The lone New Jersey basketball team to make the NCAA March Madness 2021 Tournament are the Scarlet Knights. After years of adjustments, Rutgers Mens Basketball finds themselves exceeding expectations. The last time Rutgers made the NCAA Tournament was in 1991 and the last time they had an NCAA win was 1983. They began their 2021 tournament run on March 19th against no. 7 Clemson coming up with a big win.
— Rutgers On BTN (@RutgersOnBTN) March 20, 2021
Student mens basketball manager and senior at Rutgers University, Sam Radowitz gives us an inside look at the environment in Indiana at the Lucas Oil Stadium in the “bubble” like setting.
“For the Big Ten tournament, Lucas Oil was huge,” Radowitz said. “It felt good to finally have fans back in the arena, even though most were rooting against us. Being in Indianapolis, a majority of the fans for our first game were Hoosier fans, but I think that the team really fed off their energy either way. Looking forward to playing against Houston next.”
Through the media, we have seen teams dropping from the tournament due to COVID protocols with players or coaches.
The NCAA MBB Committee has declared the VCU-Oregon game a no-contest because of COVID-19 protocols.
As a result, Oregon will advance. pic.twitter.com/75PFpk8TbC
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 20, 2021
“The NCAA is taking COVID very seriously in the bubble,” Radowitz said. “When we arrived on Sunday night, we were expecting to be stuck in our rooms all day Monday and Tuesday. For our first test, we had to wait 12 hours and then we took another one that we had to wait six hours after. Fortunately, our 12 hour quarantine was overnight so we basically just went to bed and woke up and it was over. Now, we get tested every day and they keep us on a pretty strict lockdown. The hotel that we are staying in is a massive convention center so we don’t really go outside at all. Actually, we got here on Sunday and I have been outside a total of four times since then.”
The match against Rutgers and Clemson came down to the final minutes, but Rutgers was able to finish on top, 60-56. How does a team that is making their first tournament appearance in 30 years prepare especially in these circumstances?
“From Sunday night to Friday, we had plenty of time to prepare for Clemson,” Radowitz said. “In the bubble, we have access to practice courts and weights for certain times of the day and the film room when we want so we really took advantage of all the time we could.”
Overall, a student manager especially for a ranked basketball team has many responsibilities and could be difficult at times.
“Its never easy being a student manager, COVID or not,” Radowitz said. “Personally, I hate not having fans at the games. I used to live for their energy and now playing in empty gyms is just not the same. I am excited that the NCAA is allowing fans for the tournament and they really showed up for our first round game.”
— Rutgers Basketball 🏀 (@RutgersMBB) March 20, 2021
After the Scarlet Knight’s matchup against Clemson, they faced no. 2 Houston. The game remained close throughout both halves, and Rutgers was even up 10 in the second half. Unfortunately, they could not hold on to their lead and lost a close one, 63-60.