Big East Weekend Preview

Here's a preview of the weekend in Big East Conference basketball, which features a slate of eight games on Saturday and Sunday.

*Game of the Weekend: Georgetown at No. 7 Pittsburgh. ESPN will have their GameDay broadcast here on Saturday morning and for good reason. Both these teams were highly ranked in the pre-season rankings. The Panthers have lived up to the billing as they have taken the early lead in the conference at 3-0 and 15-2 overall. The Hoyas have not so far. After dismantling Notre Dame last weekend, Georgetown (11-4, 1-1) came back and lost at home to Villanova. They were on a roll before the loss and trying to find the groove again will be tough in Pittsburgh. The key matchup: Panthers center Aaron Gray, who is averaging a double-double, versus 7-2 Hoya center Roy Hibbert. Expect a low-scoring, defensive battle that could come down to the final minutes. Tip-off is at 9:00 p.m. on ESPN.

*Player to watch: Dominic James. The Marquette guard scored 17 points to help the Golden Eagles end Connecticut's 31-game home winning streak on Wednesday. The win was critical on several levels. Marquette would have dropped to 0-3 with a loss. Instead, they sit at 1-2 and welcome in No. 21 West Virginia to Milwaukee on Saturday. Tip-off is at noon on ESPN. Prime time players show up huge in the biggest spots. The Mountaineers (13-2, 3-1) are coming off their first loss of conference play. A Golden Eagles defeat would send them to 1-3 in the conference with a lot of ground to make up. James averages 16 PPG and 4.5 assists a contest. He'll need to be on his A-game against the league's top-ranked scoring defense.

*Other storylines to follow: Can Providence start out 3-0? The Friars are 12-3 overall and have beat their first two opponents by an average of 18 PPG. They'll travel on the road on Saturday to face Louisville (11-5, 1-1) at Freedom Hall. Tip-off is at noon. Providence has the conference's second best scoring offense but second to last ranked scoring defense. 6-7 guard/forward Geoff McDermott leads the Big East in rebounds (10.5/game) and assists (5.8/contest). The sophomore also contributes 11 PPG.

*Can Villanova get back to .500 in the conference? The Wildcats earned a huge league win on the road on Monday, beating Georgetown 56-52 in Washington, D.C. They'll take their 1-2 conference record and 12-4 mark overall and travel to upstate New York to face Syracuse (13-4, 2-1) on Saturday. Tip-off is at 1:00 p.m. and CBS will televise the game. It'll be a battle between the two top scorers in the Big East. Villanova's Curtis Sumpter is second in the league at 18.5 PPG while the Orange's Demetris Nichols is tops at 18.6. The Carrier Dome is a tough place to play and the Wildcats will have to overcome the second best rebounding team in the conference. If they can, they'll be 2-2 in the Big East and back on track after a slow start.

*Can Seton Hall win a big game on the road? The Pirates are 2-1 in the league and 10-5 overall. They've won two home games, sandwiched between a blowout road loss at Providence by 22 points. On Sunday, Seton Hall will travel to South Bend to face No. 22 Notre Dame (14-2, 2-1). Will the Pirates, the third highest scoring offense in the Big East, be able to compete with the big boys on the road? In addition to scoring a lot, Seton Hall is dead last in scoring defense. They'll need big contests out of Brian Laing (16.9 PPG) and Eugene Harvey (16.3 PPG) to win.


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