This may be the inaugural game for No. 17 Rutgers as members of the Big Ten, but this is not its coach’s first rodeo.
Rutgers Coach C. Vivian Stringer, who has the third-most wins in women’s basketball history, spent 12 seasons at Iowa before taking over at Rutgers and becoming the first coach to take three different programs to the Final Four.
She has the second most conference wins in Big Ten history.
An accomplished coach only adds to the difficult task IU (10-1) will be facing when they host the Scarlet Knights (9-2) at 2 p.m. Sunday in Assembly Hall.
The Hoosiers' record may initially look more impressive, but one’s opinion might change when glancing at the quality of schedules.
While IU lost to its only opponent that has won more than 60 percent of their games, Rutgers has gone head-to-head with some tough opponents.
After beating teams like St. Joseph’s and LSU, the Scarlet Knights took No. 6 North Carolina to two overtimes before falling 96-93. Then, they bounced back three days later to defeat No. 25 Arkansas 64-52. They also lost to No. 11 Tennessee.
Rutgers has been tested.
And the competition only makes Rutgers' achievements more frightening for a small IU team.
The Scarlet Knights have outrebounded ten of their 11 opponents. IU Coach Teri Moren consistently stresses that the Hoosiers need to improve on the boards.
That is a mismatch.
Senior Betnijah Laney is averaging 12.8 rebounds per game for a team averaging 42.7 as a whole.
It is not just rebounding that could be problematic inside for IU.
The Scarlet Knights have compiled a solid portion of their points in the paint, scoring 35.1 points per game near the basket. Only North Carolina outscored Rutgers in the paint. IU has yet to face a team that is a real threat down low.
The big matchup may be the simplistic matchup of offense vs. defense, a battle as old as time.
IU ranks second in the Big Ten and ninth nationally in field goal percentage, making 49 percent of its shots. Rutgers, on the other hand, has the best defensive rating in the Big Ten by holding opponents to only 33 percent shooting.
Rutgers makes things difficult for opposing offenses, forcing 20 turnovers per game.
IU is a smaller team that has had success passing the ball around to create openings. Twenty-five of their 36 baskets against Oakland were assisted. As the Hoosiers are committing just 13.6 turnovers a game, Sunday will show whether a better defense will force more IU turnovers or if IU will be better at controlling the ball against Rutgers than past opponents.
Regardless, this will be the highest ranked opponent the Hoosiers have faced this season and one that specializes in areas that IU has struggled in. IU fans will have a real test to find out how good this Hoosiers team actually is.