rutgers
Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

St. John’s, Rutgers, and Seton Hall are all on the bubble for the 2022 NCAA Tournament according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi.

College basketball in the New York/New Jersey area is in a good spot. Three of the biggest schools in the area — Rutgers, Seton Hall, and St. John’s — are entering the season with significant expectations.

ESPN’s Joe Lunardi is putting all three schools in the mix to snag a spot in the Big Dance. Rutgers and Seton Hall are two of the “Last Four In” while St. John’s is one of the “First Four Out.”

Let’s take a look at all the bubble teams, according to Lunardi:

Last Four Byes
Saint Mary’s
Virginia
Colorado
Colorado State

Last Four In
Rutgers
BYU
Seton Hall
Mississippi State

First Four Out
Syracuse
St. John’s
Wichita State
Iowa

Next Four Out
Drake
Creighton
Arizona
Washington State

Back on the Bubble

Obviously, picking the NCAA Tournament field this far in advance is like throwing a dart at a dartboard in complete darkness. So much can change between now and the start of the college hoops season, let alone between now and the NCAA Tournament.

But for what it’s worth, Lundardi’s projections for Rutgers, Seton Hall, and St. John’s make sense.

First and foremost, Rutgers is playing in the loaded Big Ten. Even though Rutgers is bringing back both Geo Baker and Ron Harper Jr. after flirtations with the NBA, a ton of schools are keeping guys with the extra COVID year. The Big Ten might be the deepest conference in all of college hoops.

With all that said, Rutgers made the field of 68 last year and advanced to the second round before losing to Final Four-bound Houston. The Scarlet Knights have been on an upward trend since Steve Pikiell took over as head coach.

As for the Pirates, they are trying to replenish the most talent of these three local schools. Sandro Mamukelashvili is off to make his way in the NBA and Shavar Reynolds is transferring to Monmouth.

Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard is going to need returning players like Myles Cale, Bryce Aiken, and Jared Rhoden to take a step forward if they want to make some noise in March.

And the Johnnies are bringing up the rear. St. John’s is one of the first teams that Lunardi has missing the tournament next year. With Julian Champagnie and Posh Alexander returning, there is an argument to be made that St. John’s is the most talented roster of these three schools.

However, the opportunities for signature non-conference wins will be few and far between for the Red Storm. Regardless, there are expectations to make the tournament in Queens this year.

Iona Gaels MAAC Repeat?

Who could forget about the area’s mid-major power? Lunardi projects the Iona Gaels to repeat as MAAC champions next season with a first-round matchup against two-seeded Purdue as a reward.

Iona was ravaged by COVID-19 shutdowns all last season, but somehow, Rick Pitino figured out how to get Iona through a crowded MAAC Tournament field.

The MAAC is going to be stacked this year with a ton of talent returning. Monmouth, Saint Peter’s, and Fairfield should compete for the conference’s at-large berth next season.