Rutgers Closes Big East With Win, Braces for America 12 | Zagsblog
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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.
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Friday / May 24.
  • Rutgers Closes Big East With Win, Braces for America 12

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    NEWARK — Rutgers got a much-needed win in its last regular-season Big East game ever, sweeping the season series from arch-rival Seton Hall, 56-51, for the first time since the 2000-1 season.

    The Scarlet Knights (14-15, 5-13 Big East) will head into the Big East Tournament with some measure of momentum, but will play their last Big East Tournament game ever sometime next week. They open play Tuesday night against DePaul at Madison Square Garden.

    After that will come a transitional season in the likely-to-be-named America 12 Conference, or as Rutgers coach Mike Rice said at the podium at the Prudential Center, theĀ “America whatever thing.”

    Just for fun, I asked a couple of the victorious Scarlet Knights if they could name the teams they will play against next year in their transitional year before heading to the Big Ten in 2014-15.

    “In my league next year, I would say UConn, South Florida, Memphis, Houston, Boise State?” Rutgers junior Mike Poole said with a smile. “That’s all I got. Rutgers. That’s all I got, that’s all I got.”

    The 6-foot-5 junior from Rosedale, N.Y., was right until he got to Boise State, which was initially going to join the Big East for football-only but then opted to remain in the Mountain West.

    Poole said he’s looking forward to the Big East Tournament and had wanted to pass the tradition on to his kids when he gets older.

    “That hurts,” he said. “I wanted my kids to watch the Big East Tournament and watch all the history and the epic games and stuff. Whatever happens next year, happens. We just gotta play, whatever happens.”

    Myles Mack had 15 points in the win and when I asked him to name the teams in Rutgers’ league next year, he initially said, “Michigan, Michigan State…”

    When I reminded him that Rutgers would be in the America 12 for a year first, he said, “Is it Gonzaga? I don’t know, I really don’t know. I don’t pay attention to that. I just watch basketball. I don’t care what conference it is or whatever. I don’t care.”

    It reveals more about the craziness of all this league realignment than anything else that players can no longer even tell you what teams are in their leagues.

    Like Poole, Mack said he’s looking forward to heading into this last Big East Tournament for Rutgers on a win. Rutgers had lost 11 of 12 coming in.

    “We came out with the win, that’s all I was worried about,” Mack said.

    Fellow Paterson, N.J. native Victor Cruz was on hand to support former Paterson Catholic standouts Mack, Derrick Randall of Rutgers and Fuquan Edwin of Seton Hall.

    “That’s great for him to come out and show support,” Mack said. “It’s great for people to do it like that, to give back. And whenever you ask him to come, he comes through so I appreciate him for that.”

    As for his part, Rice said he used to skip school to attend the Big East Tournament, and is also melancholy about his team’s Garden participation for the last time.

    A year from now, the America 12 Conference could well be holding its postseason tournament in Hartford or Memphis.

    “It’s sad about the Big East,” Rice said. “I grew up skipping school and watching. My sisters went to Syracuse. I was a fan, and it’s sad.

    “I’m excited about going to the BIg East Tournament for the last time, but also looking back I’m excited about what’s taking place. Can you be in a better league than the Big Ten? And helping the America whatever thing do, called that name. Being in that and helping them develop that.”

    “So it’s a transition. But the Big East does mean something. And it’s the last time our guys really are going to get a chance to play in the Big East Tournament, we gotta make it last. We gotta make a statement and we will try as hard as we can.”

    For Rutgers, the last Big East Tournament begins Tuesday.

    Photo: Star-Ledger

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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.

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