Game: Rutgers Scarlet Knights @ Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Time: 9:00 p.m. ET
Odds: Scarlet Knights +1, Fighting Irish -1
Many believe the two teams in this First Four matchup didn’t deserve to be here in the first place. One of the two – Rutgers or Notre Dame – is going to advance to the Round of 64. Rutgers finished the season 18-13 but had a midseason run of four straight Quadrant 1 victories – Illinois, Purdue, Wisconsin, and Ohio State. All four teams were ranked in the Top 25 when the Scarlet Knights beat them. That earned them a tournament berth.
Notre Dame went 22-10 and was one of the last teams to make the tourney. The Irish lost two of their last three games including their ACC tournament game to eventual champion Virginia Tech. What the Irish were able to do this season was play great defense and keep games close. Over their last 20 games, Notre Dame went 15-5 SU and 14-6 ATS. In its last six games as a favorite of five points or less, the Irish are 5-1 SU and ATS. They are also 6-1 SU and ATS in games where they were an underdog of five points or less should the line on this game flip the other way.
Rutgers is very similar to Notre Dame in the fact that the Scarlet Knights play great defense. That defense is what helped them win those four Quadrant 1 games. In those four, Rutgers allowed just 62.8 points per game. For the season, the Knights allowed 65.8 points a game and in eight of their last ten games, Rutgers held opponents to fewer than 65 points. The Knights have proven they can play top-tier defense against any team in the country.
The Scarlet Knights lost in the Big Ten tournament to Iowa. Four players scored in double figures led by Geo Baker’s 23. The loss left Rutgers 2-4 SU in its last six games. The Knights are also 1-4 ATS in their last five. Prior to that recent stretch, Rutgers was 6-0 ATS over the previous six games. The Scarlet Knights have not done so well in their most recent NCAA tournament games either. In their last five such games, Rutgers is just 1-4 SU.
The Irish aren’t exactly setting the world on fire at the moment, but they do have an offense that averages 72.5 points per game. Rutgers scores 67.9 per game. Notre Dame has lost seven straight games to Big Ten opponents, but they have beaten Rutgers eight of the last ten times they have played.
The Over has hit in seven of the last eight Notre Dame games. The Irish scored at least 70 points in each of their last eight games. Rutgers is trending the other way as four of their last five games have gone Under. In the series with Rutgers, six of the last nine games have gone Under. Notre Dame ranks 250th and Rutgers is 289th in adjusted tempo.