Stony Brook University guard Bryan Dougher knows all about Seton Hall, the Seawolves' opponent in the first round of the NIT. Dougher, from Scotch Plains, N.J., grew up rooting for the Pirates. Interest in the team started with his parents, who attended the university. Cheering for the Pirates ceases Tuesday night when the teams meet at Walsh Gymnasium. "Everyone was texting me, 'How great would that be, beating my parents' alma mater,' " Dougher said Monday.
Dougher's father, Kevin, was a team manager and practice player for Seton Hall. His mom, Donna, was a cheerleader at the university. Longtime family friend Jay Boyle, whom Bryan calls Uncle Jay, played for the Hall in the late 1970s.
Before Bryan left to begin his career at Stony Brook, he was a fixture at Seton Hall games. "My best friend had season tickets, so we used to go to every home game," he said. "I know the team pretty well. I check almost every game they play."
Teammates Lenny Hayes and Eric McAlister also are from New Jersey. Jameel Warney, Stony Brook's top high school recruit, is a senior at New Jersey's Roselle Catholic.
Both teams anticipated being in the NCAA Tournament. Seton Hall (20-12) thought it had enough of a resume to join the nine other Big East teams that were selected. Stony Brook (22-9) won the America East regular-season title but lost the conference tournament final at home to Vermont.
"We don't want our season to end, and I know they were disappointed about not getting into the tournament," Dougher said of Seton Hall. "I know they are going to be ready to play. I saw a couple of things about how disappointed their seniors were and how ready they are to win the NIT. We've got to really get up for this game."
Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiell said there is no reason for his team to view the NIT as a consolation tournament.
"There's 11 conference champions playing in this tournament and 25 teams with 20 wins or more," he said. "The names LSU, Oregon, Tennessee, it's like an unbelievable tournament. It really is.
"I told our guys, 'You have one day to feel sorry for yourself. We're one of 100 teams playing. Let's go.' You're playing Seton Hall, a real name school."
Seton Hall had an erratic season, starting off 15-2 before a six-game losing streak. In the Big East Tournament, it beat Providence before losing to eventual champion Louisville.
The Pirates could present big matchup problems for the Seawolves. "They've got two [potential] pros I'm worried about,'' Pikiell said, referring to guard Jordan Theodore and 6-8 forward Herb Pope. "UConn people say [Theodore] is the best point guard in the Big East. Pope is the [second] best rebounder. Herb Pope looks like he's three people. We have to work on ball-screen coverages, we've got to double down in the post, we've got to work on post rotations. We can't guard the guy by ourselves. And Fuquan [Edwin] is [second] in the country in steals.
"What are we going to throw at them? The kitchen sink.''
Dougher is excited about the prospect of playing his hometown school. "If there was one team that I wanted to play, it was definitely Seton Hall," he said. "When it popped up on the screen, I was pretty excited about it."