Rowan Men’s Basketball Gears up for the NJAC Tournament

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Ryan O'Leary taking a three. O'Leary and the Profs are heading towards the NJAC tournament next week. Monday, Jan. 31, 2022. - Multimedia Editor / Lee Kotzen

For the first time in nearly two years, Rowan University men’s basketball will be returning in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Championship tournament with hopes of winning it all.

After not participating in a season last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Profs will be returning to the playoffs as the second seed thanks to their 21-4 regular-season record.

Rowan currently sits behind their Stockton University rivals that are atop of the standings with an equally strong 21-4 record. However, Stockton has ranked number one in the standings thanks to their greater 15-3 conference record, which just barely edges Rowan’s 14-4 record within the conference.  

Rowan and Stockton will both have first-round byes when the NJAC playoffs open up on Saturday, Feb. 19, as they have each clinched two of the top six seeds in the conference. The first six seeds will not have to play in the first round of the playoffs, while the bottom four teams will compete to move on. All ten teams in the conference will qualify for the playoffs, which is the first time the NJAC has had a ten-team format in over twenty years. 

With Rowan having a first-round bye, they will not have to suit up until early next week when they will host one of their NJAC rivals in the quarterfinal round of the playoffs.

While their quarterfinal opponent has yet to be determined, the Profs are familiar with all of the opposing schools that will be in the tournament. Rowan’s Head Coach Joe Crispin is ready to be prepared for what the other schools will bring come playoff tipoff time. 

“We have to adjust to who we are playing,” Coach Crispin said. “Ramapo [College] plays defense very differently than Jersey City [NJCU], and NJCU plays much differently than Montclair [State University]. Adjusting to the teams we face on offense and defense is going to help us a lot.” 

Coach Crispin and his team had success adjusting against NJAC opponents during the regular season this year, as they have only dropped four of their seventeen conference bouts thus far.

Rowan lost their first dual of the season against Montclair State on Jan. 12 by a narrow score of 74-73. They also lost to the NJAC’s current third-ranked team in Rutgers-University Newark 66-60 on Jan. 8, but would get revenge against them nearly a month later on Feb. 5 after defeating them 80-65.

The other two losses that linger over Rowan’s record came at the hands of the Stockton Ospreys, who bested the Profs twice during the regular season.

The first defeat was a 29-point home loss that came on Dec. 1 by a score of 98-69, which was by far the largest deficit that Rowan faced this year. Their rematch was much more competitive later on in the season, but Rowan ultimately dropped that one on the road 96-91 to Stockton. 

While Rowan did not have a perfect sweep over the NJAC during the regular season, their 14 victories against the other opposing teams in the conference show that they are ready to compete for the top spot. Within the locker room, the mindset of the players emphasizes that they are ready to win it all.

“We want to win the NJAC this year,” Sophomore forward Andrew Seager said. “And next year, and the year after that. We also want to make the Final Four [of the NCAA tournament] this year and win a national championship.”

The optimistic Profs will have their chance to chase the first of those goals soon enough, as the first step to capturing the 2021-2022 NJAC title will be winning their first playoff game next Tuesday, Feb. 22 in the Quarterfinal round of the tournament.

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