Rutgers @ Seton Hall, 7:00PM
Prudential Center, Newark, NJ
Radio: 770 WABC
Seton Hall (15-10, 6-8) and Rutgers (14-13, 4-10) will do battle in Newark tomorrow night for the pride of New Jersey. Playing for pride might be all that remains for the Pirates and Scarlet Knights as each team has serious work to do in order to reach the postseason. The Hall must win out and win a couple games in the BET if they expect to rejoin the bubble conversation, while Rutgers has to be thinking about winning out themselves in hopes of making the NIT Tournament.
Both teams were starting to pick up steam in conference play before losing on Saturday afternoon. The Scarlet Knights had won 4 of it's last 5 conference games before falling at home to UConn on Saturday. Similarly, Seton Hall has won their last 5 at The Rock and had won three in a row before dropping their road contest at Morgantown. The Pirates must now beat their interstate rivals twice in two weeks in games that are generally decided in the last minute or two of action. The two teams play each other so closely, that although the Pirates have won three of the last four, the average margin of victory has been 6 points.
Making matters more difficult for Seton Hall is the impending job status of Rutgers head coach, Fred Hill Jr., who is in his fourth year with the Scarlet Knights. After starting conference play 0-8, it looked like the FHJ era would be coming to an end following the season, however, RU started to string together victories, including a surprising upset of Georgetown at the RAC. Sitting at 4-10, if the Scarlet Knights can find a way to finish strong, it may prevent the administration from washing their hands with FHJ and the one year left on his contract. If by finishing the season strong, Rutgers also happens to knock off Bobby Gonzalez and his Pirates, not once, but twice? Talk about job security.
The Rutgers scoring attack is led by sophomore Mike Rosario (16PTS/4REB) despite shooting just 38% from the floor. Rosario is an above average rebounder for a 6'3 guard and plays like a Jeremy Hazell lite. He doesn't shoot quite as much and likewise, doesn't fill it up as well. That said, he has a tendency for shooting the ball too much for someone who has such trouble finding bottoms. On the glass, Herb Pope will battle with the BIG EAST's block leader Hamady Ndiaye (9.7PTS/7REB/4.7BLK) and three-time BE rookie of the week, Dane Miller (9.4PTS/6.1REB).
It's time for the Pirates to adapt the college football mentality where they must win every game if they expect to make the postseason. Once more loss and the season is over. Eugene Harvey, John Garcia and possibly Jeremy Hazell are just one loss away from ensuring that they never see meaningful postseason play as Seton Hall Pirates. Sure, they'll go on to make the NIT and we'll be spoon fed the quotes about how the team is progressing and headed in all the right directions. Will the fans be on board? We'll have to wait and see. Just win. Four, five, make it six more games and we may not have to find out.
SHU Athletics preview:
SETON HALL - RUTGERS SERIES
Seton Hall and Rutgers will hook up on Tuesday for the 56th time in history and first of two meetings in 10 days this season. The Pirates lead the all-time series 31-24 and swept both games last season. Seton Hall has won three of their last four games with Rutgers. Each of the last six games in this series have either gone to overtime or been decided by five points or less.
The Scarlet Knights will be looking to return to the BIG EAST win column while capturing their third league win in four outings. After an away victory at DePaul (Feb. 16), Rutgers will also be preparing to win back-to-back BIG EAST road games for the first time since the 2000 season, when RU defeated Boston College and Providence on their home courts. Seton Hall will be looking to win its sixth straight BIG EAST home contest.
Brendan Prunty talks with Rutgers players regarding the rivalry:
Four years and six in-state battles later, Ndiaye is now a seasoned veteran of the Seton Hall-Rutgers rivalry. Tuesday night will be his seventh go-around when the Knights travel to the Prudential Center. He's using what he's learned over the years to impart the same wisdom on the Scarlet Knights' first-timers that Webb and others did with him.
"Marquis would tell me about it, Byron (Joynes) talked about it, JR Inman, everybody," Ndiaye recalled. "I would still just say, ‘Yeah, okay.' I figured I'd just come out and play, but once I got into the game I realized, ‘This is kind of fun for me.' It was a lot of fun the first time I played against them. And from that point on, you just had to love it."
Jerry Carino writes that Gonzo would like to see John Garcia in a prominent role against the Scarlet Knights.
The only Pirate who matches up with the 7-foot N'Diaye physically is 6-9 senior John Garcia, who has been limited all season with back trouble and chronically aching knees.
"We need John to give us something in this game," Gonzalez said. "The wings and the guards, we definitely have some depth there. If John can come through then we might have an edge."
John has to respond. Bobby tried to get him involved against WVU, but Garcia wasn't able to step up. I expected Garcia to have a solid game against the Mountaineers, but he was non-existent, just as he's been for most of conference play. He's recorded 8 points in the past 10 games, clearly hobbled by injuries. I still believe he's going to break out for one game and put forth one more solid game before his collegiate career and possibly, basketball career, comes to an end.
'Piratz' of PirateCrew.com delivers another in depth Seton Hall game preview, where he also lobbies for some John Garcia action:
Lastly you have Herb Pope in the paint against Ndiaye. When Pope has the ball on the blocks, he’s going to be able to get Ndiaye out of that important defensive positioning. But how often will that be the situation? Let’s also not forget about John Garcia. Big John did an excellent job in this area last year, combing to score 21 points on 11 rebounds with 6 blocks in 72 total minutes over 2 games against RU last year. Garcia shot an incredible 10/12 (.833) in those games.
Dare we consider starting this lineup: Theodore, Hazell, Robinson, Pope, & Garcia?
As always, Let's Go Hall!