Big East Update

Irish Eyes takes a weekly look at Big East men's basketball and a quick glance around the nation. Conference play began on Monday night with #2 Connecticut losing at home to #8 Georgetown 74-63.

The Big East schedulers must have wanted to make a statement by picking Connecticut and Georgetown to open up conference play with a showdown on Monday night and they did just that.

The power of the league was on display as Greg Monroe had a solid Big East debut and helped Georgetown defeat second-ranked Connecticut 74-63 in Storrs.

Conference play continues tonight with Syracuse taking on Seton Hall at 7 p.m. and with three games tomorrow, including Notre Dame's Big East opener at DePaul.

The nation's toughest league flexed its muscles during the independent portion of the year and has dominated the rankings through the season's first two months. The Big East had eight teams ranked in both polls for three weeks before dipping down to seven in the Associated Press for the last two. Last night's game is sure to shake up next week's rankings, but they will stay the same until Monday.

Connecticut (11-1) and Pittsburgh (12-0) have been ranked second and third respectively in each poll for much of the season and remain there this week.

UConn had a light week before hosting Georgetown. The Huskies beat Fairfield 75-55 on Friday to extend their streak of victories over in-state schools to 64. UConn returns to action on Saturday when it hosts Rutgers.

The Panthers had Christmas Week off, but will open conference play at Rutgers (9-3) on Wednesday before traveling to Washington, D.C. on Saturday for a matchup against Georgetown.

Notre Dame (9-2) moved up a spot in each poll to seventh in the AP and 10th in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll. The Irish jumped ahead of Gonzaga, who lost to Portland State last week after dropping an overtime game against UConn. Notre Dame will start conference play with a New Year's Eve matchup at DePaul before heading to St. John's for a Saturday afternoon game.

The Hoyas (10-1) also moved ahead of Gonzaga in each poll and moved up a spot from 12th to 11th in the AP and from ninth to eighth in the coaches' poll where they remain ahead of the Irish. Georgetown figures to move up, but the conference schedule does not get any easier with the home date with Pittsburgh on Saturday.

Syracuse (12-1) made the biggest jump of all Big East teams, moving from 17th in the AP to 13th and from 14th with the coaches into a tie with Purdue for 11th. The Orange won their only game last week, an 82-71 victory over Coppin State, and also got guard Eric Devendorf back as his suspension was cut short. Devendorf is expected to play when the Orange host Seton Hall tonight before Saturday's game at South Florida.

Villanova (12-1) made a similar climb, going from 18th to 15th with the writers and 16th to 13th with the coaches. The Wildcats beat Temple last night 62-45 in their final non-conference game before they get into league action at Marquette on Thursday.

Louisville (8-2) moved up a spot in each poll to 18th in each poll, passing Ohio State, who was smoked at home by West Virginia. The Cardinals, who had an impressive 82-62 win over UAB last week, play UNLV tonight and in-state rival Kentucky on Saturday and won't open up conference play until Jan. 7 at South Florida.

The big win over the Buckeyes has the Mountaineers (10-2) as the first team out of the AP Poll, in front of Marquette, but the Golden Eagles remain at No. 25 in the Coaches' Poll.

Marquette (11-2) had two wins last week, including a 68-65 victory over North Carolina State, but the light holiday schedule provided few opportunities to move up. A win over the Wildcats on Thursday would move them up, but they will host Cincinnati on Sunday.

The Bearcats lost to Memphis 60-45 on Monday, but are one of several teams Big East teams that put together impressive records in independent action. Rutgers (9-3), Seton Hall (9-3), St. John's (9-3), Providence (9-4) and DePaul (8-5) will all get the chance to prove how good they are in conference play.

Notre Dame's out-of-conference opponents continue to look strong as North Carolina has people wondering if it can go unbeaten while Texas had an impressive win at Wisconsin this past weekend, although the Buckeyes did stumble against the Mountaineers.


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