Garden Statement: New Jersey has taken over March Madness

The first two rounds of the NCAA tournament were a bit of a redemption tour for No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide guard Jahvon Quinerly. Quinerly scored 22 points against No. 8 Maryland exactly a year after he tore his ACL in last year’s tournament. He leads the team in scoring with 41 points.

Through all the ups and downs, the Hackensack, New Jersey, native has stayed abreast of his home state’s performance in March.

Saint Peter’s made the run last year, I was very excited for them. After we lost in the first round [I was] rooting for them … Jersey is just different in March,” Quinerly said.

This year, 16th-seeded Fairleigh Dickinson shocked top-seeded Purdue 63-58, just the second upset of a No. 1 seed in the first round in NCAA tournament history. Not to be outdone, No. 15 Princeton’s 59-55 upset of No. 2 Arizona secured a win by a 15-seed in three consecutive NCAA tournaments for the first time in 38 years, after the Peacocks of Saint Peter’s kept the trend going last year.

As Quinerly hinted, there are few things that resonate in Jersey more than Wawa and March basketball because the trend doesn’t end there.

UConn is coached by Jersey City native Dan Hurley, who was the second-ranked senior in the nation, and led his high school to a 31-1 record before playing college hoops in South Orange with the Seton Hall Pirates. Hurley got his head-coaching start at St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark. His father, Bob, was just the third boys’ high school coach inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

“When you grow up in the Hurley household and your older brother may be the greatest point guard of all time … and your dad is a Hall of Fame coach and all-time great, you’re used to being in an environment where there’s pressure on you to be exceptional [and] to perform at a high level,” UConn’s coach said to Stephen A. Smith on “First Take.”



Dan Hurley explains why he’s the ‘perfect coach for UConn’ to Stephen A.

Dan Hurley joins “First Take” to discuss why the pressure he faces as UConn coach make him ideal for the job.

The Huskies, in the Sweet 16 for the first time since winning the 2014 national championship, have won each of their first two NCAA tournament games by at least 15 points for the first time since 2009.

Markquis Nowell‘s 27-point game lifted No. 3 Kansas State over No. 6 Kentucky. Nowell has created 62% of Kansas State’s points in the 2023 NCAA tournament, on pace to be the highest percentage for a player since Ja Morant accounted for 63% of Murray State‘s scores in 2019.

The 5-foot, 8-inch guard is from Harlem, New York, known online as “Mr. New York City,” but he has notable ties to the Garden State.

Nowell started his high school career at St. Anthony High School under coach Bob Hurley Sr., and played his senior season at The Patrick School in Hillside, New Jersey.

Call it a coincidence or divine intervention, it can be argued that Jersey has already won March, regardless of what team comes out on top in the tournament.

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