Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
This was supposed to be the year things got better.
It was supposed to be the year that the Big East teams in the New York metropolitan area made dramatic strides in the standings.
Yet after Wednesday’s games Rutgers (0-2), Seton Hall (0-3) and St. John’s (0-2) are a combined 0-7 in league play.
Rutgers was blistered by West Virginia, 86-52, in Morgantown, West. Va., while Seton Hall played No. 13 UConn down to the wire before falling, 71-63, in Storrs, Conn.
Now while it’s still early, remember the fateful words of Yogi Berra, who once said, “It gets late early out there.”
“The bottom line we need to do is, we need to get a win, period. If it’s not Wednesday night against UConn, then we gotta try and get it Saturday night against Cincinnati,” Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez told me Tuesday, before the UConn game.
The Big East is brutal. Plain and simple.
The league won’t get three No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament like it did last year. But the latest AP poll features six Big East teams and another (Cincinnati) which is knocking awfully hard on the door.
The schedule doesn’t get any easier for these three programs, either.
Seton Hall’s next five games look like this:
Jan. 9 – Cincinnati
Jan. 14 – at Georgetown
Jan. 21 – Louisville
Jan. 24 – Pittsburgh
Jan. 28 – at USF
If you can find a game that’s a clear win in that group, good luck. The Pirates could pick off the Bearcats, Cardinals or Panthers at home, but Cincinnati and Pitt, in particular, are playing good ball right now.
“What our big thing has to be now is tunnel vision,” Gonzalez said. “We just have to go one game at a time. And that’s what we did last year. We went from losing five in a row to winning five in a row because we were focused on playing good basketball.”
Rutgers next five goes like this:
Jan. 9 – at Providence
Jan. 13 – Syracuse
Jan. 16 – at USF
Jan. 20 – Villanova
Jan. 23 – at Georgetown
What games can you count on them winning in that group? Providence, maybe. At South Florida, maybe. Don’t be surprised if Rutgers goes 1-4 over this stretch. 2-3 would be a plus, and 3-2 a real surprise.
St. John’s next five?
Jan. 9 – at Louisville
Jan. 13 – Cincinnati
Jan. 17 – DePaul
Jan. 20 – at UConn
Jan. 23 – Villanova
Playing at Louisville and at UConn look to be tall orders, and Villanova is the highest-ranked team in the Big East.
Lance Stephenson at the Garden Jan. 13? Anything’s liable to happen in that one.
You figure the Johnnies beat DePaul at home, but then again you figured they’d beat Providence at home, too.
“It’s a long season, so you can’t let one game fester into another game,” Red Storm coach Norm Roberts said after the Providence loss.
There is still time for these teams to turn it around and make a run. But you have to figure that any Big East team needs to go at least .500 in the conference (9-9) to make the NCAA Tournament.
Like Yogi said, “It gets late early out there.”
(PHoto courtesy ScarletKnights.com)
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.