ny/nj college hoops rankings
(Photo by Ben Solomon via Iona Gaels)

Rutgers is at the top of our inaugural NY/NJ College Hoops Rankings, but don’t sleep on any of the teams below them.

Danny Small

The college basketball season is underway and there are plenty of local teams to keep hoops fans in New York and New Jersey occupied this year. Rutgers is off to a 3-0 start and they are the only area team in the AP Top 25 Poll. Let’s dive into ESNY’s official NY/NJ College Hoops rankings entering Tuesday, Dec. 8.

NY/NJ College Hoops Rankings:

  1. Rutgers (3-0) — No. 21 in AP Top 25 Poll
  2. Seton Hall (2-3)
  3. St. John’s (4-1)
  4. Saint Peter’s (2-2)
  5. Iona (1-1)

No. 5 — Iona Gaels (1-1)

Iona is pulling up the rear in the first rankings of the season, but this is nothing for Gaels fans to worry about. In their season debut against Seton Hall, the Gaels were on fire from three-point range in the first half.

In fact, Iona’s hot shooting had them up on the Pirates at halftime. Unfortunately, they couldn’t sustain the shooting in the second half and Seton Hall stormed back to lay a double-digit beating on Iona.

Rick Pitino’s squad bounced back in a big way with a convincing win over Hofstra, who were picked to win the CAA at the beginning of the season.

Don’t hate me for putting the Gaels here, Iona fans. It was a razor-thin margin between Nos. 4 and 5.

No. 4 — Saint Peter’s (2-2)

Truthfully, Saint Peter’s and Iona are neck and neck in the rankings. It’s too early in the season to really know much about any of these teams. The Gaels and Peacocks were picked to finish second and third in the MAAC preseason poll, respectively.

Saint Peter’s gets the slight edge over Iona in ESNY’s rankings after wins against La Salle and Stony Brook. La Salle is going to be one of the weaker teams in the Atlantic 10 this year, but still, that’s a solid conference. Meanwhile, Stony Brook should be a middle-of-the-pack team in the America East.

The Peacocks also get a slight bump here for almost beating St. John’s. Sure, a loss is a loss, but Shaheen Holloway’s team looked like the real deal as they battled the Johnnies in the season-opener.

Unfortunately, St. John’s refuses to acknowledge that Iona exists so we won’t see how the Gaels would do against the Red Storm. Iona and Saint Peter’s will meet in a back-to-back series in January.

No. 3 — St. John’s (4-1)

The Johnnies are off to a scorching-hot start if you look at their record, but the strength of schedule leaves something to be desired. They have wins over Saint Peter’s, La Salle, Boston College, and Stony Brook. Those are games that St. John’s should win. Their sole loss on the year came against BYU in the bubble at Mohegan Sun.

St. John’s should improve as the season progresses. They are going to be relying heavily on incoming freshmen and transfers this year. We should get a better sense of how good St. John’s really is when they kick off the Big East season against Seton Hall on Friday.

No. 2 — Seton Hall (2-3)

How could Seton Hall be ranked No. 2 here if they have a losing record? Well, just take a look at their schedule and you can see why. The Pirates have losses against Lousiville, Oregon, and Rhode Island.

As previously mentioned, they took care of business against Iona. And on Sunday, they stormed back from down 19 to beat Penn State. It felt like one of those wins that could get the Pirates on the right track moving forward.

It’s also worth noting that Seton Hall is still playing without, arguably, their best player — Bryce Aiken. The Harvard grad transfer is supposed to fill Myles Powell’s shoes as the go-to scorer on offense. Until he’s healthy again, we won’t know exactly how good this team can be.

No. 1 — Rutgers (3-0)

This was the easiest call of our inaugural NY/NJ College Hoops Rankings. Rutgers is off to a 3-0 start despite the fact that their best player — Geo Baker — is out with an ankle injury. The opponents they have beat aren’t exactly top competition, but they are winning by an average of 19.3 points per game.

Although it will always be weird to see Rutgers play in the Big Ten, they have a legitimate shot at making some noise in the conference this year.

What’s Ahead?

Tuesday is a marathon day of NY/NJ hoops. Iona, Seton Hall, St. John’s, and Rutgers all play in succession. Without a doubt, the biggest game of the day is Rutgers-Syracuse in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Speaking of Syracuse — are there any NY/NJ teams you would like to see in our NY/NJ College Hoops Rankings next week? Let me know on Twitter, via email, or in the comments section. So far, these rankings only include teams I have had a chance to watch multiple times, but we will continue to add more teams as the season progresses.