Rutgers freshman guard Mike Poole said new Pirates coach Kevin Willard stopped recruiting him in the spring out of fear of losing a recruiting battle to the Scarlet Knights, and the perception it would create.
Fred Hill and Bobby Gonzalez are no longer on the opposite benches, but there is still plenty of uneasy feelings between the programs, which makes today's noon tip-off at the Prudential Center intriguing as ever.
"It's not the same Bobby G and Fred Hill battle, but it's Rutgers-Seton Hall, and that's self explanatory," Rutgers power forward Jonathan Mitchell said. "It's going to be a war at the Prudential Center, and I hope the guys are ready for the challenge. …They (the coaches) might give a handshake this year."
Of course, with Mike Rice replacing Hill on the Rutgers bench and Williams supplanting Gonzalez, the off-court antics will take a different shape than the past few years of embarrassment.
Still, at least it was interesting when Hill and Gonzalez could be counted on for a post-game press conference sparring session, and the near brawl between the coaching staffs last season. The distaste the staffs held for each other filtered to the players, and throughout the region.
"You knew the stories, being in the northeast, the handshake lines of them almost fighting each other," said Rice, who was at Robert Morris the last three years. "But if you're so concerned about Seton Hall, or if Seton Hall is so concerned with us, you're not looking in the right direction. The last five or six years both teams have been out of the top eight, so you need to look at what they're doing."
Right now, neither are doing much in the standings.
The Scarlet Knights (11-7, 2-4 Big East) are in 12th place, and the Pirates (8-11, 2-5) are in 13th place. Seton Hall has won the last four meetings.
"It's going to be intense," Miller said. "You're not really going to have an open lay-up. Someone's going to foul you, make you earn your lay-ups, and everybody's going to play hard on defense."
Biruta knows about the rivalry because he attended both games last season, and is mentored by former Seton Hall star Arturas Karnišovas.
"I like the fact it's Seton Hall and the former school of my mentor," Biruta said. "I'd like to win even more."