Tonight is a critical night for Seton Hall and Rutgers. After a promising start in non-conference, both teams have stumbled out of the block in conference play. This could be the night that both teams make a breakthrough in the Big East.
Rutgers (9-4, 0-1 Big East) at West Virginia (11-2, 2-0)
Rutgers vs. West Virginia is the first game of a double dip on ESPN 360. This a huge game for Rutgers. After a decent start to the season with a win over UMASS and a strong showing against North Carolina, the Scarlet Knights came up short against Cincinnati in their Big East opener. It was a tight game for the most part as Rutgers led 30-25 at the half. Cincy took control in the second and ran away with a 65-58 win.
Rutgers has a lot going for it this season. Former St. Anthony's Jersey City product Mike Rosario is having a fine season. More importantly, Rutgers has a legitimate center in Hamady Ndiaye, who is a shot-blocking machine. He's teamed with beefy power forward Gregory Echenique, who leads the team in rebounding. A win or even a close loss at West Virginia would show the rest of the Big East the Scarlet Knights won't be a doormat. A blowout loss? Same 'ol Rutgers.
Seton Hall (9-4, 0-2) at Connecticut (10-3, 1-1)
This could be one of those make-or-break type games for Seton Hall. Yes, it's early, but the Pirates are already 0-2 in the Big East with their next four games against, Cincinnati, Georgetown, Louisville and Pittsburgh. So a win against the Huskies is critical. Do the Pirates have a chance? Of course. Jeremy Hazell gives them a chance. Hazell is a deadly three-point shooter who's already had three 30-point plus games and a 41-point outburst. He isn't the only one. Jamel Jackson, who had a 40-point night against VMI, and Jordan Theodore can also light it up. The Pirate backcourt is complimented by a frontcourt with double-double man Herb Pope (13 pts, 11.7 reb, 2.2 blks) and 6-9, 270-pound bruiser John Garcia.
Seton Hall will need to find the range early against UConn, which has shown it isn't the same squad that went to the Final Four last year. A loss would put Seton Hall in an 0-3 conference hole. Losing wouldn't be the end of the world, but it could deliver a real mental knockout blow.