In the Big East Tournament, playing first is worst. Under no circumstances do you want to be opening the tournament on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. And in as weak of a Big East as we’ve seen in years, both of New Jersey’s primary Division-1 teams will be doing just that.
Neither Seton Hall (14-17) or Rutgers (14-15) posted a winning record in 2012-2013, and that is an absolute embarrassment to the state. It’s been years since either of these two teams was a legitimate contender and that should boggle the mind of every basketball loving resident of New Jersey. The simple answer to this epidemic is that the two New Jersey schools have suffered from the “Grass is always greener” mindset of homemade hoopers. They haven’t been able to recruit any of the Jersey kids who would have the power to make a difference at home. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist goes to Kentucky because choosing home blue isn’t a respectable option, and Kyle Anderson leaves Jersey City and flies 3000 miles to UCLA because Rutgers’ is not appealing. Could it be that Rutgers basketball coach is more adept at pegging kids with balls in practice than he is at collecting wins? Or is it because Seton Hall literally has four players on the roster recruited from the Canary Islands (two more than they have from NJ)?
Obviously I don’t have the answers or I’d be getting paid a lot more to coach at one of these schools and turn the mojo. I’d probably accept the position for even pay just to have a statue built outside the arena for making the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back years. But I do know, it’s not getting better anytime soon. Just this morning Seton Hall learned that their lightning quick savior from Baltimore Aquille Carr will be playing overseas rather than heading to South Orange. And Rutgers has a skimpy class that includes a 3-star point guard and a no star shooting guard. Strange that you can’t suspend your coach for player abuse and then pull in the big timers huh?
Even more puzzling is how easy it is to jump in your car and visit some of the best prospects in the country.
For the sake of this conversation lets pretend that New Jersey isn’t bountifully situated around basketball rich Philadelphia, New York, or Maryland; lets pretend that these two schools can only pick from the boundaries of the Garden State. New Jersey isn’t a flavor of the month hoops state, it has yearly talent, and it’s easy to find. Additionally New Jersey is simple to navigate and minuscule in size. For example: Seton Hall plays its game at the Prudential Center in Newark. Kenneth Faried is from Newark. Kenneth Faried led Morehead State to the NCAA Tournament because Seton Hall was too busy recruiting transfers.
New Jersey’s top recruits in the class of 2013 as rated by Rivals.com.
Jermaine Lawrence, Pope John XXIII, Sparta – 5-star forward ranked 21st in the country and headed to Cincinnati.
Tyler Ennis, St. Benedict’s, Newark – 4-star point guard ranked 24th in the country and headed to Syracuse.
Tyler Roberson, Roselle Catholic. Roselle – 4-star forward ranked 32nd in the country and headed to Syracuse.
Reggie Cameron, Hudson Catholic, Hackensack – 4-star forward ranked 87th in the country and headed to Georgetown.
Austin Colbert, Gill St. Bernard’s, Gladstone – 4-star forward ranked 92nd in the country and headed to Illinois.
Mike Young, St. Benedict’s, Newark – 4-star forward ranked 97th in the country and headed to Pittsburgh.
Davon Reed, Princeton Day, Princeton – 4-star forward ranked 100th in the country and headed to Miami (Fl.).
Do you get it now? New Jersey is 8,729 square miles, the 5th smallest state in the country and had seven of the top 100 basketball prospects. Those seven prospects are all headed elsewhere and once again Seton Hall and Rutgers are left scrambling to the Canary Islands. But this isn’t uncharted waters. Seton Hall can look to other small private schools like Marquette or Wake Forest; they have managed to get their basketball acts together while battling against bigger in state powers. And as far as Rutgers, well, put a fraction of the money football demands into basketball and watch the flowers grow. After all, this is the Garden State.