BANKER (Notre Dame vs. Rutgers)
This is likely the most high-profile play in game as Notre Dame had a fantastic season this year in the ACC and Rutgers was incredible this year in big 10 play at home. We’ll start by talking about Notre Dame who comes into this game with a record of 22-10. Notre Dame has not exactly bene playing their best ball recently as they gave up 87 points to Virginia Tech in a convincing loss and also lost to a Florida St team who is having a very down season by their standards. Notre Dame has gotten to this point due to a very efficient offense that can light it up from 3. Notre Dame is currently ranked 29th in overall adjusted offensive efficiency, 28th in effective FG%, 28th in lowest turnover %, and 19th in 3-point shooting as a team. They get 37.8% of their offense from 3-pointers which is good for 37th in the nation and Rutgers does not do a good job at defending the 3 as they rank 202nd in the nation in defensive 3-point percentage so this may be an issue for the Scarlet Knights. We saw Iowa light it up from 3 and come back to beat Rutgers by double digits even after Rutgers led 15-5 out the gate so Rutgers is very susceptible to giving up big runs via the outside shot. Notre Dame has shooters all over the court as they have 4 guys all shooting over 38% from 3. Cormac Ryan (38%), Trey Wertz (39%), Dane Goodwin (44%), Nate Laszewski (45%) are all capable of turning a game around quickly via the 3 which I think will be a problem for Rutgers
Rutgers is a team who surged in the second half of the season to gain this NCAA tournament berth. This was largely in part to their success at home in Big 10 play as they defeated Illinois, Iowa, Michigan St, Ohio St, Michigan, and at the time Number 1 Ranked Purdue on their home court. The problem for Rutgers is that this game won’t be on their home court and they are just 4-9 on the road this season. I know this isn’t a true road game, but Rutgers will be without their typical home court advantage which could be an issue. Rutgers is known for being a tough hard-nosed team who plays really good defense, but the numbers do not back up that claim. This season Rutgers is ranked 43rd in adjusted defensive efficiency, but only 99th in defensive effective FG% and 195th in defensive turnover rate. They do a good job of protecting the rim as they are 49th in the nation in defensive 2-point percentage but Notre Dame is a team who is happy to beat you from the outside with their 3-point shooting. Rutgers has also had problems on offense this season as they are currently ranked 200th in effective FG%, 182nd in 3P%, and 204th in offensive 2P%. They also struggle at the free throw line as they shoot just 70.1% as a team which is good for 229th in the country. I think Rutgers has had a good season and has thrived in a bigger underdog role, but they have not done well in games as a small dog/favorite and in games where they are expected to win. This is evidenced by their struggles At Umass (-2 fav), Vs Lafayette (Loss as 18 point fav), Vs Maryland (Loss as 6 point fav), and a narrow win by 2 points vs a Nebraska team who was not playing well at the time they met.
PREDICTION: I think Rutgers has had a good season, but I think it ends here. Notre Dame is a very fundamental team who doesn’t make a ton of mistakes and Rutgers is just the opposite of that. Rutgers can be very sloppy with the ball, and I think that will cost them here. I see Notre Dame being able to control the game with their outside shooting and think they will be able to knock down enough shots to advance. Score Prediction: 69-64 Notre Dame so I also have a slight lean to the OVER 131.5 here as well.
A little juice on this but I really like the value here on both of these teams. Tournaments outside of the Big Dance can sometimes be hard to judge as you don’t really know a team’s motivational level, but I have to think Wake Forest is pissed at not getting an at large bid and will want to show out to prove them wrong. Wake Forest has been very impressive all season with ho explosive their offense has been and just don’t think Towson has the personnel to pull off this upset. Wake Forest will also have a large size advantage in this game as well and should be able to dominate Towson in the paint
South Alabama was a very good team in the Sun Belt this year but lost unexpectedly to UALR in their opening game which ended their tournament hopes. Now they get an invite to another post season tournament, and I have to think they are grateful to just be playing considering there is no let down of not getting an at large bid because South Alabama was never in that conversation anyway. SELA plays extremely sloppy and is not very efficient with their offense. I think South Alabama can take advantage of this and should be able to come away with a win at home.