Dear Pat Hobbs (again),
Google Littlepage, Craig. You'll see what this year has been like.
Listen, this sucks. Rutgers has six wins this season, and not a single one since December. They're ranked 307 in KenPom, the worst power conference team in the nation. It's going to be a quiet March.
That is up to you to fix. Eddie Jordan has to go, and you have to make a great hire. So maybe you won't be focused on the NCAA Tournament this season, unless you're scouring the brackets for the next Rutgers coach.
I love college basketball, so while I wait for you to Make Rutgers Great Again (or for the first time, whatever), I'm going to need a team to become emotionally invested in.
Let's take a look at the choices, Pat. Maybe you can give me an idea who I should root for. And fans of the other teams... feel free to help me out. Why should I root for your team?
Steve Pikiell has his team on the rise. They are 23-6 on the season, and until Albany beat them, they held the longest winning streak in the country. There is a Jersey connection too, as senior Jameel Warney is from Plainfield. Warney is a stud 6'8" power forward who's averaging 18.7 points per game. Pikiell continues to get his team to the championship game in the conference tournament, but has been knocked off by Albany. Pikiell needs to get his team into the NCAAs this year. They could be a fun underdog in the March brackets.
King Rice. His name is on the lips of a ton of Rutgers fans as a potential candidate to take Eddie Jordan's spot on the bench, but that's not happening right now. Instead, he has the Hawks sitting pretty at 24-6. They've knocked off UCLA, Notre Dame, and Georgetown in their out of conference schedule, and have essentially a walk through their conference schedule, with a 16-3 record. Justin Robinson is their senior point guard, a kid who can get to the rim, and has flash. His game winning step back three against Rider a few weeks ago was a thing of beauty. Plus there's the bench, which-if Monmouth gets to the Tournament-will get a ton of press. They're fun, they're exciting and they defend.
Saint Joseph's Hawks
Phil Martelli has his team rolling again, trailing only VCU in the Atlantic 10 standings. The team is 23-5 (gosh could you imagine sniffing 20 wins, Pat Hobbs? Must be nice.) and is 10-1 on the road. Another Jersey player, DeAndre Bembry, is averaging 17 points per game. Martelli always has his teams ready to play, and when he knows their ready, he pushes them as hard as he can. They defend, and they can score. I haven't watched them much, but they have a mostly local roster, and could make a run in March.
Okay, bear with me here. I know it's Seton Hall. I know. But man... have you watched them? Kevin Willard finally has this team playing like they should. Gone are the chemistry problems. Gone are the ridiculous press conferences (yeah, I know, I miss them too). Instead there is a team that just defends the hell out of you on the court. Isaiah Whitehead is a candidate for Big East Player of the year and has made the transition to point guard. Kadeem Carrington can shoot it. Derrick Gordon is their lead defender and they've been in some monster games. Plus, they've blown Rutgers out of the water the past 3 years. LOOK WHAT YOU HAVE DONE EDDIE JORDAN. YOU HAVE ME THINKING ABOUT ROOTING FOR THE FIGHTING WILLARDS.
I haven't made my decision yet, Pat. There is going to be 68 possible teams to root for this March and Rutgers (again) isn't going to be one.
But Pat. You gotta fix this garbage. I can't keep writing articles like this year after year. I'm tired of doing Open Threads for the first day of the Tournament when Rutgers is off somewhere licking their wounds after less than 15 wins each season.
Fix this so I don't have to do this again. My loyalty is one thing... but...I need to root for someone in March.
And, for those of you reading this, who should I root for? Feel free to leave comments about your teams or other teams to watch. Who am I missing?
I need to get emotionally invested in basketball for a few weeks.
Littlepage is a bad word around here. He's not just a guy on the selection committee.
Dave White is the author of the Jackson Donne series. His latest, An Empty Hell, is available now.