The College Basketball Notebook

January 7, 2010 12:00 PM

Big East Openings

Where did Pitt come from?! After a December looking like an early tournament exit—and I mean CBI, not NIT and certainly not NCAA—the Panthers have been smoking since Big East play started. The pulled off a huge upset right after the New Year when they shocked Syracuse in the Carrier Dome. They followed it up with another win last night in Cincinnati. Guard Ashton Gibbs has found another level and so has Jamie Dixon’s team. Suddenly they are sitting on 3-0 in the Big East and have some time off before the play at UConn next week. Regardless of what happens against the Huskies, Pitt will already have played three road games and have the worst schedule stretch past them.

Syracuse was able to bounce back with a win and get to 1-1. West Virginia and Georgetown are undefeated in conference games, although that’s with some major precaution regarding the Mountaineers. They needed overtime to survive at Seton Hall and they should have lost at home to Marquette. But a missed free throw by the Golden Eagles and subsequent three-pointer by DeSean Butler saved their bacon. In between, they played a poor game at Purdue. As for Georgetown, they got a cushy schedule to start, beating DePaul and St. John. The latter is a big disappointment to the city of New York, which hoped to finally have real college basketball to cheer for again.

South Florida was a team I had an eye on early, and they could still come back, but they’ve lost two home games. Losing to Louisville and Notre Dame is no disgrace, but those are games you win if you’re making to push at a good year. And the loss against the ‘Ville was by 21 points. Notre Dame is tougher to get a read on. They’re 2-1, but the wins against Providence and South Florida are nothing to get worked up, but the loss at UConn is nothing to be ashamed of. Their visit to Morgantown to play West Virginia on Saturday will tell us a lot about both teams.

Marquette has been the hard-luck team of the conference, with the aforementioned loss to West Virginia and then another one in the exact same fashion at home to Villanova. Although I guess it’s not hard luck if you can’t hit your free throws. By the time you read this post, we’ll know what’s happened on MU-Georgetown on Wednesday night (because of work schedules I’m writing it in advance).

One of the best games in the country this weekend will be Georgetown-UConn on Saturday (Noon ET, ESPN), which joins Wisconsin-Purdue at 1:30 as the weekend’s two top games. Even better, both will be over by the time the NFL playoffs start later in the afternoon.

The Big 12 & SEC both get conference play going this weekend. As does the ACC, though they’ve had a smattering of games spread through December. This Saturday marks the first day we get wall-to-wall conference action. On Sunday night, I’ll be back to recap and sort through the results.

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