Big East Notebook: Huskies out to prove that they belong

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At the start of the season, many believed that Connecticut was the No. 1 team in the land. Now months after the first tip-off, the Huskies have finally claimed the seat that is rightfully theirs: The royal throne atop men's college basketball.

Early in the year it seemed that the squad would never achieve its ultimate destiny, especially after it fell to conference rival Georgetown by double digits. But a few big wins over Notre Dame and Louisville and a life-time supply of Hasheem Thabeet blocks later, the Huskies have clawed their way to No. 1.

And don't expect them to fall as quickly as former No. 1's Pittsburgh, Duke and Wake Forest did.

"We're definitely not going to be No. 1 for just a day," forward Jeff Adrien said.

No place like home

Playing at home is always an advantage in college basketball, but this year it's closer to a death sentence for road teams. Teams in the Big East have been running opponents out of their gyms like they own an eviction notice. Last Saturday, home teams in the Big East went 5-0. Pittsburgh beat Notre Dame, Marquette beat Georgetown, Rutgers beat DePaul, Connecticut beat Providence, and Louisville beat West Virginia.

The energy and support supplied by the home fans really seem to light a fire under their teams in key situations. Two of Saturday's top dogs, Connecticut and Pittsburgh, trailed early but came out after the half fueled by the roaring home crowds and surged to victory in impressive fashion.

Farewell to the spectrum

The Wachovia Spectrum in Philadelphia has been the home to some of history's greatest sports moments – from dazzling dunks courtesy of Dr. Julius Erving to the unforgettable Rocky scene where the "Italian Stallion" stormed up the steps and raised his arms in triumph.

Last Wednesday, the Villanova Wildcats may have given the Spectrum its best memory yet. In what was to be the final college game ever to be played at the historic arena, the then-No. 21 Wildcats upended then-No. 3 Pittsburgh 67-57. Pittsburgh star DeJuan Blair was in foul trouble the whole game and Villanova's Reggie Redding had a career high 18 points, including a clutch 10-of-10 from the free-throw line, to pace the underdog Wildcats to a victory that won't soon be forgotten.

Player of the week

There have been some legendary defensive mechanisms in history, but none have been more formidable than the Great Wall of Hasheem Thabeet.

Connecticut's 7-foot-3 monster averaged 13 points, 10 rebounds, and 6.5 blocks per game last week, including a triple-double of 15 points, 11 rebounds and 10 blocks in a win over Providence.

More impressive was Thabeet's effort in taking down No. 7 ranked Louisville. Message to the Huskies' next opponent: bring your streamers and hats, the game is going to be a block party.

Game of the week

Syracuse at Villanova: Sat. Feb. 7 , 12 p.m.

While star-studded teams like Connecticut, Pittsburgh and Louisville grab all the attention, two Big East teams have climbed their way up the conference standings without much notice. Villanova and Syracuse are fifth and sixth in the Big East standings, and a win here could make or break both squads' seasons. Win and automatically earn recognition as one of the Big East's elite.

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