Your Scarlet Knights are going dancing for a second straight season. That’s pretty incredible when you consider that prior to last year, their most recent previous appearance was in 1991.
They get a stupid play-in game, and will be a #11 seed facing another #11 seed in Notre Dame. The play-in game will never not be stupid. We didn’t have to expand the tournament to 68 teams in the first place. Just pick 64 teams and call it a day. Nobody asked for play-in games.
But I will digress and say Rutgers absolutely deserved a spot, even at 18-13. They had four straight wins against ranked conference opponents, dispatching Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Illinois in February. They beat Purdue at home, ranked #1 in the country at the time. Their OOC resume isn’t great, but they did enough in-conference to get in.
Everybody who is a neutral in this region should be cheering for Rutgers on Wednesday, mostly because Notre Dame has a phony fan base that always seems to get a free pass. We rail against Pennsylvania and New Jersey Cowboy fans who jumped on the bandwagon but let the Irish fans slide even though they didn’t go to Notre Dame, have never been to Indiana, and probably could not locate South Bend on a map. The football program pulled a ton of frontrunner fans back in the day because they were always on TV and they were good, etc., so by extension, we will rip the basketball program as well.
There’s also this:
Nine years after advising then NJ Governor Chris Christie to shut down the Rutgers men’s basketball program following the Mike Rice scandal, Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey will face the Scarlet Knights in the NCAA Tournament on Wednesday in Dayton.
— Aaron Breitman (@aaron_breitman) March 13, 2022
This goes back to 2013. The CliffsNotes version is that the head coach was fired for mistreating players, then Eddie Jordan stepped in to replace him.
At the time, then-Governor Chris Christie, an annoying Cowboys and Notre Dame fan (he’s a huge poser), called Irish head coach Mike Brey for advice,* with Kristian Dyer at Rutgers Wire picking up the story from here:
Against the backdrop of Rutgers joining the Big Ten in the next season, Brey counseled Christie to “Take your time with an AD and a coach. … If you really have to bleed for a year going into this new league, the Big Ten, just shut it down an do it.”
The idea behind Brey’s advice was that the situation for Rutgers was so bad that the athletic department needed some time to regroup. Christie did not take that advice.
Brey wasn’t making his suggestion in any kind of personal or malicious way. He was suggesting a full reset coming out of the scandal. But Rutgers soldiered on, continued to stink through the Jordan years, and then Steve Pikiell eventually got it turned around. He’s done an amazing job with that program.
It’s interesting, though, a good storyline here. We have a play-in game between Rutgers and the lame-ass Golden Domers, led by a coach who advised a fraud bandwagon jumper of a governor to shut down basketball program for a season.
This is March.
*I feel the need to point out that yes, Brey coached at Delaware and Christie graduated from Delaware. 11 years apart, however, so Christie is still an annoying Notre Dame fan regardless of the shared Newark connection.