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 — Seton Hall is now back squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
And they have their friends from down the New Jersey Turnpike to thank.
Dane Miller poured in a game-high 21 points and Gilvydas Biruta hit two clutch foul shots in the final seconds en route to 16 points as Rutgers snapped a six-game losing streak by beating Seton Hall 77-72 in overtime at The Prudential Center.
“Bad loss for a team that didn’t need one,” Jerry Palm of CollegeRPI.com told SNY.tv.
“Puts pressure on the DePaul game.”
Seton Hall (19-10, 8-9 Big East), which hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2006, now faces a must-win game Saturday at DePaul and probably needs to win at least one game in the Big East Tournament.
Entering this game, the Pirates were the No. 8 seed and were set to meet the winner of No. 9 UConn and No. 16 DePaul in the first round.
“We need this one [at DePaul],” said Seton Hall point guard Jordan Theodore, whose potential game-tying 3-pointer in the final seconds rimmed in and out.
“It’s a must-win to keep our [NCAA] Tournament hopes alive.”
Entering this game, Seton Hall seemed to control its own destiny.
Hold serve at home and they would be 9-8 in the league and the worst they could do was finish .500 in the conference, usually a measuring stick for getting in.
“It obviously hurts, losing at home is a tough one,” Pirates coach Kevin Willard said. “We still have a conference game. We can’t go lower than 10th or 9th [in the league]. We gotta win on the road on Saturday.”
Rutgers coach Mike Rice said he didn’t tell his kids anything about playing the spoiler roll, but thinks the Pirates can still dance.
“If I gotta bring up any added motivation, just didn’t happen,” Rice said. “I understand that they’re fighting for an NCAA bid with an RPI of 30 [something] I think they’re going to get in. But we gotta take care of our house. That’s what you do in the Big East.”
Said Theodore: “I gotta tip my hat to Rutgers. They played a great game.”
For four years, Theodore has literally been dreaming of the NCAA Tournament, something his friends Kemba Walker and Truck Bryant have experienced — and in Walker’s case, won.
Now he and his teammates have a week off to think about this loss — and what they must accomplish to go dancing.
“If you can’t go to the NCAA, the NIT is the postseason,” he said. “But the NCAA is the goal.”
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.