As successful as the premier teams in the Big East Conference have been this season, the teams at the bottom have been almost as dreadful.
The league, which could end up having a case for three of the NCAA Tournament's four No. 1 seeds, also features South Florida, Rutgers and DePaul, who went a combined 6-48 in the Big East this year.
As the 10-seed in the Big East Conference Tournament, Notre Dame has drawn 15th-seeded Rutgers (11-20, 2-16) in the opening round at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night. The Scarlet Knights' only two league wins came against DePaul and South Florida.
But despite the record, the Irish do not need to look hard for any reason to take Rutgers seriously. Head coach Mike Brey needs only to point to Notre Dame's 70-65 victory over Rutgers in the Joyce Center on Feb. 25.
The Scarlet Knights led by as many as 11 points in the first half of that game and took an eight-point lead into intermission before the Irish used an early second-half run to wrestle away control. Still, Rutgers had a chance to make it a one-point game in the final minute before missing two free throws.
Freshman guard Mike Rosario led Rutgers with 20 points, but was also responsible for the missed free throws and another missed three that would have tied it in the final minute. Anthony Farmer (12 points) and Corey Chandler (10) also reached double-figures for Rutgers. Gregory Echenique finished with just four points, but could have an impact on Tuesday as he is averaging 8.5 points and 8.4 rebounds per contest.
Brey came away from the game impressed with the Scarlet Knights.
"I'm impressed with Rutgers' personnel," Brey said after the game. "I was very worried about this game because they have some young guards that can really put it on the floor and they have some big guys that really bother you and you can't establish your low post. That's exactly what happened in the first half."
Notre Dame's Luke Harangody finished the game with 20 points and 15 rebounds, but was held to just four points on 2-12 shooting in the first half. Tory Jackson added 18 for Notre Dame and Kyle McAlarney had 13, but Ryan Ayers was 0-6 from the field and managed just three points.
The Irish were happy with the win, which was their fourth in five games after dropping seven straight, but Notre Dame dropped two of its final three in the regular season and remain on the outside of NCAA Tournament talk.
Notre Dame is going to need a strong run through the Big East Tournament to get back in that conversation and that journey begins tonight against Rutgers. In order to conserve energy for a stretch that will include a game a day for as long as they keep winning, the Irish are likely to play a lot of zone against Rutgers.
Notre Dame used that strategy in a regular season finale win over St. John's, but it helped that the Johnnies shot just 29% from the floor and 13% from three-point range.
The Scarlet Knights are shooting 41.8% from the field on the season and 30% from beyond the arc. They made 45.8% of their shots against Notre Dame and were 8-21 on three-pointers (38.1%). Rutgers was especially hot in the first half, making 15 of its 28 field goal attempts (53.6%) and 5 of its 12 three-pointers (41.7%).
That start was responsible for the position that Notre Dame found itself in at halftime and while the Irish were able to climb back for the win, if they are going to have any chance at making noise in this tournament they cannot afford to expend that kind of energy in the opening round.
It will be interesting to see how much zone Brey will play, especially if Rutgers is converting open shots. Notre Dame needs a better performance from Harangody in the first half and needs McAlarney and/or Ayers to knock down some outside shots early so that the Irish can grab control of this contest in the first half.