Head coach: Mike Rice - 3rd season at Rutgers; 6th overall (111-70) - 73-31 in three seasons at Robert Morris; 38-39 in third season at Rutgers (excluding three games during 2012-13 suspension). Served as assistant coach at Marquette ((1994-97) and Pittsburgh (2006-07).
You should know: That Rutgers notched impressive victories over No. 24 Pittsburgh (67-62) and at St. John's (58-56) in its second and third Big East games of the season after opening with a 78-53 loss at No. 7 Syracuse. Had a sub-par performance against Cincinnati (a 68-58 loss) before claiming a 70-67 victory at home against South Florida Thursday night?Rutgers' best finish in the Big East in the last 11 years is 8-8, and that came in 2001-02. The Scarlet Knights have averaged four Big East wins (and 13.6 losses) over the last six seasons. The high-water mark of those six seasons came last year when the Scarlet Knights finished 6-12. Rutgers' highest finish in the Big East in the last six years is 13th?This will be the 32nd meeting between Notre Dame and Rutgers, and the 20th since 1999-2000 season. Rutgers won the first meeting with the Irish (61-59) in February of 1984 in East Rutherford, N.J. Notre Dame is 5-10 at Rutgers, including 3-9 on the Scarlet Knights' home floor in Piscataway. At Purcell Pavilion, however, the Irish are 11-2, including eight in a row. Notre Dame defeated Rutgers at home last February, 71-53, after falling to the Scarlet Knights at the RAC, 65-58, a month earlier.
Top losses: Gilvydas Biruta (9.7 ppg., 5.3 rpg., 76 offensive rebounds).
Top players: Eli Carter, a 6-foot-2, 195-pounder who averaged 13.8 points per game as a freshman, has upped his mark to 15.9 this season. Carter has converted 27 three-pointers, but is shooting just 30.7 percent. He scored 25 points against UNC-Greensboro, 23 versus Pittsburgh, 22 at Princeton, and 20 against Howard, Alabama-Birmingham and Boston University. Carter is converting 90.2 percent (74-of-82) of his free-throw attempts.
Five-foot-nine, 165-pound sophomore Myles Mack averages 13.0 points per game and is shooting .530 from the field and .925 from the free-throw line (37-of-40). Mack also is shooting .500 from beyond the arc (31-of-62). He scored 23 points against Alabama-Birmingham, but was shut out against Syracuse in the Big East opener.
Dane Miller, a 6-foot-6, 215-pound senior, is the glue guy for Rutgers. Miller averages 8.4 points and 5.8 rebounds per game while shooting .526 from the field. He has 33 offensive rebounds and 16 blocked shots. He scored all 11 of his points in the second half of Rutgers' 58-56 victory at St. John's on Jan. 9. He scored 13 points and grabbed 13 rebounds versus Iona, and grabbed 12 rebounds in the season-opening loss to St. Peter's.
Wally Judge is a 6-foot-9, 250-pound junior averaging 7.9 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. The transfer from Kansas State shoots .556 from the field, but a woeful .425 (17-of-40) from the free-throw line. Judge is second to Miller in offensive rebounds with 28. He scored 11 points and grabbed 12 rebounds against St. Peter's.
Also providing bulk up front is 6-foot-9, 250-pound senior Austin Jackson, who is averaging 5.9 points per game and is shooting .600 from the field. Kadeem Jack is a 6-foot-9, 2225-pound sophomore averaging 5.4 points and 4.6 rebounds per game with 23 offensive rebounds and a team-leading 20 blocked shots.
Rutgers also gets help off the bench from 6-foot-5, 195-pound junior Mike Poole (4.6 ppg.). Poole scored a career-high 18 points against Iona. Six-foot-one, 175-pound sophomore Jerome Seagers (4.3 ppg.) starts and averages 23.8 minutes per game. Malick Kone, a 6-foot-5, 200-pounder from Guinea, scored 17 of his 48 points this season against Boston University.
Prister's take: The Scarlet Knights are coming off some troubling times that go beyond their annual bottom-dweller status in the Big East. Rutgers head coach Mike Rice will be coaching his sixth game since serving a three-game suspension for violation of athletic department policy. He was fined $50,000 and served his 16-day suspension without pay. Rice was accused of verbal abuse with his players, and associate head coach David Cox took control of the team against Alabama-Birmingham, Howard and Rider from mid-to-late December.
The Scarlet Knights have notched a couple of noteworthy victories in Big East play - the 67-62 home victory over an improved Pittsburgh squad -- which won at Georgetown by 28 and took undefeated Marquette in overtime -- and a two-point road victory against St. John's.
They were stomped by Syracuse (78-53) in Rice's first game back from suspension, defeated Pittsburgh and St. John's back-to-back, and lost at home to Cincinnati (68-58) when they scored 15 points in the first half. The Scarlet Knights are coming off a 70-67 victory at home against South Florida. Their three Big East victories in five games has them halfway to the six-win mark of a season ago with 13 conference games remaining. It will be a major accomplishment if the Scarlet Knights can get to eight conference victories this season.
Notre Dame and Rutgers have had three common opponents - St. John's, Cincinnati and George Washington. Rutgers defeated St. John's at Madison Square Garden, lost to Cincinnati at home, and squeaked out a 68-65 home victory over George Washington. Notre Dame lost to St. John's at MSG, defeated Cincinnati by six on the road, and knocked off George Washington by 17 at home.
The Scarlet Knights are catching the Irish at the wrong time and at the wrong place. Notre Dame loses at home about once every 45 games, and coming off a home loss to Connecticut and a road loss to St. John's, the Irish should be primed to get back in the groove against a Rutgers team that has limited offensive firepower and is prone to turnovers (25 vs. Iona) and rebounding issues.
Jack Cooley and Scott Martin, two of Notre Dame's three captains, are coming off uninspired performances. Tom Knight, the 6-foot-10, 258-pound senior came off the bench Tuesday night to score six points, grab three rebounds and block four shots in 17 minutes of action. He figures to be the first big man off the bench in place of Garrick Sherman.
If Notre Dame's front line returns to form Saturday night, that should be enough to overpower Rutgers, which was out-rebounded 39-30 by Boston University and 40-30 by UNC-Greensboro. Look for Cooley to be somewhere in the 20-point, 13-rebound range if he stays out of foul trouble. After an admitted lethargic performance Tuesday night, Cooley will be motivated to come out with plenty of energy.
Notre Dame takes command within the first 10 minutes and remains in command for a convincing - and much needed - victory, starting a winning streak that could last at least until a Feb. 4 trip to Syracuse.
Pointspread: Notre Dame by 12
Prister's Prediction: Notre Dame 80, Rutgers 62
Prister's record: 13-4 straight up; 7-7 vs. points