The Garden State is ready to dance.
Seton Hall, Rutgers and Saint Peter’s are all heading to the men’s basketball NCAA Tournament this week. This is the first time since 2004 that three New Jersey programs have punched tickets to March Madness. It is also the first time since 1991 that Seton Hall and Rutgers both made the NCAA Tournament.
Rutgers will kick things off at 9:10 pm on Wednesday when the Piscataway program faces Notre Dame (22-10) in the tournament’s “First Four.” The two West Region 11 seeds will face off in Dayton, Ohio. The winner gets to face No. 6 seed Alabama in the first round on Friday in San Diego.
Rutgers is coming off an 18-13 season in which it went 12-8 (fourth place) during Big Ten play. The Scarlet Knights were considered a bubble team heading into Selection Sunday on March 13, but six Quad 1 wins pushed them into the field. Head coach Steve Pikiell is now going to his second straight NCAA Tournament after Rutgers suffered a 30-year drought. Rutgers toppled Clemson in the first round last season before falling to Houston in the Round of 32. Geo Baker, Ron Harper Jr. and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Caleb McConnell were all part of that team. Now they are starting seniors striving for a longer run in the tournament.
Saint Peter’s, meanwhile, is heading to March Madness for the first time in 11 years after securing an automatic bid with a win over Monmouth, another Jersey school, in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championship. The Jersey City–based Peacocks, coached by former Seton Hall star Shaheen Holloway, are coming off a 19-11 regular season that included a 14-6 record (second place) in conference play.
A 15-seed in the East Region, Saint Peter’s will face No. 2 Kentucky (26-7) at 7:10 pm on Thursday in Indianapolis.
No. 8 Seton Hall is New Jersey’s highest seed following a 21-10 season that saw the Pirates go 11-8 in Big East play for a fifth-place finish. The Hall will face No. 9 TCU (20-12) in the South Region at 9:57 pm on Friday in the final game of the first round.
Led on the sidelines by Kevin Willard, the Pirates have now reached the NCAA Tournament in five of the last six seasons. Seton Hall did not make the Big Dance last season, however, making this the South Orange school’s first tournament since Covid-19 robbed the Pirates of a potentially special run in March 2020, when the NCAA Tournament was canceled.
Should the Pirates (headlined by Big East first-teamer Jared Rhoden) advance, they will likely face No. 1 Arizona (31-3).Click here to leave a comment