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Parise: The Battle Of New Jersey

(AP Photo/Mel Evans) | (Photo by Chris Chambers/Getty Images)

(AP Photo/Mel Evans) | (Photo by Chris Chambers/Getty Images)

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By Vin Parise
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First ladies and gentlemen, the road team…

Seton Hall travels to Piscataway tomorrow for Kevin Willard’s first ever game at the RAC. And for the first time in years, the RAC is back to being one of the toughest places to play. The Rutgers Athletic Center will be absolutely rocking coming off the big Villanova upset the other night. Seton Hall is 10-14 overall and 4-8 in conference play. They haven’t laced em up since last Saturday night vs UConn – when the Pirates blew a late lead and lost the game in the final minutes.

LISTEN: Rutgers head coach Mike Rice joins Mike Francesa

It’s been an up and down season for this crew since the injury to all conference player Jeremy Hazell. But Hazell is healthy, Herb Pope is playing better and the Pirates have looked very good recently in the tough losses to Georgetown and UConn. Jeff Robinson has really been bringing it for Kevin Willard and will be crucial to the Hall getting a road win this weekend. Freshman Fuquan Edwin is 5th on the team in scoring and has a bright future in the Big East. This game is huge for Seton Hall because it’s a winnable game and because of what the schedule looks like after this weekend. After Rutgers, the Pirates have Villanova at home and road games against Marquette and Notre Dame.

And now the home team…

Could things be going any better in Rutgers land? The Scarlet Knights are 13-11 overall and also 4-8 in league play. On Wednesday night Rutgers played the best game in the country as they upset Villanova at home in dramatic fashion. That Rutgers win vs Nova is a perfect example of why teams should never quit on a game. They were down 13 points with 4:30 remaining, down 10 with 2:30 left and trailed by 5 with 15 seconds left. But Corey Fisher fouled Jonathan Mitchell on a 3 point attempt and Mitchell completed the 4 point play for the win. The win will be remembered by Rutgers fans for years to come as the students were finally allowed to rush the court at the RAC – something that should have been allowed years ago. But then again, it’s been years since the Scarlet Knights have done what they’re doing.

First year coach Mike Rice has done a great job bringing excitement back to Pistcataway and he has this team playing so hard it’s scary. Mt. Vernon seniors Mitchell and Coburn are crowd favorites and the team defense has been superb at home with Rice’s crew nearly upsetting then #2 Pitt at home recently as well.

The atmosphere tomorrow night at the RAC is going to be electric. And who would have thought months ago that Jersey’s two teams would have the same amount of Big East wins in mid February. The first time these two squared off this season is wasn’t much of a game. But that won’t be the case tomorrow as the Garden State easily hosts the best game in the area this weekend.

OVERTIME

How about those Johnnies! Steve Lavin and the Red Storm defeated UConn last night at the Garden for their 4th win this season against a top 15 team at MSG. Dwight Hardy poured in 33 points and D.J. Kennedy tallied 20 points, 11 boards and 5 assists. But most importantly, for the first time in ages, the Johnnies should be dancing this March.

This season Lavin’s club has beaten West Virginia, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Duke and UConn – that’s the good news for Selection Sunday. The great news is that the Red Storm still have home games remaining against South Florida and DePaul. As long as there is no collapse down the stretch, I think they’ll be some dancing going on in Queens this March!

Do you think St. John’s is tourney bound? Let us know in the comments…

pixy Parise: The Battle Of New Jersey