The conference tournaments are over. The brackets are set. The coach has spoken. For Rutgers, the journey to the Final Four starts tonight, and the selection committee did them no favors in seeding this year. Before we look ahead though, the Knights have to get past their first challenge: former Big East rival Seton Hall. The last time these two teams faced each other, they were in another postseason battle in the third round of the WNIT. An overtime thriller ended with the Scarlet Knights victorious over their in-state foe for a 91-79 win, as RU overcame an eight-point deficit with under two minutes remaining and outscored the Pirates 19-7 in the second overtime to seal the game for an eventual run to the tournament title. Can Rutgers get the same results tonight in a bigger stage and with bigger stakes?
How to watch
#8 Rutgers Scarlet Knights (22-9, 12-6 B1G) vs. #9 Seton Hall Pirates (28-5, 15-3 Big East)
Saturday, March 21 - 6:30 PM
Gampel Pavilion - Storrs, Connecticut
Online stream: Watch ESPN
The Pirates were the regular season Big East champions and made it all the way to the conference tournament finals. Seton Hall lost the championship game to DePaul, 68-78 in what turned out to be a home game for the Blue Demons (the Big East women's basketball tournament was played in Rosemont, Illinois - home to DePaul men's home games).
Seton Hall is coached by Anthony Bozzella, who is in his second year leading the Pirates. This will be Seton Hall's first NCAA tournament berth in 20 years. The Pirates have the 2015 Big East Defensive Player of the Year in Daisha Simmons, who averaged 15.8 points per game, 5.6 rebounds, and four assists this season. Tonight's game is full circle for Daisha, who started her career at Rutgers. After transferring to Alabama, Daisha became a national story when she struggled to gain a hardship waiver to play immediately at Seton Hall. Daisha Simmons is one part of Seton Hall's very own Big Three, with leading scorer Tabatha Richardson-Smith and Ka-Deidre Simmons (unrelated).
The Pirates have an outstanding backcourt in the Big Three, as they have the scoring power to run with Rutgers. However, they struggle on the boards, which is where the Scarlet Knights can gain an advantage with Betnijah Laney and Rachel Hollivay in the paint. Look for Coach Stringer to attack the basket with her forwards to control the boards.
Around the Big Ten
#10 Arkansas 57, #7 Northwestern 55
#3 Iowa 75, #14 American 67
#9 DePaul 79, #8 Minnesota 72
#8 Syracuse 72, #9 Nebraska 69
#16 New Mexico State vs. #1 Maryland: Saturday, March 21 - 1:30 PM
#12 James Madison vs. #5 Ohio State: Saturday, March 21 - 1:30 PM