It’s an exciting time to be a college hoops fan in the NY/NJ area.
The year 2021 was a big one for local college hoops. Rutgers broke a long streak, Rick Pitino took Iona to the NCAA Tournament, and Seton Hall looks like they can use 2021 to springboard into 2022.
Without further adieu, let’s look at the best moment, worst moment(s), and the Most Valuable Player in the local college hoops scene.
2021 Best Moment
Let’s talk about the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers was the only college basketball team to win a game in the NCAA Tournament in 2021. In fact, just making the Big Dance was a monumental moment for the program. It was the first time the Scarlet Knights had made the NCAA Tournament in 30 years.
Although they were stopped in the second round by the Final Four-bound Houston Cougars, their first-round win over Clemson served as a major moment for New Jersey basketball.
2021 Worst Moment(s)
Take your pick from this season between Rutgers and St. John’s. Both schools entered the 2021-22 season with major expectations. Both are falling flat on their faces.
Rutgers lost to DePaul. Even though the Blue Demons are a Big East school, this loss shows that the Scarlet Knights were in for a down year. The same can be said for the Johnnies after their loss to Pittsburgh
2021 Most Valuable Player
There are a few different ways we could have gone with this. Iona’s Nelly Junior Joseph is turning heads and starting to receive some early NBA consideration. Speaking of the NBA, Julian Champagnie of St. John’s is probably the top next-level prospect in the area. Jared Rhoden is the catalyst for Seton Hall’s great start this year.
But how could we go with anyone other than Ron Harper Jr.? Aside from being a key cog on last season’s NCAA Tournament team, he hit one of the biggest shots in Rutgers history — a buzzer-beater three to knock off No. 1 ranked Purdue
Rutgers! Shocking the world. pic.twitter.com/eqpBoI34Wm
— ESNY (@EliteSportsNY) December 10, 2021
2021 Least Valuable Player
COVID sucks. Technically, this is not a player, but COVID has been the Least Valuable Player in 2020 and 2021. The 2020 NCAA Tournament was canceled due to the onset of the pandemic and college basketball is still being impacted nearly two years later.
COVID pauses have become commonplace throughout college basketball and the Metro hoops scene is not immune to it.
Overall 2021 Grade — C+
The major programs in the area aren’t carrying their weight. Rutgers was the only high-major school to make the NCAAs last season and it looks like Seton Hall is the only one bound for the Big Dance in 2022. St. John’s is a major disappointment in 2021.
As for the mid-majors, Iona is carrying the load. They are one of the best mid-majors in the country, let alone the area. The Gaels are giving this overall grade a slight bump.