Big East Basketball Roundup

Going inside the Big East basketball conference as league play heats up

TO THE TOP

Pittsburgh became the first team to get to 3-0 in Big East play with last night's 74-71 win at Cincinnati. It was the Panthers' sixth straight win and it gave the Bearcats their first Big East loss.


LEADING CONTENDERS

Six Big East players are listed on the Wooden Award Midseason Top 30, released yesterday by the Los Angeles Athletic Club's John R. Wooden Award Committee. The six Big East candidates are Da'Sean Butler (West Virginia), Jerome Dyson (Connecticut), Luke Harangody (Notre Dame), Wes Johnson (Syracuse), Greg Monroe (Georgetown) and Scottie Reynolds (Villanova).



MIDWEEK ACTION


CINCINNATI
Four games ago, coach Mick Cronin yanked junior forward Yancy Gates from the starting lineup and played him only four minutes total against Lipscomb. Clearly, Cronin was trying to send Gates a message.

In his next three appearances, Gates, coming off the bench for the Bearcats, averaged 10.7 points and six rebounds per game. And when Cronin inserted him back into the starting lineup Monday in Cincinnati's 74-71 loss to Pittsburgh, Gates rewarded that decision.

With Gates recording 16 points, a career-high 14 rebounds and four blocks, it's clear that if the Bearcats are to compete for a Big East title this year, Gates has to continue that level of production.

The Bearcats will face Cal State Bakersfield on Wednesday, but they'll really have to count on Gates when they travel to Seton Hall on Saturday. He will face off against Pirates sophomore forward Herb Pope, who leads the conference with 11.7 rebounds per game.

"In pregame, coach went over how even our guards were with theirs, and the difference in the game could come down to how the bigs played," Gates said. "That was kind of motivation to come out and get the job done."

Gates outplayed Pittsburgh junior center Gary McGhee on Thursday. But much of Gates' confidence comes from having played in the Big East for an entire season. His battles last year with Pittsburgh's DeJuan Blair and Georgetown's Hasheem Thabeet showed him how consistently physical he needed to play.

"It taught me that every night you have to be ready," Gates said. "You can't come in and be lackadaisical."

PITT 74, CINCINNATI 71: The Bearcats allowed Panthers junior forward Gilbert Brown, in only his fourth game back from an academic suspension, to score 13 of his career-high 17 points in the second half. No. 23 Pittsburgh hit six free throws in the final 26 seconds to seal the victory.

Cincinnati (10-4, 2-1 Big East) had plenty of opportunities in the final 3 1/2 minutes to tie the game, but turnovers and badly missed jumpers cost the Bearcats, and they never drew closer than two points in the final six minutes.

Cincinnati senior guard Deonta Vaughn continued to have a hot hand, scoring 17 points for the third consecutive game. Freshman guard Lance Stephenson was nearly unstoppable in the first half for the Bearcats, but the Panthers (13-2, 3-0) forced him into bad decisions and tough shots in the second half. He finished with 15 points.

Sophomore forward Yancy Gates, making his first start since the Dec. 16 UAB game, was sharp, making 8-of-14 shots for 16 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks. But the Panthers played more zone defense in the second half, forcing Gates into a less aggressive role in the paint and attempting short jumpers that didn't fall.

The Bearcats had not allowed an opponent to shoot better than 40 percent in the past five games, but the Panthers made 49 percent of their shots and 57.1 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.

The loss snapped Cincinnati's four-game winning streak.

NOTES, QUOTES

  • Whenever a coach brings a high-profile recruit into his program, he must perform a delicate balancing act with his veteran players. So it has been with coach Mick Cronin, who added guard Lance Stephenson, one of the top premier freshman catches, to a class that included a star in guard Deonta Vaughn.

    All eyes were on Stephenson and he didn't disappoint when he led Cincinnati to a stunning upset of Connecticut in the Big East opener, scoring 21 points, the final two coming on free throws with 0.7 seconds remaining.

    But it is all new to Stephenson, who then had to return to the New York area, where he starred at Abraham Lincoln High, to play Rutgers. He was excited, seeing his family for the first time in two months and playing in front of friends ... and it might have affected him.

    He scored just 10 points, hitting 4 of 11 field goal attempts.

    Not to worry. Vaughn was there to pick up the slack.

    Vaughn struggled earlier in the year but has been coming on lately. He scored a season-high 17 points.

    "The whole Big East relies on veterans," Cronin said in the Cincinnati Enquirer. "Lance doesn't understand that it's a different world. He may rise to the occasion, but you'd better have veteran guys if you want to compete in the conference. "Deonta's the guy who's going to help Lance the most. He's been doing that the last three days."

  • As a sign of how balanced the UC playing time is, there are four players coming off the bench who average at least 20 minutes per game. Nine players are averaging 15 minutes or more.

  • F Rashad Bishop has not been known for his 3-point shooting, hitting only 27.9 percent for his career coming into this season, but he hit at a 39.3 percent clip through the season's first 12 games.

    ON THE SPOT:

    G Deonta Vaughn struggled earlier in the season but came into his own as Big East play began. "The last 10 days he's worked a lot harder," coach Mick Cronin told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "He understands what time of year it is." Cronin says Vaughn is not as gifted as people think and his success comes from hard work. "He's not a guy who plays with rare natural ability, but he kind of reminds me of Pete Rose. He goes full steam -- all out, all the time -- and he's been back to that guy the last 10 days. In defense of him, I think he was just worn out."

    QUOTE TO NOTE:

    "In this league, you win and just get on the plane." -- UC Coach Mick Cronin, after taking a tough road victory at Rutgers.

    STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

    SEASON RECAP: Cincinnati has blended in star freshman G Lance Stephenson while establishing it can win. The Bearcats have only one surprising loss, that to UAB, and one greatly disappointing one, a double-overtime defeat to cross-town rival Xavier. Other than that, they have established they are a talented, tough team that hits the board hard and has an inside presence in Yancy Gates and two scorers on the outside with Stephenson and Deonta Vaughn.

    PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Yancy Gates, F Rashad Bishop, G Lance Stephenson, G Deonta Vaughn, PG Cashmere Wright. Key Subs -- C Steve Toyloy, F Darnell Wilks, G Larry Davis, G Dion Dixon, F Ibrahima Thomas.

    GAME REVIEW:

    Cincinnati 74, Winthrop 57
    Cincinnati 71, Connecticut 69
    Cincinnati 65, Rutgers 58
    Pittsburgh 74, Cincinnati 71

    GAME PREVIEW:

    vs. Cal State-Bakersfield, Wednesday, Jan. 6
    at Seton Hall, Saturday, Jan. 9
    Pittsburgh at Cincinnati, Monday, Jan. 11
    Cal State-Bakersfield, at Cincinnati, Wednesday, Jan. 13

    ROSTER REPORT:

  • F Rashad Bishop, the team's shutdown defender, had a tough game against Pittsburgh. Panthers guard Ashton Gibbs scored many of his 14 first-half points against Bishop. In the second half, with Cincinnati junior guard Larry Davis on him, Gibbs missed his only two field-goal attempts.

  • G Cashmere Wright continues to find very little playing time. The freshman played only three minutes in the Saturday game, but coach Mick Cronin complimented his play. It didn't earn Wright much of a promotion. Against the Panthers, he played four minutes and missed the only shot he attempted.

  • G Larry Davis didn't score a point for the third time in the last four games. He has remained in his starting role despite missing 12 of his last 16 field-goal attempts and nine of his past 10 3-point shots.

  • CONNECTICUT
    The story of the UConn's season has been Stanley Robinson.

    Until this year, he's been the classic "Does Things That Don't Appear In The Box Score" supporting actor as the superstar teammates get the attention. His best season scoring average was 10.4 points per game as a sophomore, and he missed the first semester a year ago to refocus.

    He's always been valuable -- a 6-9 swingman who can play anywhere on the court and guard any opponent -- but it sometimes seemed as if Robinson and the coaching staff have struggled to figure out exactly how to fit his skill set into a specific role.

    This year, with the veterans the team leaned on for last year's Final Four run gone, Robinson has been thrust into the spotlight.

    And he hasn't backed down.

    Robinson averages nearly 18 points per game this season, more than double the 8.5 of a year ago. He's been in double figures in every game this season, and scored 22 in each of the team's first two Big East games. And in knocking down 15 of his first 27 3-point attempts, he's proven to be one of the most difficult matchups in the Big East this season.

    He's also concentrated more on the boards, and is second on the team with eight per game. That's helped the Huskies rebound from the loss of Jeff Adrien to graduation and Hasheem Thabeet to the NBA.

    Robinson's development is a big reason why the Huskies, who are still looking for some less-experienced players to raise the level of their games to fill the bigger roles, are emerging as one of the teams to watch in the Big East race.

    NOTES, QUOTES

  • Jerome Dyson and Kemba Walker each had 10 assists in the victory over Notre Dame. They became the second pair of UConn teammates to get double-digit assists in the same game, and the first in Big East play. Ben Gordon and Taliek Brown did it in 2002 in a victory over Sacred Heart.

  • Connecticut was held without a blocked shot in its loss to Cincinnati, the first time the Huskies had gone block-less since 2001. The team came back to swat 11 shots against Notre Dame.

    ON THE SPOT:

    Connecticut has the personnel to have a potent inside game, but it is unclear what combination of players might provide that. It looked like Ater Majok was in and Charles Okwandu was buried on the bench, but Okwandu looks to be back in the mix after the Notre Dame game. With Alex Oriakhi and Gavin Edwards also fighting for minutes, the playing time breakdown is still a work in progress.

    QUOTE TO NOTE:

    "Since my freshman year, my only problem has been I'm not consistent. I'm starting to be consistent. And I'm just happy about it." -- Connecticut forward Stanley Robinson, in the Hartford Courant.

    STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

    SEASON RECAP: The Huskies split their first two Big East games, losing in the final second to Cincinnati and beating Notre Dame. They are trying to avoid relying too heavily on the established players, but thus far veterans Jerome Dyson, Stanley Robinson and Kemba Walker have taken on the lion's share of the load on a nightly basis.

    PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Stanley Robinson, F Ater Majok, F Alex Oriakhi, G Jerome Dyson, G Kemba Walker. Key Subs -- F Gavin Edwards, F Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, G Donnell Beverley, C Charles Okwandu, G Darius Smith, G Jamaal Trice.

    GAME REVIEW:

    Connecticut 93, Iona 74
    Cincinnati 71, Connecticut 69
    Connecticut 72, Notre Dame 60

    GAME PREVIEW:

    vs. Seton Hall, Wednesday, Jan. 6
    at Georgetown, Saturday, Jan. 9
    vs. Pittsburgh, Wednesday, Jan. 13
    at Michigan, Sunday, Jan. 17
    vs. St. John's, Wednesday, Jan. 20

    IN FOCUS:

    UConn faces a desperate team when it hosts Seton Hall this week. The Pirates enter on a three-game losing streak, and are 0-2 in the Big East with close losses to Syracuse and West Virginia. The Huskies can expect to get the best effort of a Seton Hall team that now has an imposing inside game thanks to New Mexico State transfer Herb Pope.

    ROSTER REPORT:

  • C Charles Okwandu was buried on the bench once Ater Majok became eligible, but got another chance when Majok got in early foul trouble against Notre Dame. He went 5 of 5 from the field for 10 points in 14 minutes. He had just nine points in his career prior to the game.

  • F Stanley Robinson could break the 1,000-point barrier for his career this week. He had 968 career points following the win over Notre Dame.

  • F Ater Majok played less than four minutes against Notre Dame, as he got in foul trouble early and didn't get back in the game the entire second half. He'll have to fight off Charles Okwandu in practice this week for his spot in the lineup.

  • DEPAUL
    Center Mac Koshwal must be the central figure if DePaul is to end its 21-game Big East losing streak and get turned around.

    He missed eight games with a foot injury and is now back and building toward becoming the player he was, which was a double-double machine. But there is an adjustment period.

    "The biggest thing we have to do is learn how to play off him, cut off him, spot up on the wings when he kicks it out," forward Eric Wallace told The Chicago Tribune. "Once we get accustomed to doing that around the big fella, things will really look up for us."

    DePaul has seemed to solve the defensive side of things, ranking fourth in the Big East in defense, but it has had no offense to speak of. Koshwal is going to have to find a way to provide some inside points to free up Will Walker's outside shooting.

    Koshwal lived up to his responsibilities against Georgetown on Sunday as he scored 18 points with eight rebounds, but he got no help from anyone as the Hoyas won 67-50.

    NOTES, QUOTES

  • G Will Walker jumped from 43rd place to 40th on DePaul's all-time scoring list in one game, his nine points against Georgetown doing the trick.

  • C Mac Koshwal passed McKinley Cowsen for 23rd place on DePaul's career rebounding list during the Georgetown game.

  • In something of an oddity, DePaul was averaging 60.6 points a game entering Sunday's Georgetown game and also giving up 60.6 points a game. And after the game they stood at 7-7.

    ON THE SPOT:

    This one is just hard to believe. F Eric Wallace, the Blue Demons' top rebounder, is hitting free throws at just a 31.6 percent rate. That's not even a good 3-point shooting percentage. He has made only 18 of his first 57 free throws.

    QUOTE TO NOTE:

    "We have really hurt ourselves by not finishing at the free-throw line." -- Coach Jerry Wainwright, in the Chicago Tribune, on his team hitting just 53.8 percent of its free throws entering the Georgetown game. DePaul was 4 of 7 from the line against the Hoyas.

    STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

    SEASON RECAP: DePaul has shown improvement over the team that went winless in the Big East last year, but it still has a long way to go. Losses to American and to Florida Gulf Coast heading into conference play did not bode well for what lies ahead. Losing C Mac Koshwal for eight games did nothing to help, and even though Koshwal is now back, he is not yet up to where he would have been had he been playing.

    PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- G Mike Stoval, PG Jeremiah Kelly, G Will Walker, F Devin Hill, C Mac Koshwal. Key Subs -- F Eric Wallace, G Mike Bizoukas, F Tony Freeland.

    GAME REVIEW:

    Florida Gulf Coast 64, DePaul 61
    Pittsburgh 65, DePaul 52
    Georgetown 67, DePaul 50

    GAME PREVIEW:

    at Villanova, Wednesday, Jan. 6
    vs. Providence, Thursday, Jan. 14
    vs. St. John's, Sunday, Jan. 17
    vs. Marquette, Wednesday, Jan. 20
    at Notre Dame, Saturday, Jan. 23

    IN FOCUS:

    If DePaul is going to break its Big East losing streak, the Blue Demons probably are going to get it done during the three games it plays at home in the near future, none of them being against elite conference teams. Providence, St. John's and Marquette come into Allstate Arena, which is not like facing Villanova, West Virginia and Syracuse. To beat any of them, however, DePaul is going to have to shoot better, as it just has been unable to generate any offense.

    ROSTER REPORT:

  • G Jimmy Drew was granted a transfer waiver by the NCAA in mid-December. He is a walk-on who played two seasons at Southeast Missouri State but doesn't have to sit out the year due to the transfer. It was awarded because Southeast Missouri State was put on two years of probation. Drew also missed last year with an injury.

  • David Booth, the second leading scorer in DePaul history, joined the coaching staff this year, giving coach Jerry Wainwright connections with three former players. Dave Corzine was director of basketball operations last year and now is an assistant to the athletic director. Tom Kleinschmidt is now director of basketball operations after serving as an intern last year while finishing his degree.

  • GEORGETOWN
    Saturday's loss to Old Dominion came at McDonough Arena. The Monarchs led by 18 points in the second half before the Hoyas cut the deficit to 59-57 with 1:16 remaining.

    For the second straight game, center Greg Monroe scored 15 points and pulled down seven rebounds. Forward Julian Vaughn and guard Austin Freeman each added 13 points.

    Monroe leads the Hoyas in scoring (15.2) and rebounding (9.9). His rebounding average is third in the BIG EAST. Guard Austin Freeman is the league leader in free throw shooting, making 95.2 percent.

    GU returns to the Verizon Center Wednesday against Harvard.


    LOUISVILLE
    After playing Kentucky, the Big East is going to seem like a walk in the park to Louisville.

    The rivalry game was, well, a rivalry game.

    Kentucky coach John Calipari called it "as heated and emotional" as any game he had ever experienced. There was pushing, shoving, jawing, 51 fouls and five technicals. By the time the game was 45 seconds old, three technical fouls had been called. Eight seconds into the game, Calipari replaced guard Eric Bledsoe for fouling and jawing with Louisville guard Reginald Delk.

    "It was intense hatred out there, intense people fighting, arguing, talking trash, trying to get in one another's heads," UK forward Patrick Patterson told the Louisville Courier-Journal. "It was an all-out-brawl battle."

    That is pretty much an every-night occurrence in the Big East, and you can bet that coach Rick Pitino now has his team primed to play out the string at that same level the rest of the way.

    With talented players like Samardo Samuels, Edgar Sosa and Preston Knowles, the Cardinals have the talent to compete for a title, even in a building season.

    "We're not where we want to be," Pitino said. "That's the good thing and the bad thing. We have so much growth left in us."

    NOTES, QUOTES

  • You can bring out all the statistics you like, but Louisville lost to Kentucky because it shot 32.2 percent from the floor and allowed the Wildcats to hit 46.2 percent. The Cards opened the game with 1-for-19 shooting.

  • F Jared Swopshire has scored in double figures in five of the past seven games -- through the UK game -- but he missed his only two free throws against the Wildcats, rare for a man who entered the game shooting 83.3 percent from the line.

    ON THE SPOT:

    G Jerry Smith was struggling going into the Kentucky game and it seemed to be bothering him mentally. "If he'd just let the game come to him, it would be much easier on him," coach Rick Pitino said. Against Kentucky, the game came to everyone hard, but Smith responded, hitting 4 of 7 shots while leading Louisville with 11 points. He also grabbed six rebounds, which was second high on the team, and made four steals.

    QUOTE TO NOTE:

    "That's rivalry games. Louisville-Kentucky, Xavier-Cincinnati, Memphis-Tennessee, you're always going to see it. That's what rivalry games are all about." -- Louisville coach Rick Pitino, after a physical, trash-talking loss to Kentucky.

    STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

    SEASON RECAP: Coach Rick Pitino, as he often does, had to do a bit of a coaching job to get his team on track this year. The Cardinals hit a big bump in the road as November turned to December, losing three of four games. The losses were to UNLV, Western Carolina and Charlotte, the only win against Stetson. Once he got things straightened out, which included his rotation, the shots began to fall and the Cards won five in a row, including the Big East opener over South Florida.

    PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Jared Swopshire, F Samardo Samuels, G Preston Knowles, G Edgar Sosa, G Reginald Delk. Key Subs -- G Jerry Smith, G Rakeem Buckles, F Terrence Jennings, G Kyle Kuric.

    GAME REVIEW:

    Louisville 79, Radford 53
    Louisville 73, South Florida 53
    Kentucky 71, Louisville 62

    GAME PREVIEW:

    at Providence, Wednesday, Jan. 6
    vs. St. John's, Saturday, Jan. 9
    vs. Villanova, Monday, Jan. 11
    at Pittsburgh, Saturday, Jan. 16
    at Seton Hall, Thursday, Jan. 21

    IN FOCUS:

    If you are going to make noise in the Big East you have to do it at home and the Jan. 11 game against Villanova, the conference favorite, could go a long way toward putting Louisville back among the elite. It will be a battle of the guards with Louisville's Edgar Sosa, Preston Knowles and company going head on with Villanova's Scottie Reynolds and his playmates. How Samardo Samuels fares down low, and how Louisville rebounds, could be the deciding factors.

    ROSTER REPORT:

  • It wasn't that Louisville picked up a couple of technical fouls against Kentucky that surprised coach Rick Pitino. It was who got them. "I think it might make the Guinness book of world records, Jared Swopshire and Reggie Delk getting technical fouls for talking or hitting somebody," Pitino was quoted as saying in the Louisville Courier-Journal. "They never talk and they never hit anybody, so that was interesting to see."

  • Sophomore F George Goode has had his progress slowed this year with a series of injuries, including a concussion, an ankle sprain and a bone bruise in the left knee joint. He is out for several weeks.

  • MARQUETTE
    Much like he did a year ago, it looks like Buzz Williams is sticking with a smaller rotation in Big East play.

    Only seven Golden Eagles got on the court against Villanova. One of them -- starting forward Joseph Fulce -- played nine minutes. Four of them -- Lazar Hayward, Jimmy Butler, David Cubillan and Dwight Buycks -- played 36 minutes or more.

    Eight players saw playing time in the Big East opener against WVU, thanks to the three minutes garnered by eighth man Youssoupha Mbao. Hayward, Butler and Buycks played 36 minutes or more in that game as well.

    This year, it isn't a case where Williams has a ton of options. Injuries and transfers have left Marquette a thin bench, one that is guard-heavy in Darius Johnson-Odom and Maurice Acker. Neither Mbao nor Erik Williams, the top frontcourt reserves, are very polished.

    This is already having an effect. There's a limit to the amount of looks Williams can show opponents, because there's a limit to the confidence level he seems to have at the bottom of his roster. And the major minutes logged by key players early may be a factor in the team wilting late against WVU and Villanova.

    There's no rest for the weary either. Marquette enters the week only halfway through a grueling four-game season-opening stretch in the Big East. A home game against Georgetown and a trip to Philly for a rematch with Villanova await this week.

    NOTES, QUOTES

  • Marquette led Villanova 69-67 with 4:11 to play, but didn't make a basket the rest of the way. Over that time, the Golden Eagles missed five shots, the first three of which were 3-pointers.

  • For the first time in his brief college career, Darius Johnson-Odom was held without a 3-pointer against Villanova. He entered the game hitting nearly 60 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc, but missed both tries against the Wildcats.

    ON THE SPOT:

    With the loss to Villanova, Marquette drops to 0-4 in games decided by four points or fewer. That's not a coincidence -- in both Big East losses, the Golden Eagles have lost by being tight from the field and the free throw line late in games. For Marquette to be anything more than an NIT contender, that's going to have to change quickly.

    QUOTE TO NOTE:

    "We do the same thing every single day, and when we get beat, you have to be a man in how you handle it. And when you win, you have to be a man in how you handle it. We got beat at West Virginia by one. We got beat at home today by the eighth-ranked team in Villanova. ... We got beat by Florida State in the championship game by one. You can keep going on and on and on. But as Coach Parcells said, 'You are what your record says you are.' We're 9-5 and 0-2, and we can get better or we can get bitter. Maybe it's my personality trait, but I attack every possession and every game the same, and I think that God continues to give you the same test, and until you pass it you keep getting the same test." -- Marquette coach Buzz Williams, in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, after the Villanova game.

    STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

    SEASON RECAP: The Golden Eagles are a few late baskets and last-minute stops away from having a special season, but the bottom line is that this is a 9-5 team that enters the week still searching for its first Big East win. There's not much margin for error if it hopes to avoid digging itself a big hole in conference play.

    PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Joseph Fulce, F Lazar Hayward, G/F Jimmy Butler, G Dwight Buycks, G David Cubillan. Key Subs -- G Maurice Acker, G Darius Johnson-Odom, F Youssoupha Mbao, F Erik Williams.

    GAME REVIEW:

    Marquette 102, Presbyterian 60
    West Virginia 63, Marquette 62
    Villanova 74, Marquette 72

    GAME PREVIEW:

    vs. Georgetown, Wednesday, Jan. 6
    at Villanova, Saturday, Jan. 9
    vs. Providence, Sunday, Jan. 17
    at DePaul, Wednesday, Jan. 20
    at Syracuse, Saturday, Jan. 23

    IN FOCUS:

    The Golden Eagles get a quick rematch with the Wildcats, traveling to Villanova on Jan. 9. Considering Villanova has won the previous two games between the schools in dramatic fashion in the final seconds, it will take a pretty huge lead for anyone associated with the Golden Eagles to breathe easy.

    ROSTER REPORT:

  • G Darius Johnson-Odom has struggled at the free throw line late in games in Big East play. He went 1 of 3 from the stripe in the final 1:02 against West Virginia, and missed a pair with 2:35 to play against Villanova.

  • C Chris Otule is still on the sidelines, and the coaching staff will face a question on how to handle him in the coming weeks. Depending on when he's ready to practice at full strength -- and depending on the state of the team at that point -- he'll either come back as a late-season addition or apply for a medical redshirt.

  • G Junior Cadougan is progressing well in his injury rehab, but he still won't be back this season. He'll get a chance to win a starting job as a redshirt freshman in 2010-11.

  • NOTRE DAME
    Luke Harangody has done just about everything in his three-plus years at Notre Dame, and now all of it is beginning to add up.

    The countdown is on in his drive to become the Big East's all-time leading scorer, a feat that would register throughout basketball, considering the roster of stars who played in the Big East.

    Harangody has scored 1,087 points in Big East games during his career, which leaves him 318 points behind the career leader, the identity of whom might be something of a surprise. It's Lawrence Moten, who scored 1,405 points for Syracuse in Big East games from 1991-95.

    Harangody is not just a scorer. He also is closing in on the career rebounding record, also held by a Syracuse player, this one an NBA star, too -- Derrick Coleman.

    Coleman had 701 rebounds in Big East play through 1990.

    With nine rebounds against Connecticut in a loss on the road, Harangody had 562 rebounds.

    NOTES, QUOTES

  • Coach Mike Brey picked up his 200th Notre Dame victory in the win over Providence on Dec. 30. Only George Keogan (1923-43) and Digger Phelps (1971-91) won more at the school. Brey has 299 career victories overall.

  • Connecticut has now beaten Notre Dame four straight times.

  • Jonathan Peoples experience the highs and lows of college basketball in the first two Big East games. After scoring a career-high 23 points against Providence in the opener, he was held scoreless by Connecticut in the second game.

  • Tim Abromaitis had his first significant Big East exposure against Providence and responded with 22 points.

    ON THE SPOT:

    PG Tory Jackson is the engine that makes the Irish run. His ability to find Luke Harangody and Tim Abromaitis without turning over the basketball is crucial, as this is a team built on offense that has to score points in order to win games. When Jackson is at his best, the Irish are at their best.

    QUOTE TO NOTE:

    "It's tough. You know what, though, I'm not hanging my hat on bench scoring." -- Notre Dame Coach Mike Brey, after his bench was outscored, 25-0, by Connecticut's bench.

    STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

    SEASON RECAP: Coach Mike Brey has done a good job of keeping the season from totally being focused upon senior star Luke Harangody, who has a lot of records within his reach. It has been a rebuilding season for Brey, and Harangody's decision to return helped stabilize matters. Of Notre Dame's first three losses, two were unexpected, coming at the hands of Loyola-Marymount and Northwestern.

    PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Luke Harangody, F Tim Abromaitis, F Tyrone Nash, G Ben Hansbrough, G Tory Jackson. Key Subs -- G Jonathan Peoples, G Carlton Scott.

    GAME REVIEW:

    Notre Dame 101, Bucknell 69
    Notre Dame 93, Providence 78
    Connecticut 82, Notre Dame 70

    GAME PREVIEW:

    at South Florida, Tuesday, Jan. 5
    vs. West Virginia, Saturday, Jan. 9
    at Cincinnati, Saturday, Jan. 16
    vs. Syracuse, Monday, Jan 18
    vs. DePaul, Saturday, Jan. 23

    IN FOCUS:

    The Irish open a difficult three-game stretch on Jan. 9 with nationally-ranked West Virginia coming to South Bend. The Irish have won nine straight home games against WVU, but the Mountaineers are a talented group who offer matchup problems with 6-9 Devin Ebanks capable of playing inside and outside. Any Bob Huggins-coached team will be tough to beat on the boards and will play tight defense.

    ROSTER REPORT:

  • Coach Mike Brey usually doesn't go far down his bench, but on Dec. 22 against Bucknell some of the least-used players got significant time. Joey Brooks played a career-high 11 minutes, and Jack Cooley played a career-high 12 minutes. Both played well, with Brooks scoring 12 points with two assists and Cooley adding five points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots.

  • Notre Dame's starting guards -- Tory Jackson and Ben Hansbrough -- are among the nation's best at taking care of the basketball, combining for 156 assists and 42 turnovers through the Connecticut game.

  • PITTSBURGH
    The Big East's top two teams of the last decade will square off Sunday when Pitt travels to Hartford to take on Connecticut.

    Since 2001, the Panthers and the Huskies own the top two winning percentages overall and in conference games. Pitt is No. 1 in both.

    The Panthers are 233-58 overall, 99-36 in Big East play.

    The Huskies are 217-66 overall, 97-37 in league play.

    The series between the two schools is just as close. Pitt owns a slight edge, going 7-6 against the Huskies since 2001, including winning both meetings last season.

    Pitt pulled off a rare double last season when it beat Connecticut twice when it was ranked No. 1.

    The Panthers went to the XL Center in Hartford and won 76-68 in the game that cemented DeJuan Blair as an All-American. Blair had 22 points and 23 rebounds and dominated Connecticut's Hasheem Thabeet. In addition to the outstanding numbers, Blair's physical play was a big hit in that game. He threw Thabeet to the ground after the two were entangled under the basket.

    In the rematch at Pitt on the final day of the regular season, Pitt won again, 70-60, behind 31 points from Sam Young.

    Blair and Young are in the NBA now, but it doesn't seem to matter which players are wearing the uniforms. The games between these teams always are entertaining and meaningful.

    PITT 74, CINCINNATI 71: The Panthers received 19 points from Ashton Gibbs and 17 from Gilbert Brown to improve to 3-0 in Big East play. The Panthers worked their motion offense and got plenty of easy shots against the Cincinnati defense. Pitt shot 49 percent and converted 20 of 27 free throws.

    The Panthers led 38-32 at halftime and did not allow Cincinnati to take the lead in the second half. The Bearcats tied the score on two occasions, but the Panthers kept converting their free throws in the final minutes to win a second consecutive road game.

    NOTES, QUOTES

  • Though it's obviously still early, Pitt made an early statement in the first week of conference play. It opened by winning at DePaul and stunned previously undefeated and fifth-ranked Syracuse by 10 on Saturday.

    This is definitely a different team from the one that nearly made the Final Four a year ago, and without DeJuan Blair and Sam Young it's much less imposing inside. Though freshman Dante Taylor has a great future and had 10 points against the Orange, he hasn't had the dominant impact that some hoped for given his McDonald's All-American status.

    What this year's squad can do is shoot over a zone defense, as it did against Syracuse. Ashton Gibbs is as good a shooter as the program has had. He's capable of knocking down threes or getting automatic points at the line. Brad Wanamaker is having a breakout junior season, and Jermaine Dixon and Gilbert Brown are getting back into a groove after their extended absences in the first semester.

    The Panthers made a mockery of the Syracuse zone, scoring a season-high 82 points. With that kind of effort, it's doubtful coach Jamie Dixon's crew will be sneaking up on anyone else in Big East play this season.

  • The victory over No. 5 Syracuse shouldn't have been a surprise to Pitt fans. The Panthers are 8-2 against top-five teams under coach Jamie Dixon, though one of those losses came to Texas earlier this year.

  • Pittsburgh's 82 points against Syracuse marked the most the Panthers have scored all season. Entering the game, the Panthers had scored more than 70 points just five times this season, and were 15th among the 16 Big East teams in scoring.

    ON THE SPOT:

    Pitt has to start getting better play from starting C Gary McGhee, who has gone eight games without scoring in double figures. The Panthers have relied heavily on their guards for scoring this season, and McGhee has to be able to contribute more from the low post.

    McGhee, who is replacing All-American DeJuan Blair, has not shown an ability to grab offensive rebounds, something that has been a staple of the center position at Pitt for the last six years with Blair, Aaron Gray and Chris Taft. McGhee has just six offensive rebounds in the last four games.

    QUOTE TO NOTE:

    "Pitt's a tremendous defensive team, they always have been. And you have to match the physical nature of how they're playing. We did not do that." -- Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim told the Syracuse Post-Standard, after the Panthers knocked the Orange from the ranks of the unbeaten on Saturday.

    STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

    SEASON RECAP: The Panthers made a statement in the opening week of the Big East schedule, knocking off DePaul and No. 5 Syracuse. The win over the Orange marked the first marquee victory of the season for the Panthers, who didn't do much to draw notice in their nonconference slate.

    PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Nasir Robinson, C Gary McGhee, G Brad Wanamaker, G Ashton Gibbs, G Jermaine Dixon. Key Subs -- G Travis Woodall, G Chase Adams, G-F Gilbert Brown, F Dante Taylor.

    GAME REVIEW:

    Pittsburgh 74, Ohio 49
    Pittsburgh 65, DePaul 52
    Pittsburgh 82, Syracuse 72
    Pittsburgh 74, Cincinnati 71

    GAME PREVIEW:

    at Connecticut, Wednesday, Jan. 13
    vs. Louisville, Saturday, Jan. 16
    vs. Georgetown, Wednesday, Jan. 20
    at Seton Hall, Sunday, Jan. 24

    IN FOCUS:

    The Connecticut game will feature a pair of programs that appear to be reloading, rather than retooling, since last year's battles for supremacy on both the Big East and the national scene. It will be a good indication of which team is further along in the process with two months to go before Selection Sunday.

    ROSTER REPORT:

  • G Ashton Gibbs missed a free throw against Cincinnati, snapping his school-record streak of 46. Before missing a free throw with 2.9 seconds remaining, Gibbs had not missed since the Nov. 24 game against Texas. He had gone eight games without missing from the line. Gibbs made 10-of-11 against the Bearcats.

  • F Gilbert Brown scored a season-high 17 points against Cincinnati and made 2-of-3 attempts from 3-point range. Since returning from an academic suspension that forced him to miss the first 11 games of the season, the junior has made four of his six attempts from behind the arc.

  • G Brad Wanamaker continues to struggle with his shooting stroke. In three Big East games, the junior is 6-for-24 from the field. Wanamaker had been one of Pitt's most consistent scorers in non-conference play, reaching double figures nine times in 12 games. He has reached double figures just once in three Big East games.

  • PROVIDENCE
    The Friars made a big statement with its first Big East victory, a 74-59 win over St. John's.

    Not only did the team win on the road, but the heretofore defensively-challenged team did so with a stifling performance that kept the team in the game despite St. John's hot first-half shooting and then shut down the Red Storm in the final minutes.

    First, the defense kept the Friars from being blown out early. The Red Storm shot 56.5% from the field in the first 20 minutes, making 13 of their 23 shots. But the Friars made sure those shots were limited by forcing 15 turnovers before halftime, 10 of which came off steals.

    Providence then ended the game on a 24-5 run, marked by pressuring St. John's into turnovers and bad shots. It forced 23 turnovers on the game, turning them into 21 points.

    Entering Big East play, the Friars knew that defense was their Achilles heel. It was poor defense that caused the team to struggle out of conference, and the inability to focus on both ends of the court for 40 minutes that frustrated the coaching staff.

    If the victory over St. John's is a sign that this trend is changing - and keep in mind that the team did allow Notre Dame 93 points earlier in the week in the team's Big East opener -- it's an optimistic sign for a team that badly needed one as it looks to make a bigger impact in the 2009-10 season.

    NOTES, QUOTES

  • Sunday's victory continued the Providence dominance of its rival from New York City. The Friars have now won 12 of their last 14 meetings with the Red Storm.

  • The St. John's game was a homecoming for several of the Friars. Jamine Peterson, Brian McKenzie and Vincent Council all hail from Brooklyn, and Bilal Dixon from Jersey City, New Jersey.

    ON THE SPOT:

    Providence won games in the nonconference schedule with its offense, but has struggled to score in both of its first two Big East games. It shot just 33% from the floor against St. John's, but won the game anyway.

    QUOTE TO NOTE:

    "Any deficiencies we have I can easily overlook because of how hard we've played. We've been focused on effort all season and I think that's what won us the game tonight. We had tremendous effort and work ethic on the defensive end. Even when it looked like St. John's had our number, our guys were working extremely hard. I'm very proud of them." -- Providence coach Keno Davis told the Providence Journal after the victory over St. John's.

    STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

    SEASON RECAP: Providence is still looking for a complete game, where it's strong on both ends of the court against a top opponent. But in opening the season by splitting its first two games, it's avoided the early hole that's hard to climb out of in a conference as tough as the Big East.

    PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Marshon Brooks, F Jamine Peterson, F/C Bilal Dixon, G Brian McKenzie, G Sharaud Curry. Key Subs -- G/F Kyle Wright, G Vincent Council, G Duke Mondy, F Russ Permenter, G Johnnie Lacy.

    GAME REVIEW:

    Providence 87, Yale 78
    Notre Dame 93, Providence 78
    Providence 74, St. John's 59

    GAME PREVIEW:

    vs. Louisville, Wednesday, Jan. 6
    vs. Rutgers, Saturday, Jan. 9
    at DePaul, Thursday, Jan. 14
    at Marquette, Sunday, Jan. 17
    vs. South Florida, Saturday, Jan. 23

    IN FOCUS:

    The Friars have a soft early schedule in Big East play, and have to take advantage to be playing meaningful games in February. A key matchup is the one with Louisville. The Cardinals, coached by former Friars boss Rick Pitino, weren't great early in the season but appear to be hitting their stride as conference play begins. A win here would put Providence in excellent position to gain attention as a potential surprise team in the Big East.

    ROSTER REPORT:

  • Sharaud Curry's 26 points against St. John's marked a career high for the senior in Big East play. It also moved him past a Friar legend on the school's all-time scoring list. He passed current Florida head coach Billy Donovan, who led Providence to the Final Four in his own senior season, for the 18th-most points in Friars history.

  • Jamine Peterson is a New York native who had a lot of friends and family in the stands against St. John's, but he spent a good portion of the second half on the bench. The coaching staff was looking to send him a message to re-focus on rebounding and playing more unselfish basketball. The benching seemed to pay off, as he scored 10 points down the stretch in leading the Friars to victory.

  • RUTGERS
    Sophomore Mike Rosario is the leading scorer for the Scarlet Knights, entering the week averaging 17.6 points per game, eight more than the next Rutgers player healthy enough to dress. If he doesn't score points, Rutgers has serious problems. All of that aside, Rosario still needs to master the concept of shot selection. Too often, he has played like a guy in a pick-up game who's so confident in himself that he'll toss the ball at the basket every time he's open enough to see it.

    Rosario enters the week shooting 35 percent from 3-point range and 42 percent from the floor. He's been in double figures in points in every game except for one, but too often he has to take a lot of shots to get those numbers.

    In the Big East opener, Rosario went 4 of 19 in the loss to Cincinnati, missing all eight of his two-point attempts. The Bearcats gambled that if they took away the easy chances, Rosario would keep shooting anyway through the tougher angles, and that's exactly what happened.

    When Rosario is playing well, he draws the defense toward him and frees up his teammates up for open looks at the basket. But the flip side is true as well. When he tosses up poor shots and doesn't involve his teammates as much as he should, the offense stagnates.

    He and the team will need to find the right balance in order to succeed in the Big East.

    NOTES, QUOTES

  • Rutgers was out-rebounded 40-28 by Cincinnati. Part of that was the foul trouble suffered by Hamady Ndiaye, who picked up his fourth with more than 12 minutes to play. He had only two rebounds on the night.

  • With Northwestern's entry into the AP Top 25 last week, Rutgers has the longest current absence from the rankings. The last time the Scarlet Knights were in the Top 25 was in March 1979, a season in which the team reached the Sweet 16.

    ON THE SPOT:

    Gregory Echenique's loss is being keenly felt on the glass, and it puts even more pressure on Hamady Ndiaye underneath. With Ndiaye pushed away from the paint against Cincinnati, the Scarlet Knights got destroyed on the boards 40-28, and it can't afford to give up that many opportunities.

    QUOTE TO NOTE:

    "It's hard as of right now. We are just right there. It's so close -- we can feel it, we can touch it. We've just got to grab it. But it is what it is. We've just got to go hard and go for it." -- Rutgers center Hamady Ndiaye, in the Newark Star-Ledger, after the loss to Cincinnati.

    STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

    SEASON RECAP: Rutgers hasn't looked as terrible as it did a year ago, but the Scarlet Knights still are looking to take that next step and beat a top opponent rather than simply earning a moral victory by keeping it close. They led Cincinnati at the half before falling by seven points in their Big East opener.

    PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Jonathan Mitchell, F Patrick Jackson, C Hamady Ndiaye, G Matt Coburn, G Mike Rosario. Key Subs -- G James Beatty, F Dane Miller, F Austin Johnson.

    GAME REVIEW:

    Rutgers 66, St. Peter's 42
    North Carolina 81, Rutgers 67
    Cincinnati 65, Rutgers 58

    GAME PREVIEW:

    at West Virginia, Wednesday, Jan. 6
    at Providence, Saturday, Jan. 9
    vs. Syracuse, Wednesday, Jan. 13
    vs. South Florida, Saturday, Jan. 16
    vs. Villanova, Wednesday, Jan. 20

    IN FOCUS:

    The Scarlet Knights travel to face a struggling Providence team on Jan. 9 in a pretty good matchup for Fred Hill's squad. The Friars have struggled on defense this season, so if Rutgers can be patient on offense it should get good shots at the basket. However, showing that kind of patience has been a problem for the team all year.

    ROSTER REPORT:

  • Freshman G Muhamed Hasani was in street clothes for the loss to Cincinnati. It's unclear whether he was unavailable because of injury or due to other reasons.

  • Freshman C Brian Okam can expect to see increased minutes with C Gregory Echenique out for the season. Hamady Ndiaye also is banged up, and the Scarlet Knights need their reserve big man to get comfortable in the paint sooner rather than later.

  • F Jonathan Mitchell played perhaps the most complete game of his Rutgers career against Cincinnati. Not only did he lead the team with 14 points and seven rebounds, he also played excellent defense on heralded Bearcats freshman Lance Stephenson.

  • SETON HALL
    Anyone who says there are no must-win games in January hasn't seen Seton Hall's record and resume entering 2010. The Pirates were and are hoping to take a big step forward this year, but the early-season optimism was built against a less-than-imposing non-conference schedule. Because of that, extra meaning was inevitably attached to the team's first real tests of conference play, especially since both came at home.

    Seton Hall came agonizingly close. It fell to West Virginia in overtime. It dropped a seven-point decision to Syracuse. And then it closed the week by going to Cancun and losing to Virginia Tech in overtime.

    This week brings a trip to Connecticut and a home game with Cincinnati. UConn is a Top 25 team, and the Bearcats are big and tough inside with enough offensive threats to keep pace with the Pirates' attack.

    For Seton Hall to regain the optimism it had a few weeks ago, it needs a very good showing this week. Without a pair of strong performances, it will be easy to be pessimistic despite the influx of talent that has made this one of the most explosive Seton Hall teams of recent memory.

    The skills are there, but the Pirates will put themselves in a difficult position if the results don't follow.

    NOTES, QUOTES

  • G Keon Lawrence has an impressive resume, but still hasn't made the impact many expected. Since scoring 11 in his debut against Temple, the Missouri transfer has combined for 12 points over the past four games.

  • C John Garcia scored 14 points in the loss to Virginia Tech. That's notable because it marked the first time the senior, who averaged eight points a game a year ago, had reached double figures all season.

    ON THE SPOT:

    Overtime hasn't been Seton Hall's time this season. In two of the past three games entering this week, the Pirates have rallied to force extra time, only to lose anyway.

    QUOTE TO NOTE:

    "We were up 13 on Temple. I don't know if we were up on West Virginia, but they had a couple of stretches where they had to call timeouts to stop runs. So we can strike, we can play good basketball, but we've got to know how to sustain it." -- Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez, in the Newark Star-Ledger, after the loss to Syracuse.

    STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

    SEASON RECAP: The Pirates have come close to victories over ranked teams, losing heartbreakers to Temple, West Virginia and Syracuse. However, that's small consolation for a program that is still looking for a statement win for 2009-10.

    PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Herb Pope, F Robert Mitchell, C John Garcia, G Jeremy Hazell, G Eugene Harvey. Key Subs -- G Keon Lawrence, G Jordan Theodore, G Jamal Jackson, F Ferrakohn Hall, C Melvyn Oliver.

    GAME REVIEW:

    West Virginia 90, Seton Hall 84 (OT)
    Syracuse 80, Seton Hall 73
    Virginia Tech 103, Seton Hall 94 (OT)

    GAME PREVIEW:

    at Connecticut, Wednesday, Jan. 6
    vs. Cincinnati, Saturday, Jan. 9
    at Georgetown, Thursday, Jan. 14
    vs. Louisville, Thursday, Jan. 21
    vs. Pittsburgh, Sunday, Jan. 24

    IN FOCUS:

    The home game with Cincinnati is poised to be a huge one. If Seton Hall loses at Connecticut (which is what is expected), the Pirates would be looking at an 0-4 start if they lose at home to the Bearcats. It could be a desperate Seton Hall squad that takes the court for that one.

    ROSTER REPORT:

  • Any doubt of F Herb Pope's importance was put to rest when he was on the sidelines in the Virginia Tech game. Pope was limited by foul trouble, and he eventually fouled out with eight minutes to play after seeing just 18 minutes of court time. He finished with three points and five rebounds, and was sorely missed in the overtime.

  • F Robert Mitchell had been the victim of the influx of talent, and had played a total of 28 minutes in the three games leading up to the contest against Virginia Tech. He took advantage of the added time against the Hokies presented by Herb Pope's foul trouble, however, and scored 16 points with five rebounds in 33 minutes.

  • F Jeff Robinson had a career day in the loss to Virginia Tech. His 15 points and nine rebounds each marked the best totals of his career.

  • ST. JOHN'S
    St. John's has a deep team with a lot of talent, but Malik Boothe is apparently one player who is indispensible for Norm Roberts.

    Boothe, the starting point guard in the first 13 games, strained his groin against Georgetown and missed the following game against Providence. As a result, the Red Storm suffered a disappointing home loss to a conference rival it felt confident it could beat.

    The main culprits in the loss were turnovers and backcourt defense. In both cases, Boothe would have been a difference-maker. Freshman Malik Stith got the start in Boothe's absence. In his 25 minutes, he finished with one assist and five turnovers, the leader of an attack that turned the ball over 23 times. Those led to 21 Friars points. Fifteen came in the first half, in which the Red Storm shot 56.5 percent from the field but cost themselves enough possessions that the Johnnies led by just one at halftime.

    Boothe was also missed on defense. The freshman Stith was no match for Providence's starter, fifth-year senior Sharaud Curry. Curry set his Big East career high with 26 points, and was the dominating offensive force in the game.

    There was no immediate word on how much longer Boothe would miss. For the sake of the Red Storm's chances to have an impact on the Big East this season, he had better not be out for long.

    NOTES, QUOTES

  • Playing without its starting point guard, Malik Boothe, St. John's had a season-high 23 turnovers against Providence. It had committed a total of 20 in the previous two games combined.

  • D.J. Kennedy was the Red Storm's second-leading scorer against Providence with 13 points. He's been in double figures in each of the team's first 14 games.

    ON THE SPOT:

    If Malik Boothe misses a significant amount of time or is limited on the court by a strained groin, one possible replacement would be Dwight Hardy.

    The coaching staff is reluctant to put him on point for extended stretches because it takes Hardy away from his offensive game -- he is concentrated on running the offense rather than scoring -- but freshman Malik Stith did not inspire a ton of confidence with his struggles against Providence.

    QUOTE TO NOTE:

    "We can't let our mistakes fester. We will take a day off and regroup on Tuesday to work on what we didn't do well and get better. We have to play better, handle the ball better and finish plays. It is a learning process for my team. We will work on things and get better." -- St. John's coach Norm Roberts, after the loss to Providence.

    STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

    SEASON RECAP: The Red Storm got a lot of attention with a strong nonconference slate, but the past three weeks have caused some people to jump off the bandwagon. Losses to Cornell, Georgetown and Providence leave the team looking for answers as it enters the second week of Big East play.

    PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F D.J. Kennedy, F Sean Evans, F Justin Brownlee, G Paris Horne, G Malik Boothe. Key Subs -- G Dwight Hardy, F Dele Coker, G/F Omari Lawrence, G Malik Stith, F Rob Thomas.

    GAME REVIEW:

    St. John's 80, Bryant 44
    Georgetown 66, St. John's 59
    Providence 74, St. John's 59

    GAME PREVIEW:

    at Louisville, Saturday, Jan. 9
    vs. Cincinnati, Wednesday, Jan. 13
    vs. DePaul, Sunday, Jan. 17
    at Connecticut, Wednesday, Jan. 20
    vs. Villanova, Saturday, Jan. 23

    IN FOCUS:

    The Red Storm gets a badly-needed break between games, with a six-day layoff between the loss to Providence and the meeting with Louisville. The Cardinals weren't great out of conference, but are playing better over the past couple of weeks and will pressure the St. John's guards even more than the Friars did. Ballhandling will be key if the Red Storm are to have any hope of pulling off the upset on the road.

    ROSTER REPORT:

  • Malik Boothe missed the Providence game with a groin injury. He had started the first 13 games for the Red Storm at the point.

  • Paris Horne is officially back on track. After struggling with his shot early in the season, he's now 12-23 from three-point range over the past five games after his 2-4 performance from beyond the arc against Providence.

  • Justin Burrell was active for both Big East games last week, though he continues to be limited in his minutes. He averaged seven points and three rebounds in the losses to Georgetown and Providence.

  • SYRACUSE
    Syracuse surprised many with its ascent to the top five in both polls this season, but its nemesis once again reminded the Orange that Big East play requires a degree of toughness that exceeds anything that happens before conference play begins.

    Coach Jim Boeheim felt the problem in the 10-point home loss to the Panthers over the weekend was a lack of toughness, a fact that he did not hesitate to point out at the postgame news conference. "We have to be more physical," Boeheim said. "We really haven't played physical teams. If you look at the teams we have played, the only team that was a little physical with us was probably St. Bonaventure and we struggled with them. But they are physical and they bothered us.

    "Seton Hall bothered us a little bit, but they are not a defensive team. They are an offensive team. Pittsburgh's a tremendous defensive team. They always have been, and you have to match the physical nature of how they're playing. We did not do that and you're not going to win that kind of game."

    The problem for the Orange is that that's the kind of team it will be seeing more often than not the rest of the way. Big East foes are going to shove the Orange around, and how well the team responds will determine how far Syracuse foes.

    It definitely has the size and strength to respond in kind. Arinze Onuaku, Rick Jackson, and Wes Johnson can all hold their own in the paint and then some. But the loss to the Panthers was a stark indication that they have to be ready to respond a lot better when opponents take it to them than they did on Saturday.

    NOTES, QUOTES

  • It's tough to come back when the shots don't fall, and nothing much went down for the Orange against Pittsburgh. Syracuse went 1-of-13 from 3-point range in defeat, including 0-7 in the second half.

  • Syracuse's trademark defense couldn't stop the Panthers from shooting over top of the zone. Pitt made 10 of its 24 3-point attempts on the day.

    ON THE SPOT:

    The big question this week is going to be how the Orange respond to their first setback of the season. Having been knocked around by the Panthers on Saturday, Syracuse will have to lick its wounds quickly to be ready for Memphis on Monday.

    QUOTE TO NOTE:

    "It hasn't really been something that I have been used to. We try and match up well every game, but they were playing so tough and so hard that I think we weren't ready for it. We will definitely be ready for it in the next couple games." -- Syracuse freshman Brandon Triche, on the loss to Pittsburgh.

    STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

    SEASON RECAP: The Orange survived a tough game from Seton Hall to win its Big East opener before the loss to Pittsburgh left the team at .500 in conference play. Syracuse roared unscathed through the nonconference season, setting it up as a team to watch as a Big East contender.

    PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Wes Johnson, F Rick Jackson, C Arinze Onuaku, G Brandon Triche, G Andy Rautins. Key Subs -- F Kris Joseph, G Scoop Jardine, F Mookie Jones, F DaShonte Riley, F James Southerland.

    GAME REVIEW:

    Syracuse 92, Oakland 60
    Syracuse 80, Seton Hall 73
    Pittsburgh 82, Syracuse 72

    GAME PREVIEW:

    vs. Memphis, Wednesday, Jan. 6
    vs. South Florida, Sunday, Jan. 10
    at Rutgers, Wednesday, Jan. 13
    at West Virginia, Saturday, Jan. 16
    at Notre Dame, Monday, Jan. 18

    IN FOCUS:

    Syracuse gets a break from Big East play this week, but not much of one -- Memphis comes to town on Wednesday. Though the Tigers play in a weaker conference, Memphis is still a tough and physical team that will lean on the Pittsburgh gameplan and look to get involved in a physical game with the Orange.

    ROSTER REPORT:

  • G Andy Rautins enters the week in a shooting slump. He went 1-of-6 from beyond the arc against Pittsburgh, and is 3-14 from 3-point range over his last three games.

  • An early sign of what was to come against the Panthers came in the first half, when Arinze Onuaku had to leave the game with a severe cut under his left eye. He soon returned to the game, but it literally showed the Orange would be taking a lot of punches.

  • Wes Johnson finished with 19 points against Pittsburgh to lead Syracuse in scoring. It marks the 13th time in 14 games that the Iowa State transfer has finished in double figures.

  • USF
    What you see may be what you get, unless you are a coach.

    Take South Florida's Stan Heath, who sees far more in his Bulls than what is on the court at present. Injuries have robbed him of two key players -- 6-10 forward Gus Gilchrist and 6-10 center Alex Rivas. Both are out until later this month, Rivas coming off leg surgery, Gilchrist off an ankle sprain.

    Heath has added transfer guard Anthony Crater to his roster and can hardly wait for the other two big men to come back, saying his team will be "remarkably different" by the end of the Big East season.

    "Crater will give us a speed merchant that can really make plays out there on the court," Heath said in the St. Petersburg Times. "Hopefully in the next few weeks, we will be at full strength and we can hang in there in the meantime." That, of course, isn't easy in a conference like the Big East. Losing big people who can rebound can be a killer, as they found out against Louisville in the opener.

    "We needed everyone to beat Louisville," forward Jarrid Famous said.

    That was the last word on the subject. In fact, you might say it was Famous' last word.

    NOTES, QUOTES

  • G Anthony Crater, a transfer from Ohio State, will begin playing this month with the Bulls and should add some flash and speed in the backcourt. He is expected to debut against Syracuse on Jan. 10. The sophomore averaged 1.2 points in 13.1 minutes in 10 games for the Buckeyes last season.

  • USF had two players record double-doubles in a loss to Louisville on Dec. 30. Junior college transfer F Jarrid Famous had 12 points and 10 rebounds. Freshman F Toarlyn Fitzpatrick had 11 points and 11 rebounds.

    ON THE SPOT:

    G Dominique Jones is a proven scorer, but he's at his best when he has some help. Until he gets the two inside players -- Alex Rivas and Gus Gilchrist -- back he has to go it alone and that won't be easy given the way teams play defense in the Big East.

    QUOTE TO NOTE:

    "The Big East is a beast. There are no easy nights." -- Coach Stan Heath, quoted in the Tampa Tribune, on beginning conference play.

    STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

    SEASON RECAP: Coach Stan Heath doesn't have his Bulls ready to contend for the Big East title, but this is a much-improved team that has played strong defense in getting off to a 10-3 start. Only Louisville whipped up on USF, the other two losses each being by three points. Dominique Jones has proven to be a Big East star and Chris Howard is quite capable at the point.

    PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- PG Chris Howard, G Dominique Jones, G Mike Mercer, F Toarlyn Fitzpatrick, F Jarrid Famous. Key Subs -- G Justin Leemow.

    GAME REVIEW:

    South Florida 69, San Francisco 49
    South Florida 69, San Diego 60
    Louisville 73, South Florida 52

    GAME PREVIEW:

    vs. Notre Dame, Tuesday, Jan. 5
    at Syracuse, Sunday, Jan. 10
    vs. West Virginia, Wednesday, Jan. 13
    vs. Rutgers, Saturday, Jan. 16
    at Cincinnati, Thursday, Jan. 20

    IN FOCUS:

    Short-handed and small up front because of it, USF faces some tough tests until it gets its big players back. Rebounding against Notre Dame, Syracuse, West Virginia and Cincinnati is difficult when at full strength and South Florida is without two of its best rebounders. The Bulls get a break facing Notre Dame at home, but they will have to find a way to stop F Luke Harangody, twice the conference's Player of the Year.

    ROSTER REPORT:

  • C Alex Rivas is recovering from surgery to replace rods in his legs and will play later this month.

  • F Gus Gilchrist, a scoring force inside and out, is unable to play due to severely sprained ankle and will not return until later this month.

  • VILLANOVA
    The centerpiece for Villanova is definitely one of the rarest players in college basketball, a four-year starter who has seen it all and still decided to come back for more.

    Scottie Reynolds will graduate as one of the most storied players at a university that has had more than its share of stars. He added to his resume with the go-ahead basket in the Big East season opener against Marquette, scoring with 18.1 seconds left to give the team the lead it would never relinquish in its 74-72 victory on the road.

    The thing with Reynolds is that even after four years, and a league full of coaches who think they have seen it all, he has the ability to surprise. He's gone from a player who supported his older teammates as a freshman, to a leader as a sophomore and a junior, to something even more special as a senior.

    Reynolds isn't a perfect player. He's always struggled to find a balance between shooting and setting up teammates, sometimes erring to the latter where he is too passive in looking for his shot. He'll have the occasional bad game.

    But in the final minute of a tight game, there aren't many other guards in the country better equipped to finish the game and secure the win. Marquette was the latest team to get that lesson.

    NOTES, QUOTES

  • The win over Marquette ends a four-year losing streak for Jay Wright in Big East openers. The Wildcats won their first Big East game in the first four years of his reign, lost the next four, and has now embarked on a one-game winning streak.

  • Scottie Reynolds enters the week on a scoring roll. He's averaging 22 points over his past six games.

    ON THE SPOT:

    Inside play is the big question for the Wildcats, They look to be getting an unexpected boost with the return of Mouphtaou Yarou, thought to be lost for the season with an illness.

    QUOTE TO NOTE:

    "For this group, that ranks up there with number one. We needed this (win) to create our own identity, to create something we can fall back on and say, 'We've done this before in a tough environment.' I think this is going to carry on and pay dividends for us later on." -- Scottie Reynolds told the Philadelphia Inquirer, after the Marquette game

    STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

    SEASON RECAP: The Wildcats opened the Big East season with a last-minute win over Marquette. It's helped bring the team to the top 10 in the polls.

    PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Antonio Pena, F Maurice Sutton, G Corey Stokes, G Corey Fisher, G Scottie Reynolds. Key Subs - F Taylor King, G Reggie Redding, G Maalik Wayns, G Dominic Cheek, F Isaiah Armwood.

    GAME REVIEW:

    Villanova 96, Fordham 58
    Villanova 97, Delaware 63
    Villanova 74, Marquette 72

    GAME PREVIEW:

    vs. DePaul, Wednesday, Jan. 6
    vs. Marquette, Saturday, Jan. 9
    at Louisville, Monday, Jan. 11
    vs. Georgetown, Sunday, Jan. 17
    at Rutgers, Wednesday, Jan. 20

    IN FOCUS:

    The Wildcats will get a familiar foe next weekend, as they play Marquette for the second time in eight days. The Golden Eagles gave Jay Wright's crew all it could handle, with Lazar Hayward and Jimmy Butler the most difficult players to stop. Getting a plan to shut them down will be a key to winning the rematch.

    ROSTER REPORT:

  • Mouphtaou Yarou was expected to miss the season after being diagnosed with Hepatitis B on Dec. 1. However, he was cleared to practice at the end of December, and was in good enough shape to contend for minutes right away.

  • Maalik Wayns looked like a veteran in his first conference road game. The freshman had 16 points and a pair of assists without turning the ball over against the Golden Eagles.

  • Scottie Reynolds is on a hot streak shooting the basketball. He's made 15 of his 26 3-point attempts over the past five games.

  • WEST VIRGINIA
    West Virginia wasn't built to play forwards Devin Ebanks and Da'Sean Butler at guard, even though they are capable of handling such an assignment.

    The Mountaineers are best in the long run with those players working out of the frontcourt, but injuries to Truck Bryant and Joe Mazzulla, the two point guards, have limited their play. That flaw came to the top in a nationally-televised battle of unbeatens when WVU went to Purdue.

    The Boilermakers turned up the pressure and forced WVU into 18 turnovers as the Mountaineers lost for the first time this season, falling 77-62 on Jan. 1.

    "We have to take care of the ball," said forward Kevin Jones. "We had too many turnovers (against Purdue). And we have to be more patient on offense. We have to find the mismatches on offense. We didn't do a good job of that."

    While Ebanks has been spectacular at times, rebounding and scoring while handling the ball, his forced play at guard highlights the few deficiencies he has. He turned the ball over 1.9 times last year, but is averaging 2.65 turnovers this year. And his 3-point shooting is just 3-for-15.

    The Mountaineers are sure to see a lot of pressure, as Cleveland State provided in losing by just two points and as Purdue did in its victory.

    Coach Bob Huggins has not been happy for much of the season, even with an 11-0 start before the Purdue loss. "Here's what's going to happen: They're either going to get on board with me, or I'm going to leave their asses out there to drown," he said in the Charleston Gazette after the loss at Purdue.

    "That's kind of what it is. We're all going to get in the same boat. We're all going to row in the same direction. And those guys who don't want to get in the boat and go where we're going, they can stay where they are."

    NOTES, QUOTES

  • With the loss to Purdue, West Virginia was thwarted in its attempt to achieve a 12-0 record for the first time since the 1957-58 season.

  • F Kevin Jones, who enters the week averaging 15.4 points, has scored in double digits in all 12 games this season. Jones, a 6-8, 250-pound sophomore, is making 59.2 percent of his shots, which is great ... but, unfortunately, his free throw percentage nearly matches. He is shooting 60.5 percent (23 of 38) from the line.

    ON THE SPOT:

    West Virginia's upperclassmen have to pick up their share of the load. Other than F Da'Sean Butler, who has taken the leadership role, the juniors and seniors have been unproductive. The only other senior, Wellington Smith, has started but his 5.3 average is padded with one 19-point outburst. He did not score against Marquette or Purdue. Junior G Joe Mazzulla is slowed with shoulder injuries, and G Casey Mitchell, last year's national Junior College Player of the Year, has failed to provide the scoring punch expected, hitting only 7.2 points a game. F Cam Thoroughman and G Jonnie West are role players.

    QUOTE TO NOTE:

    "Here's what's going to happen: They're either going to get on board with me, or I'm going to leave their asses out there to drown." -- Coach Bob Huggins, quoted in the Charleston Gazette, after a 77-62 loss to Purdue.

    STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

    SEASON RECAP: The Mountaineers rose to No. 6 in the polls with an 11-0 start, but there were some close calls at the end of that streak. They escaped at Cleveland State by two points, won in overtime at Seton Hall, beat Marquette by a point at home ... and then dropped their first game, 77-62, at Purdue. F Kevin Ebanks got off to a slow start, missing three games for unannounced reasons, but has turned up the heat as conference play has begun. F Da'Sean Butler has played like an all-conference player, averaging 19 points a game with 6.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists a game in early conference play.

    PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- PG Truck Bryant, F Devin Ebanks, C Wellington Smith, F Da'Sean Butler, F Kevin Jones. Key Subs -- PG Joe Mazzulla, G Casey Mitchell, F John Flowers, F Cam Thoroughman, G Dalton Pepper.

    GAME REVIEW:

    WVU 90, Seton Hall 82 (OT)

    WVU 62, Marquette 61

    Purdue 77, West Virginia 62

    GAME PREVIEW:

    vs. Rutgers, Wednesday, Jan. 6

    at Notre Dame, Saturday, Jan. 9

    at South Florida, Wednesday, Jan. 13

    vs. Syracuse, Saturday, Jan. 16

    vs. Marshall, Wednesday, Jan. 20 (Charleston, W.Va.)

    IN FOCUS:

    Notre Dame is always a hard place to play, especially for West Virginia. The Mountaineers have lost 10 in a row there and have not won in South Bend since the 1995-96 season. Part of the problem is dealing with the crowd, part of it is dealing with Luke Harangody, the big body who plays 40 hard minutes every game.

    ROSTER REPORT:

  • Even though his sprained ankle is improved, PG Truck Bryant has been coming off the bench and is limited in playing time.

  • G Joe Mazzulla continues to be troubled by his shoulders, which underwent surgery last year, but is playing through it as best as he can. He is not able to shoot the ball very well, however.

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