Busting Brackets

Rutgers vs Seton Hall: 2021 Garden State Hardwood Classic game preview

Jan 27, 2021; Newark, New Jersey, USA; Seton Hall Pirates head coach Kevin Willard coaches during the first half against the Creighton Bluejays at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 27, 2021; Newark, New Jersey, USA; Seton Hall Pirates head coach Kevin Willard coaches during the first half against the Creighton Bluejays at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports /

Local rivals Rutgers and Seton Hall are coming off huge wins but will they be able to keep the momentum going in this important matchup?

TV Schedule: Sunday, December 12, 7:30 PM, FS1

Location: Prudential Center, Newark, NJ

Records: Rutgers (5-4), Seton Hall (8-1)

KenPom Rankings: Rutgers (93), Seton Hall (32)

The Garden State Hardwood Classic

For me, like a lot of people, this game became A LOT more interesting when Rutgers knocked off top-ranked Purdue in dramatic fashion with a Ron Harper Jr. buzzer-beater. On the same night, Seton Hall took down the 7th ranked Texas Longhorns. What a night for New Jersey basketball.

Prior to this, I was thinking we might have a hangover game for Seton Hall (assuming, like everyone else, that Rutgers would not beat Purdue). Rutgers hasn’t always looked their best this season, but rivalry games don’t care about where your season stands.

This Jersey showdown should deliver.

Previous Meetings

This is a huge in-state rivalry whether some people like to admit it or not. Rutgers thoroughly dominated Seton Hall two years ago at the RAC in a forgettable game for the Pirates. The Pirates haven’t forgotten and have been waiting for this rematch for two years (the teams didn’t play last season).

Seton Hall leads the all-time series 40-31, a rivalry dating all the way back to 1916. What a week it would be for Rutgers if they could pull off back-to-back top 25 wins after a less than perfect start to the season. I don’t see that happening, but anything is possible in a rivalry game.

Let’s get into it.

The Matchup

Rutgers is a confusing team if you’ve been following this season. They beat Purdue without Geo Baker (11.2 ppg, 4.0 apg, 34.6% from deep), but then lose a team like UMass and got beat down by Illinois. They’re not the same team they were last season, so maybe they’re still just figuring it out? Either way, Rutgers isn’t going to go down without a fight, not against Seton Hall.

The Scarlet Knights are led by Ron Harper Jr. (16.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 40.8% from deep) and the aforementioned Geo Baker. Cliff Omoruyi (11.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg) is a dunking machine; per Bart Torvik, Omoruyi is 27-31 on dunk attempts this season. That is the most dunk attempts of anyone in his database this season, one ahead of Trayce Jackson-Davis of Indiana.

As a team, one area that Rutgers excels is passing. As a team, they average 15.3 assists per game. Geo Baker and Paul Mulcahy are each averaging 4 or more assists per game. Rutgers ranks 12th in the country in assist percentage, assisting on 62.7% of made field goals. Omoruyi has been a huge benefactor here; 83.7% of his baskets have been assisted. Ball movement will be key against this Seton Hall defense. Unfortunately for Rutgers, they might be running into the best Seton Hall team in a long time.

Seton Hall has looked like a top 10 team all season. If not for a heroic game-winning 3-pointer from Meechie Johnson of Ohio State, the Pirates would be undefeated. I thought Seton Hall was good, but I did not expect them to be this good. Of course, the season is still young and conference play is around the corner, but if Seton Hall can beat Rutgers, there aren’t many teams that should be feeling more confident heading into conference play.

Where to start? Seton Hall has options everywhere. They have nine players averaging at least 16 mpg.

Jared Rhoden (17.6 ppg, 7.1 rpg) is the clear leader. Bryce Aiken (9.9 ppg) is fearless. Kadary Richmond is figuring things out with each game, Myles Cale is a steady presence. Jamir Harris can light it up from deep. And most importantly, Aiken and Rhoden always seem to come through late when the team needs them.

That’s just the backcourt. The Seton Hall frontcourt is loaded too and everyone plays stout defense. They rank 26th in adjusted defense as a team.

Cliff Omoruyi will have his hands full. The addition of Alexis Yetna (8.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg), the emergence of Tray Jackson (8.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg), and the improvement of Tyrese Samuel (11.2 ppt, 6.7 rpg) has been huge for Seton Hall. Ike Obiagu (2.7 bpg) is a defensive force. He injured his ankle against Texas in the first half, so it’s unclear if he will be available though. Either way, Seton Hall has options and can wear you down inside and out. This team has been incredibly impressive.

Next. Seton Hall Basketball: 2021-22 season preview and outlook for Pirates. dark

I just don’t see Seton Hall falling to Rutgers. They are too good and the returning Pirates remember falling down 14-0 early two seasons ago and getting beat up on at the RAC. They’ve been waiting two years to return the favor.

Prediction: Seton Hall 77, Rutgers 68