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February 2, 2007
Big East Breakdown: UConn struggling
Best matchup: Providence guard Sharaud Curry vs. Marquette guard Dominic James. The Golden Eagles' super sophomore is the one who gets all the attention, but the Friars sophomore has been just as super this season. Look at the numbers: Curry is averaging 16.6 points per game; James is averaging 16.5. Curry is averaging 5.4 assists; James is averaging 4.6. Curry did not play when the teams met at Providence on Jan. 4, when the Friars prevailed in surprisingly easy fashion, 74-59. The Golden Eagles were without starting guard Jerel McNeal, and James had 12 points on just 3-for-11 shooting. Providence pounded the ball inside to Herbert Hill and Geoff McDermott and took advantage of Maquette's soft inside presence. James and McNeal should be ready to go Saturday. They will have to play well to offset the Friars' power in the post.
Worst matchup: St. John's at Cincinnati. Yawn. The Red Storm scored 46 points at Pittsburgh on Saturday and 48 against Georgetown on Thursday. That equals a two-game losing streak that has dropped St. John's to 3-6 in the league. It's still better than Cincinnati, which is 1-6 in the Big East. Cincinnati is 14th in the Big East in scoring, and St. John's is 15th. Only Rutgers is worse.
The pressure is on: UConn coach Jim Calhoun. If the Big East tournament started tomorrow, the Huskies (13-8, 2-6) wouldn't be in it. They're mired in a five-game losing streak, their longest in six years. UConn plays host to Rutgers on Saturday, and the Scarlet Knights are just 2-7 in league play. But this Huskies team can't take anybody lightly.
Upset alert: Notre Dame at South Florida. The Irish won their first road game of the season on Tuesday at Syracuse by putting up 103 points, the most points they had scored in a non-overtime game since Nov. 22, 2000. Will Mike Brey's squad experience a letdown in Tampa on Saturday? The struggling Bulls got crushed in South Bend on Jan. 21 but have played much better since, whipping Rutgers 62-40 and taking Marquette to the wire before falling 70-68. It's obviously a game Notre Dame should win, but the Irish have been shaky at best on the road.
Who's hot: Notre Dame guard Colin Falls is averaging 17.6 points per game over his last five games. West Virginia forward Joe Alexander is averaging 17.7 points per game over his last three games. Marquette has won five Big East games in a row, the Golden Eagles' longest streak in league play since winning nine a row in Conference USA in 2002-03.
Who's not: Connecticut has 91 turnovers to just 62 assists over the last six games. Louisville guard Brandon Jackson is 4-for-27 from the field in his last five games. Georgetown forward DaJuan Summers is 2-for-13 from the floor and 1-for-7 from 3-point range in his last two games. Syracuse guard Eric Devendorf was 0-for-11 from the floor, including 0-for-6 from 3-point range, in a 103-91 loss to Notre Dame.
Must see TV: Louisville at Villanova, noon, ESPN2. The Cardinals (16-6, 6-2) have won four in a row and six of seven, but much of the winning has come against the lower half of the Big East. The Wildcats (14-7, 3-5) don't have the best record in the league, but their three wins certainly are impressive. They won at Georgetown and at Providence, and they whipped Notre Dame at home. A win over surging Louisville would be a huge boost for Villanova.
Key stat: Louisville is 11-0 this season when scoring 70 or more points.
Bench bonus: West Virginia forward Da'Sean Butler scored 17 points off the bench in an 89-83 victory over Rutgers.
They said it: "It was embarrassing. I hope that it never happens again. We were just letting them do whatever. Every shot they were taking they were hitting." Syracuse center Darryl Watkins after the loss to Notre Dame
Injury report: Notre Dame forward Rob Kurz (ankle), who did not play Tuesday against Syracuse, is probable for Saturday night's game against South Florida. He had 21 points and 10 rebounds in the first meeting between the teams.
Worth noting: Pittsburgh, which won at Villanova on Tuesday, doesn't play again until Wednesday at West Virginia. It's the Panthers' longest break of the season, including Christmas. Pittsburgh has set a school record with its sixth consecutive 20-win season. Georgetown is off until a Wednesday night ESPN game at Louisville. It will mark the first meeting between the teams as Big East foes. The 103 points by Notre Dame on Tuesday night were the most scored versus Syracuse at the Carrier Dome. Villanova's game against Louisville on Saturday will be at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, home of the 76ers. The Wildcats have won six of their past seven at the off-campus venue. West Virginia set high-water marks in its victory at Rutgers on Wednesday. The Mountaineers' shooting percentages from the floor (65.2 percent) and from 3-point range (66.7) were the top shooting marks by any team in a conference game this season. The 65.2 percent from the floor also was the best a WVU team has shot in a Big East game in the school's 12 seasons in the league. DePaul's victory over Connecticut on Wednesday broke a three-game losing streak and allowed the Blue Demons to exceed last season's win total of 12. Louisville already has matched last season's Big East victory total with eight league games to play. None of the top 10 players in the Big East in assists is a senior. Coach Jim Calhoun has been stuck two games short of 500 wins at UConn with the Huskies mired in a five-game losing streak.
Freshman to watch: A pair of Notre Dame freshmen established career highs in the victory over Syracuse. Forward Luke Harangody posted career highs in points (21) and rebounds (13). Guard Tory Jackson had a career-high 19 points to go with seven assists. Seton Hall is 5-0 when freshman guard Eugene Harvey shoots better than 50 percent from the floor. He scored 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting in a blowout of Princeton on Monday.
Something you may have missed: Villanova has brought its leading scorer, Curtis Sumpter, off the bench in the past three games since a deep bone bruise in his left shin forced him to sit out a victory over Texas on Jan. 20.
RPI watch: The league is just sixth in the latest RPI, behind the ACC, SEC, Pac-10, Big Ten and Missouri Valley. Pittsburgh is the only Big East team in the top 17, with Marquette at No. 18 and Villanova at No. 22. You can't find another Big East team until Georgetown pops up No. 36, followed by Notre Dame at 38th.