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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Big East Men’s Basketball Notebook

If you listened to the national pundits before the season began, this was supposed to be a down year for the Big East.

Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Louisville, Marquette and Connecticut lost their “big name” stars and the league was supposed to belong to Villanova and West Virginia.

As is often the case, the talking heads from ESPN were wrong, at least so far. The conference looks to be just as rugged and competitive this year as it was last year. Based on the Jan. 18 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, five of the top 14 teams are Big East members.

Pittsburgh was not one of the teams expected to challenge for the Big East title, but has vaulted up to #11 in the latest poll on the heels of impressive road victories over Connecticut and Syracuse, among others.

Panthers claw their way into first place

Is this really the same Pittsburgh team that lost to Indiana in early December? With a pair of impressive wins this week, on the road against a reeling Connecticut team and an overtime victory at home over Louisville, Pittsburgh finds itself in a tie for first with Villanova.

The Panthers were projected to finish ninth in conference this year by the Big East coaches after losing stars like DeJuan Blair and Levance Fields. However, they have gotten huge contributions from key reserves from last year like Brad Wanamaker, Ashton Gibbs and Nasir Robinson.

Wanamaker and Robinson combined for 46 of Pittsburgh’s 82 points in the win over Louisville.

The Panthers have won eight-straight games since the Indiana debacle, including handing rival Syracuse its first and only loss of the season.

Villanova relying on depth, experience for early success

The Wildcats’ impressive, if not surprising, run to the Final Four last season had the coaches picking them to be one of the best teams in the Big East this season. To this point, the Wildcats have not disappointed.

After dispatching a long and athletic Georgetown team Sunday, Villanova finds itself at 16-1 overall and 5-0 in conference play.

Hazell, Jones look to make a name for themselves on struggling teams

Seton Hall was pegged by some as a “dark horse” candidate to return to the NCAA tournament this season for the first time since 2006. A 1-4 start in conference play will make that difficult, but the Pirates have a dynamic scorer that many people have probably never heard of: Jeremy Hazell.

Hazell, who has never seen a shot he didn’t like, is second in the Big East in scoring behind Notre Dame’s Luke Harangody, with 22.9 points per game.

South Florida guard Dominique Jones is another star player that goes relatively unnoticed. Why? The Bulls have not had a high level of success since becoming a member of the Big East and have not reached the NCAA tournament since 1992. Don’t expect that streak to end this season.

Jones, however, does his best to keep his team in the game, averaging a team-high 19.5 ppg to go along with 5.9 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game. Not bad for a 6-foot-4 guard.

Two games to watch

Georgetown at Pittsburgh, Wednesday, Jan. 20: Must-win game for the Hoyas, who have already dropped two conference games.

Ohio State at West Virginia, Saturday, Jan. 23: Interesting time for a non-conference game, especially with the Mountaineers taking on Marshall earlier in the week. Ohio State is much improved with dynamic Evan Turner back in the lineup.

Player of the week

Pittsburgh has relied on an all-around effort for its fast start this season. However, it was Nasir Robinson who took over Saturday against Louisville. Robinson’s 26 points and 11 rebounds helped neutralize breakout performances from the Cardinals’ Samardo Samuels and Preston Knowles en route to an 82-77 overtime victory.

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    Andrew MaddenJan 28, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    Very Impressive Mike must say. Makes an obes wanna cry. Keep up the good work and I’ll keep reading!