Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Rutgers squeaks into the NCAA Tournament field and will face Notre Dame in a First Four game.

Take a deep breath, Rutgers fans. The Scarlet Knights are going dancing despite being one of the last teams to clinch an at-large berth. As a result, they are heading to Dayton, OH for a First Four date with Notre Dame. The winner will take on Alabama.

It was a long weekend for the Scarlet Knights after losing to the eventual Big Ten Tournament Champions — the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Rutgers punching a ticket to the NCAA Tournament was not a sure thing. Consecutive losses to DePaul, Lafayette, and UMass early in the season forced this team into a tough spot.

A strong showing in Big Ten play turned the tide for the Knights. It’s safe to say five wins over ranked opponents were enough to offset the brutal non-conference resumé.

This is the second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance for Rutgers. It would have been three in a row if not for COVID in 2020. The last time the Scarlet Knights went to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments was in 1975-76.

Steve Pikiell is a program builder.

Other Jersey Squads

Seton Hall struggled with injuries down the stretch, but they were on the right side of the bubble. The Pirates are the eighth seed and will play TCU in the first round. The winner of that game will likely play top-seeded Arizona in the second round.

The MAAC Champion Saint Peter’s Peacocks are dancing as a 15 seed. The Jersey City school is going up against a college basketball blue blood — Kentucky. Just like Rutgers, the Peacocks came on as the season progressed.

This Saint Peter’s team has a hard-nosed identity that mirrors its coach, Shaheen Holloway. For anyone who doesn’t know Holloway, he’s a Jersey legend who won the McDonald’s All-American Game MVP in 1996.

He played his high school ball at St. Patrick in Elizabeth, was a four-year starter at Seton Hall, and now he has the Peacocks dancing for the first time since 2011.

The Peacocks are going to have their hands full with Kentucky, but they won’t back down from the challenge.

The full NCAA Tournament field can be found here.

New York Basketball Struggles

It’s a great day to be a basketball fan in New Jersey. That’s not the case for New Yorkers. Colgate is the only team for the Empire State to make the field of 68.

St. John’s had a ton of talent, but they were underwhelming all season long. Meanwhile, Iona was upset in the MAAC quarterfinals by a sub-.500 Rider team. The Broncs gave an assist to Saint Peter’s with that upset.

Iona has an automatic bid to the NIT after finishing first in the MAAC during the regular season. St. John’s is almost a lock to make it as well.

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