If host Rutgers is to come away victorious from Saturday’s Garden State Hardwood Classic against No. 15 Seton Hall, it must overcome a very good team and some bad recent history. The Pirates have won four straight overall and seven of the last eight road games in the series, while the Scarlet Knights have yet to beat a ranked team under coach Steve Pikiell.
“It’s a tough place to play, but I am 3-0 (against Rutgers) and I want to go 4-0,” Seton Hall senior Angel Delgado told the media. “It’s not the same Rutgers we’ve been beating for three years.” One could argue that this is not the same Seton Hall team from the past three years either as Delgado, Desi Rodriguez and Khadeen Carrington have helped to carry the program to heights not seen since the early part of the century. The trio has been playing some of its best basketball of late as the Pirates overwhelmed VCU and Saint Peter’s to open at 9-1 for the first time under coach Kevin Willard. The Scarlet Knights have rebounded from a three-game losing streak to win their last three contests behind the play of junior guard Corey Sanders, who has scored 49 points over that span to eclipse 1,000 career points.
TV: Noon ET, Big Ten Network
ABOUT SETON HALL (9-1): Rodriguez hasn’t exactly lit it up in his three previous games against Rutgers, averaging only eight points, but is a different player this season for the Pirates. The senior forward is attempting roughly the same number of shots per game as he did last season (13.4 to 13.2), but is making them at a much higher rate (55.2 percent) compared to a season ago (43.9). This has led to him taking over the top spot in scoring from Carrington, who has had to assume the role of point guard for Willard, who has a 9-2 mark against the Scarlet Knights.
ABOUT RUTGERS (9-3): With 11 points, which is right around what he has averaged in three games against Seton Hall, Mike Williams will become the 43rd member of 1,000-point club for Rutgers, which is 17-1 in non-conference home games under Pikiell. The senior guard isn’t playing as much as he did in his first three seasons with the Scarlet Knights, but can still make his presence felt as he did with a combined 27 points against Fairleigh Dickinson and Fordham. “Those two guys (Sanders and Williams), from day one, some guys didn’t want to sign on with coach Pikiell. Some guys left, and these guys stayed,” Pikiell told the media. “These guys, Deshawn (Freeman) too, did what they needed to do and put our program in a better place.”
1. The Scarlet Knights are 0-6 against ranked teams under Pikiell, including losses this season to No. 12 Minnesota and No. 3 Michigan State, and only one game was decided by single digits.
2. Seton Hall, which has won the last four games against Rutgers by an average of 18.3 points, has won 10 straight games against teams from New Jersey.
3. Delgado, who has averaged 14.3 points and 14 rebounds against Rutgers, recently took over the No. 3 spot on Seton Hall’s all-time rebounding list with 1,151.
PREDICTION: Seton Hall 79, Rutgers 69