|No. 15 Seton Hall set for rivalry clash vs. Rutgers|
PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- New Jersey's most intense rivalry is renewed when No. 15 Seton Hall visits Rutgers on Saturday in the "Garden State Hardwood Classic."
A sell-out crowd of 8,000 is expected at the Rutgers Athletic Center in the 69th meeting between the schools. The series started in 1916 with Seton Hall holding a 39-29 edge.
The Pirates (9-1) have won four straight over Rutgers (9-3) by an average margin of 18.8 points. But, going further back, 18 of the last 22 meetings have been decided by six points or less, or in overtime.
"This is one game you don't have to market," said Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell. "It's come a long way the last few years, and I'm excited about where we can move this rivalry to.
"We only get to play each other once a year. It's good when Seton Hall is good, it's good when we're good. So I think it's a good healthy rivalry, and I'm excited about it."
The rivalry extends beyond the court to the fan base. Rutgers is handing out red-and-blue towels that read "Deck the Hall" to all students.
"It's personal for everyone in Jersey. That's what everybody talks about all year," said Seton Hall guard Desi Rodriguez. "I think this year they'll give us a better game."
Earlier in the week, Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard admitted he didn't like playing at the Pirates' cozy on-campus Walsh Gym, which seats slightly more than 1,000. But he looks forward to the environment on Saturday.
"I love the RAC because whether you put 3,000 or 8,000 in there, it's loud," Willard said. "I think this is great for New Jersey basketball, especially the college basketball scene. They're good, we're good. It's a big game."
The rivalry goes beyond the two schools, separated by only 27 miles. For senior guards Khadeen Carrington of Seton Hall and Mike Williams of Rutgers, it's personal. They played together at Bishop Loughlin (N.Y.) High School.
Carrington has successfully made the switch from shooting guard to the point as he leads the team with 42 assists and has just 17 turnovers. In the win over Saint Peter's on Tuesday, he tallied five assists without turning the ball over. He has committed only 14 fouls in 292 minutes.
"Khadeen told me about that (transition) during the summer," Williams said. "I feel like he's handling that role very well. I always knew he was capable of doing it."
Both players admit to not texting or calling each other until the game is over.
"It's just bragging rights," Carrington said. "After we play we'll talk some more."
Seton Hall big man Angel Delgado has been dominant in his three games in the series. In three wins he's averaged 14 points and 14 rebounds while shooting 53 percent, and he's earned Joe Calabrese MVP honors in the past two meetings.
Freshman center Mamadou Doucoure will get the primary responsibility of guarding Delgado, who has registered 57 career double-doubles. Pikiell said Doucoure will get plenty of help from forwards Shaq Doorson and Candido Sa in fronting the Pirates' senior big man.
"We have a few guys," Pikiell said.
"We have to do a good job and make sure he (Delgado) doesn't foul everybody out in our frontcourt. "I'll tell him (Doucoure) the same advice I tell my guys whenever we play a great player: It's team defense, it's not one guy.
"Real estate is very important, and he (Delgado) gets great real estate. He's smart. You've always got to keep a body on him and you've got to bring some help from different angles."
The teams are in an eight-year schedule agreement that runs through 2020.