metro college hoops
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Three things for local college hoops fans to be thankful for

Obviously, college basketball reaches a crescendo during March Madness, but don’t sleep on Feast Week. Teams are traveling to neutral site locations for a chance to bring home some fresh hardware.

The Metro NY/NJ area is off to a fast start in the 2021-22 college hoops season. With Seton Hall ranked, Iona cruising to a pristine 5-0 record, and plenty of other dangerous teams, there is plenty for Metro hoops fans to be thankful for. Let’s take a look at three in particular.

Incredible Coaching

The local schools are in great hands. From the high-majors on down, there is an abundance of great coaches in the area. It starts with the trio of coaches at the big schools.

Seton Hall’s Kevin Willard is the most underrated college basketball coach in the country with an incredible track record at developing talent.

One of the concerns with Mike Anderson coming to St. John’s would be his ability to recruit locally. Just three years into his tenure he has disproven that by establishing a nice pipeline to St. John’s in the Big Apple.

And, of course, Steve Pikiell put on a masterclass at rebuilding a program in Piscataway. Despite some early concerns for Rutgers this year, they are miles ahead of where they were before Pikiell signed on.

Moving onto the small schools, it starts with the biggest name of the bunch — Rick Pitino. Love him or hate him, there is no denying the fact that Pitino is one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all time.

For my money, he is the greatest in history when it comes to in-game adjustments and I’m not talking about his wardrobe changes at halftime.

Don’t forget about the rest of the MAAC either. King Rice and Shaheen Holloway have established strong programs at Monmouth and Saint Peter’s, respectively. Carmen Maciariello has his work cut out for him at Siena, but he’s another name that deserves to be in the conversation here.

Even Hofstra and Fordham have young, up-and-coming head coaches in Speedy Claxton and Kyle Neptune.

The talent on the sidelines in New York and New Jersey is unmatched when compared with any other region in the country.

Holiday Tournaments

Who doesn’t love an early-season tournament? It’s a chance for teams to get a taste of the “survive and advance” mentality that will be necessary for winning in March. Obviously, these games are not as meaningful, but it’s an opportunity to score key non-conference wins.

Seton Hall fell to Ohio State in a tightly-contested game in the Rocket Mortgage Fort Myers Tip-Off, but close games like that can help the Pirates mature as a group.

Iona kicks things off at 5 p.m. ET on Thanksgiving against Alabama in the ESPN Events Invitational. They also face potential matchups with Belmont, Drake, Kansas, Dayton, and Miami later. The worst thing about this tournament is the name.

We love holiday tournaments.

Madison Square Garden

Yes, Madison Square Garden is synonymous with the New York Knicks, but it’s one of the best college basketball venues in the country as well.

St. John’s will play five games there this year and as always, the World’s Most Famous Arena will host the Big East Tournament.

However, the fun doesn’t stop there. Seton Hall and Iona will meet on the MSG floor as Willard takes on his old mentor. Pitino’s Gaels will be the underdog, but that game will still be must-see television for local hoops fans.

And it’s not just the local teams who take advantage of MSG. Duke and Kentucky made the trek to New York City to begin the year at the Garden.

There isn’t a better arena in the world for basketball.

NY/NJ hoops reporter (NBA/NCAA) & sports betting writer for XL Media. Never had the makings of a varsity athlete.