Drama is building for Rutgers basketball.
To a lesser extent, it builds for Fairleigh Dickinson, Princeton and Seton Hall, too.
Selection Sunday is one of the great unveilings in all of sports, and the New Jersey college hoops community will have a stake when the brackets are unveiled – the NCAA Tournament field at 6 pm on CBS, and then the NIT field at 9 pm on ESPNU.
Here’s a look at where the Garden State’s programs might end up and who they might face when March Madness begins in the coming days.
The Scarlet Knights should enter the NCAA Tournament as the No. 11 seeds (They are now a No. 11 in the reliable Facts & Bracks bracketology). The hazier question is: Will they play in the First Four in Dayton March 14-15 – or earn a spot in the main bracket?
Potential First Four opponents: Pittsburgh, NC State, Arizona State, Utah State, Mississippi State, Providence and Nevada.
Potential opponents if Rutgers goes directly into the main bracket: Kentucky, TCU, San Diego State, Creighton, Saint Mary’s.
Potential sites: It’s likely that the selection committee will put Rutgers in Albany, thereby giving a double-digit seed the advantage over a better seed, unless another regional team (has to be UConn) is the opponent. Keep an eye on Columbus, Des Moines and Greensboro as potential landing sites. Also, the Scarlet Knights’ seed could be bad enough to land it in the East Region (assuming it doesn’t make the region), which could pay off down the line.
It’s safe to assume the Knights will be No. 16 seed in the First Four in Dayton March 14-15. Potential opponents include Northern Kentucky, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Howard and Southeast Missouri.
Which No. 1 seed they will face after a win there – Kansas, Alabama, Houston or Purdue, is anyone’s guess.
If Princeton wins the Ivy League Tournament, it will likely become the No. The Tigers are 14 seeds. Potential opponents include Baylor, Gonzaga, Kansas State, Marquette, UConn and Tennessee. Any of these games will take place in the opponent’s region. If it’s UConn, Princeton is in Albany. The Tigers defeated Penn on Saturday in the Ivy League semifinals.
Princeton could also make the NIT if it loses Sunday’s Ivy final to Yale — especially if enough teams decline bids (so far, only Texas Tech has publicly withdrawn from consideration) .
The Pirates are headed to the NIT for the first time since 2012. John Templon, running a well-regarded NIT bracketology site, hosts them as No. 4 seed (seeds 1 through 4 host the first-round game, which will take place in the middle of the coming week). With geography driving the first-round matchups in the NIT, regular-season champion Hofstra is likely to be the Colonial Athletic Association opponent.
Another possibility: Virginia Tech. While that doesn’t seem local on the surface, right now the only other northeastern teams in Templon’s 32-team NIT bracket are Pitt (who could end up in the Big Dance) and Villanova. Pitt will also host the NIT, and Seton Hall-Villanova will not start. Conference opponents do not meet in the first or second round.
If an Ivy League squad enters the NIT – Yale or Princeton would be the possibilities – that could be another potential matchup for the Pirates.
Jerry Carino has covered the New Jersey sports scene since 1996 and the college basketball scene since 2003. He is an Associated Press Top 25 voter. Contact him at email@example.com.