The Rutgers men’s basketball team will face in-state rival Seton Hall on Dec. 12 in the annual Garden State Hardwood Classic. The game will be a Pirates home game at the Prudential Center, a main source of contention in the process of scheduling the game.
The dispute between the two schools began when Seton Hall canceled last year's game, which it was hosting, on the grounds of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) concerns. This disrupted the annual system of alternating venues, leading to a months-long standstill between the two schools on where the game should be played this year.
Fortunately, both teams were able to come to an agreement to keep the cherished rivalry, which dates back to 1916, afloat for years to come. Prior to last year, the two schools had met each other every year since 1995, with Seton Hall holding a 40-31 advantage over the Scarlet Knights. Despite this, Rutgers has won two of the last three meetings.
The upcoming December matchup will mark the first contest between the two schools since Dec. 14, 2019, where the Knights rolled their way to a 68-48 statement victory in front of a thunderous Rutgers Athletic Center.
“The building was great. The most fans since 2002. The place was jumping. From the beginning,” said head men’s basketball coach Steve Pikiell following the December 2019 win. “I thought our guys got a great start too which really helped. Got the fans involved and they make it a real tough place to play.”
The game is one of four other out-of-conference games that Rutgers has scheduled for the 2021-22 season. Along with the much-anticipated matchup against the Pirates, the Knights are slated to play UMass, Rider, Lehigh and Merrimack.
In addition to filling out its out-of-conference schedule, Rutgers recently learned its list of Big Ten conference opponents that it will be facing this winter.
Most notably, the Knights are set to play Big Ten powerhouses Michigan and Wisconsin twice and respected programs like Ohio State and Iowa once at home. On the road, Rutgers will face schools such as Indiana and Minnesota, teams which the Knights picked up key wins against last season.
According to an official statement from the Big Ten, the dates and times of conference games will be announced “at a later date”.
As for the Garden State Hardwood Classic, New Jersey basketball fans will rejoice in the news that the rivalry will carry on.
“Our guys were driven, they were determined,” Pikiell said after the most recent win over Seton Hall. “We're a good basketball program, I think you saw today, New Jersey basketball's good.”
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