Before Big East play started Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey told his team that the conference schedule would be a test to see which teams could respond best to defeats. But that does not make the task any easier.
The strength of the schedule ensures that there will be plenty of difficult games and that those will be followed up by more tough nights.
The depth of the league dictates that there will be several times when two very good teams face each other after losses and the first of those comes tonight as Notre Dame (10-3, 1-1) hosts Georgetown (10-2, 1-1) at the Joyce Center at 7 p.m.
The Irish will be right back in action after suffering a 71-65 loss at St. John's on Saturday. Notre Dame was ranked seventh in last week's Associated Press poll and 10th in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' poll.
The Hoyas were ranked No. 11 in last week's AP poll and eighth in the Coaches' Poll. Georgetown was poised to jump up this week's polls after knocking off second-ranked Connecticut 74-63 in the conference opener, but the Hoyas returned home to play third-ranked Pittsburgh on Saturday.
Georgetown kept it close for the first 25 minutes and the score was 40-40 with 13 minutes to play, but the Panthers' depth and rebounding helped them pull away to a 70-54 victory. The win coupled with North Carolina's surprising loss to Boston College on Sunday has the Panthers ready to grab the number one spot in both polls.
Georgetown's only other loss of the season came against Tennessee in the Old Spice Classic in late-November. In addition to the Huskies, the Hoyas have impressive wins over Maryland and Memphis.
The Hoyas are led by a strong starting five that includes senior guard Jessie Sapp, sophomore guard Chris Wright, sophomore guard Austin Freeman, junior forward DaJuan Summers and freshman center Greg Monroe.
Summers leads Georgetown with 15.3 points per game while Freeman (13.1), Monroe (12.9) and Wright (12.8) also check in with double-figure averages.
Georgetown has a reputation for producing big men like Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo and most recently Roy Hibbert. Monroe's point total through 12 games is behind only Mourning's 13.1 average and Monroe's 5.6 rebounds per are behind just Mourning and Ewing.
Monroe also has had a serious impact on the defensive end, leading his team with 1.9 blocks and 1.8 steals per game. The 6-foot-11 freshman phenom has the size to play on the inside, but the athletic ability to play around the perimeter on both ends of the floor.
At just 6-3, Sapp is third on the team in rebounds with 4.4 per contest, behind Monroe and Freeman, who is pulling down 4.8 a night. Wright leads the Hoyas with 3.8 assists.
The Hoyas have proven that they can put up points, averaging 74.0 per game while allowing the opposition just 57.4. The problem for Georgetown is the limited production that it is getting from anyone outside the starting five.
Summers and Monroe scored 37 of the team's 54 points against Pittsburgh and no one outside of the starters is averaging more than 4.6 points. Freshman guard Jason Clark is the only non-starter to reach double-figures this year and that was when he scored 10 points in a 100-38 beating against Savannah State.
The loss to Pittsburgh snapped the Hoyas' 29-game home winning streak, but they will try to put that behind them by breaking Notre Dame's 43-game home win streak. The Irish's streak is now the nation's best as BYU's bid for a 54th consecutive home win was denied by Wake Forest on Saturday.
Georgetown has won its last five matchups against Notre Dame with the Irish's last win coming in February of 2005. The Hoyas last visit to the Joyce Center was a double-overtime win in January of 2006.
Notre Dame's loss to St. John's was just the third time this season that the Irish have been held under 70 points. While the Irish will undoubtedly need to get their offense going again to win against Georgetown, it will be interesting to watch the matchup between Monore and defending Big East Player of the Year Luke Harangody.
As always, the rebounding margin will also be key for the Irish. Despite their size and athleticism, the Hoyas are grabbing just 33.7 rebounds per game while the Irish are averaging 40.2. Georgetown was dominated on the glass against Pitt, 43-17.
With a top-ranked team for a nationally televised game, the Irish will have no reason not to be up for this game. The only problem is that Georgetown will have the exact same motivations.