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.
Rutgers coach Mike Rice saw St. John’s make the NCAA Tournament last season in Steve Lavin’s first year at the helm.
Now it appears it could be in-state rival Seton Hall’s turn in Kevin Willard’s second year.
Rice, who is also in his second year running a program that hasn’t gone dancing since 1991, concedes he is a little bit envious of his local Big East rivals.
“The motivation to turn this thing around and get to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in maybe 20, 21 years, yeah, we look at St. John’s last year and maybe Seton Hall this year and look at a little bit of envy and how their upperclassmen seniors are leading them to where they want to go,” Rice said Thursday.
“And so our day will come. Every day you’re not going to get a different answer from me. We’re going to make it.We’re going to get there. It’s a process and a process you kind of have to go through and you have to take some lumps in that process.”
Rutgers (12-16, 4-11 Big East) — losers of six straight — won’t get there this year.
All they can hope for is to play spoiler when they visit Seton Hall (19-9, 8-8) Saturday at The Prudential Center.
Seton Hall is coming of a 73-55 shellacking of No. 9 Georgetown Tuesday night and has won four of five since a six-game losing skid. One of those four was a 59-54 victory at Rutgers Feb. 8.
Led by senior guard Jordan Theodore, who went off for a career-high 29 points against the Hoyas and had 24 in the Rutgers win, and senior forward Herb Pope, they are hoping to make the Big Dance for the first time since 2006.
“It’s a Rutgers-Seton Hall thing,” Rice said. “We’re going to play hard because it’s what the rivalry indicates. It’s what we do when we face each other, so hopefully our guys will have that energy and sustain that energy, to be honest with you.
“And then the fact that we can possibly get a win at their home court like they did on ours, that’s all of the motivation you pretty much need.”
Follow Adam Zagoria on TwitterAnd like ZAGS on Facebook
Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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.