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.
NEWARK –– This is not Jordan Theodore’s first rodeo.
Two years ago — the last of the Bobby Gonzalez Era — Theodore and his Seton Hall Pirates were on the bubble for an NCAA Tournament berth. They needed to beat Notre Dame in the Big East Tournament to have a shot at dancing.
They lost and went to the NIT instead.
Faced with another shot at moving off the bubble and towards the field of 68, Theodore played perhaps the best and most complete game of his life, scoring a career-high 29 points on 8-for-11 shooting in a 73-55 rout of No. 9 Georgetown at the Prudential Center.
“We just needed this one so bad. I was jacked up for this game,” said Theodore, who also had five assists and four rebounds. “I didn’t want to blow another opportunity like we did my sophomore year when we were on the bubble. I have a little experience in being on the bubble. I want to dance so bad. I can taste it we’re so close.”
I have been covering Theodore since his sophomore year at Paterson Catholic and I have never seen him play a better game than he did against the Hoyas (20-6, 10-5 Big East)
He was a perfect 8-of-8 from the line and his 3-pointer with 4:16 remaining essentially iced the game at 63-45. He made all five of the 3-pointers he attempted.
“Jordan Theodore played one of the better games I’ve seen anyone play all year,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. “He didn’t make any mistakes. He was terrific. He totally controlled everything. Tonight, we didn’t have any answers for that.”
Seton Hall — which shot a blazing 59 percent from the field and 63 percent from beyond the arc -against a team holding opponents to 38.4 percent shooting- is now 19-9, 8-8 in the Big East.
If they can beat in-state rival Rutgers Saturday on Senior Night or win at DePaul March 3, they would be assured of being at least. 500 in the Big East, and that — combined with an RPI in the high 30s — should be good enough to get into the Big Dance.
Seton Hall hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2006 — Louis Orr’s last year in South Orange.
“This definitely helps us,” Pirates coach Kevin Willard said. “If you look at our overall body of work..This is a huge win for us.”
It seems oddly appropriate that Theodore and company can essentially ice an NCAA Tournament berth by beating Rutgers on Senior Night, when Theodore, Herb Pope and walk-on, fan-favorite Pete Dill will be honored.
“That’s my little brother and we’re going out together,” Pope, who talled 12 points and six boards, said of Theodore. “We moved one inch closer to our goal. He came out on fire and we rode the wave.”
Seton Hall won the previous encounter against Rutgers, 59-54, on Feb. 8 in Piscataway in a game in which Theodore tallied 24 points.
Willard said he wants his players to be “flying high” after the Georgetown win, but admitted that Rutgers will be tough because A) they play good defense; and B) “It’s really hard to play well on Senior Night because your seniors are jacked up.”
Theodore admits he’s jacked up, but he was for this game, too.
And that worked out pretty well for the Pirates.
“I still can’t taste it [the NCAAs] yet, but I know we’re so close,” Theodore said. “Coming into Saturday it’s going to be a tough game, a rivalry game. Going against Rutgers, it’s never easy. And just for me, Herb and Peter Dill, it’s going to be our last time in this arena and it’s going to mean a lot.
“I told you guys before, I might even shed some tears because it’s going to be a very emotional night for me and my family and I’m looking forward to Saturday.”
And making his dream of an NCAA Tournament berth a reality.
No Georgetown player reached double-figures in scoring for the first time all season. Freshman Greg Whittington led the Hoyas with nine points…Two Seton Hall students were tackled by security as they tried to run onto the floor after the game. One was tackled into the first row of seats…St. Benedict’s Prep 2013 PG Tyler Ennis and 2015 combo guard Isaiah Briscoe attended the game and were in the Seton Hall locker room afterward. Ennis is not considering Seton Hall but supported the team. He recently visited Syracuse and plans to visit Arizona and Louisville soon. St. Ben’s plays Blair Wednesday in the State Prep finals…Scouts from nine NBA teams were at the game: Knicks, Nets, Hawks, Bobcats, Bucks, Warriors, Pacers, Jazz and Cavs. For the Knicks, Scott McGuire attended.
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.