February 8, 2008

Hoyas face challenge at Louisville

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Upcoming Big East Games
Saturday:
Providence at St. John's
Marquette at Notre Dame
USF at DePaul
Georgia Tech at Connecticut
Cincinnati at Rutgers
Seton Hall at Villanova
Georgetown at Louisville
Monday:
Villanova at Georgetown
Tuesday:
Providence at Pittsburgh
Louisville at DePaul
Wednesday:
Notre Dame at Connecticut
Syracuse at USF
St. John's at Cincinnati
Thursday:
Rutgers at West Virginia
BIG EAST STANDINGS
BIG EAST STATS

Best matchup: Georgetown at Louisville: Both of these teams have shown the look of a Final Four contender lately. Georgetown (19-2, 9-1 Big East) has won six consecutive games and is tougher to score on than just about any team in the nation. Louisville (17-6, 7-3) has spent the past week burying Rutgers and Marquette by a combined 51 points. Georgetown has the better team, but are the Hoyas good enough to neutralize Louisville's home-court advantage? Georgetown won at Louisville last season, the first time these teams ever faced each other in the regular season as Big East rivals. This game should feature plenty of fireworks, but not many points. Georgetown and Louisville are the league's top two teams in scoring defense. Neither squad is allowing more than 60 points per game.

The pressure is on: Seton Hall and Villanova. Both desperately need a win heading into Saturday's showdown at Villanova. Seton Hall (15-8, 5-5) has lost two in a row and has fallen out of the RPI top 50. Villanova (13-8, 3-6) is in even worse shape after losing six consecutive games by double-digit margins. Both almost certainly would find themselves on the outside looking in if NCAA Tournament invitations were handed out today, but the winner of Saturday's game still has reason to hope it can make it to the tournament if it gets hot at the end of the season. The loser doesn't have much of a realistic chance of earning an at-large bid. That's bad news for Seton Hall, which has lost eight consecutive games to Villanova at The Pavilion since beating the Wildcats 70-59 on Feb. 26, 1994.

Upset alert: Marquette over Notre Dame. The Irish's 33-game home winning streak has to end sooner or later. While it's tough to call this an upset when Marquette already beat Notre Dame 92-66 earlier this season, the Irish clearly are playing better than the Golden Eagles right now. Notre Dame (17-4, 7-2) has won four straight games and owns sole possession of second place in the Big East, while Marquette (16-5, 6-4) is coming off a 71-57 home loss to Louisville. But Marquette's outstanding backcourt gives Notre Dame matchup problems that should continue Saturday, assuming Dominic James is over the case of the flu that limited him Monday in the loss to Louisville.

RPI watch: The Big East is the fourth-ranked conference in the RPI and trails the Atlantic Coast Conference, Pac-10 and Big 12. The Big East has six teams with RPIs in the top 30: No. 8 Georgetown, No. 13 Connecticut, No. 17 Pittsburgh, No. 24 Louisville, No. 29 Marquette and No. 30 Notre Dame.

Key stat: Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun and Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim each owned 766 career wins before squaring off Wednesday at Syracuse. Connecticut's 63-61 victory allowed Calhoun to take sole possession of 10th place on the list of the all-time winningest coaches. Calhoun is 14 wins away from passing Lute Olson and Lou Henson, who are tied for eighth with 780 wins each.

Freshmen to watch: St. John's won 52-45 at Rutgers on Wednesday while starting four freshmen: D.J. Kennedy, Sean Evans, Justin Burrell and Malik Boothe. St. John's went to the four-freshman lineup because leading scorer Anthony Mason Jr. was out with a bruised ankle.

Who's hot: Cincinnati guard Deonta Vaughn has averaged 21.3 points in his past nine contests. Connecticut forward Jeff Adrien has three double-doubles in his past four games. Notre Dame forward Luke Harangody has four consecutive double-doubles and is averaging 26.8 points and 12.8 rebounds during that span. Harangody leads the Big East in scoring at 20.4 points per game and ranks second in the conference with 10.1 rebounds per game. Notre Dame guard Kyle McAlarney is 17 of 34 from 3-point range during the Irish's four-game winning streak. Providence center Randall Hanke has shot 15-for-22 and has averaged 19.5 points per game over his past two games. Syracuse forward Paul Harris is averaging 26 points and nine rebounds in his past two games. West Virginia guard Darris Nichols entered Thursday's action having shot 9-for-18 from 3-point range in his past three games.

Who's not: Georgetown guard Austin Freeman has shot 5-for-25 in his past three games. Marquette's James has shot 6-for-25 over the past three games while dealing with a wrist injury and the flu. James has scored in double figures just once in his past six games. Rutgers swingman Jaron Griffin has shot 3-for-24 from the floor including 2-for-13 from 3-point range over his past three games. Seton Hall guard Larry Davis has shot 6-for-30 from the floor over his past four games. Davis went 0-for-10 Wednesday in a 95-69 loss to Notre Dame. Syracuse forward Donte Greene has shot 30 percent (24 of 80) from the floor in his past five games. The freshman was 2-for-15 and scored a career-low eight points Wednesday in a 63-61 loss to Connecticut.

Worth noting: Connecticut guard Doug Wiggins has returned to action after serving a two-game suspension, but guard Jerome Dyson remains under suspension and hasn't played in the Huskies' past four games. The suspensions occurred after campus police said they found Wiggins and Dyson in a car with a bottle of vodka and a bottle of cognac. Louisville's 71-57 victory over Marquette on Monday ended the Eagles' 14-game home winning streak. St. John's has won consecutive Big East road games for the first time since January 2003. Georgetown entered the week leading the nation in field-goal percentage defense, while Connecticut led all schools in blocked shots per game. Georgetown opponents are shooting just 35.9 percent. Connecticut is averaging 8.8 blocks. Syracuse forward Arinze Onuaku entered the week ranked third in the nation in field-goal percentage. Onuaku has made 66 percent of his shots this season.

Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com.

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