG, 46.0% 3-pt FG, 85.0% FT
6’3” senior Prentiss Hubb - 9.1 points, 4.0 assists, 3.1 rebounds, 38.1% FG, 32.1% 3-pt FG, 72.2% FT
6’5” senior Cormac Ryan - 8.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 42.9% FG, 38.7% 3-pt FG, 82.5% FT
6’5” senior Trey Wertz - 4.2 points, 1.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 39.1% FG, 38.7% 3-pt FG, 81.0% FT
I’ll have a full game preview on Tuesday but my initial impressions are that this is a good matchup for Rutgers. The Irish are a great three-point shooting team that takes care of the basketball. However, they are less athletic, don’t play at a fast tempo, aren’t great on the offensive glass and don’t get to the foul line too often. They’re better with defensive rebounding but don’t force many turnovers nor do they defend the rim particularly well. They were third in the ACC in only allowing 66.8 points per game.
It’s amazing that a team that finished in second place in the ACC is playing in the First Four game of the NCAA Tournament. That speaks to how weak their league was this season. They are the polar opposite of Rutgers in that they pretty much beat everyone they were expected to except for twice all season. They also lost all but once to a better opponent. In the ACC Tournament, they lost in their first game in the quarterfinals to eventual champion Virginia Tech.
This is a senior laden team but they have never played in the NCAA Tournament except for Paul Atkinson. He was the Ivy League Player of the Year last season at Yale and was a reserve for the Bulldogs when they lost to LSU 79-74 in the First Round in 2019. He scored 9 points on 3 of 4 shooting and had 2 blocks in 19 minutes off the bench. They only play seven deep but are an experienced team overall.
I think having just played an explosive offensive team in Iowa helps Rutgers in facing another really good offensive team with many shooters that can heat up. The difference is Notre Dame is not nearly as explosive, athletic, fast paced or physical. There are no easy games in the NCAA Tournament and the Irish will surely incorporate some zone to try and force Rutgers into some cold shooting. It’s a more basic 2-3 zone different from Iowa’s 1-3-1. This will be an opportunity for Paul Mulcahy to be a big factor, Cliff Omoruyi to dominate with his athleticism at the rim and on the boards, along with Ron Harper Jr. getting downhill and making his presence felt inside. If Rutgers can defend the arc and limit second chances along with taking care of the basketball, I like their chances.