By Anthony McClean, Editor-In-Chief Emeritus
Sure, if you are in California you have probably never heard of the Garden State Hardwood Classic. Probably Maryland as well. Heck, maybe any state in the country besides New Jersey.
But if your area code starts with a 201 or 908, among others you are all about the annual match-up between Rutgers and Seton Hall. Well, the hype got a whole lot bigger Thursday night as No. 23 Seton Hall bested No. 7 Texas, 64-60.
However, the Scarlet Knights had perhaps the biggest upset of the season, knocking off No. 1 Purdue 70-68 on a deep Ron Harper Jr. 3-pointer at the buzzer. Seton Hall leads the overall series 40-31, but the Pirates won’t soon forget the 68-48 whipping which Rutgers delivered to them in 2019.
The game will be played before a largely Seton Hall crowd, as the Pirates brass closed off most of the upper deck of the Prudential Center, ostensibly to prevent the larger Rutgers fan base from scooping up tickets.
Rutgers’ Geo Baker missed the Purdue game due to the flu and is expected back against Seton Hall.
The 8-1 Pirates are bigger up front and deeper, but Rutgers at 5-4 has two premier shot makers in Harper Jr. and Baker if he is healthy. Jared Rhoden will probably guard Harper Jr. and try to keep him honest from the outside.
Expect a close contest throughout, with a slight edge to the experienced Pirates.
Prediction: Seton Hall 70 Rutgers 67.