Big East Showdowns Once Again Highlight Weekend Slate

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Big East Showdowns Once Again Highlight Weekend Slate

(3) UConn vs. (19) Notre Dame, 7:00 PM Saturday, ESPN

UConn scored 48 first half points against a fairly strong defensive team in Villanova. Notre Dame doesn't play a lick of defense.

Add those together and you get a nightmare in South Bend.

College GameDay will be on hand to watch Notre Dame try to defend it's 45-game winning streak in the Joyce Center. In the final big game of Campus Connection week, the Irish will need to connect from all over the floor if it wants to take down the third-ranked Huskies.

Notre Dame is absolutely reeling after getting destroyed in overtime by Louisville and then following it up with another road bashing this time at the hands of Syracuse.

The old Big East motto of "you can't let one loss turn into two" is out of date for the Irish as for Mike Brey's team it's not "don't let two losses turn into three."

The Irish need to get solid defense out of its guards to keep UConn's quick backcourt of Jerome Dyson and A.J. Price from finding clear passing lanes down to Jim Calhoun's impressive frontcourt of Jeff Adrien and Hasheem Thabeet.

Notre Dame is the only ranked team that is surrendered more than a point per possession and ranks 162nd nationally in defensive efficiency.

UConn can win this game from the free throw line. The Irish aren't very deep, so getting them into foul trouble is a must. If you're UConn and ranked third in the country in free throw attempts, that won't be very hard.

The one spot Notre Dame can beat UConn is from three. The Huskies are an average three point defending team at 32.7 percent against, but the Irish shoot an astounding 40.3 percent from beyond. If Kyle McAlarney gets hot, the senior has the ability to knock down upwards of eight or nine triples in a single game.

 

(23) Baylor at (5) Oklahoma 4:00 PM Saturday, ESPNU

For those of you who don't get ESPNU, call your local cable operator now and demand it. You don't want to miss Curtis Jerrells and the rest of the Baylor guards square off with Oklahoma's dominant big man, Blake Griffin.

Baylor will likely throw a duo of seven-foot centers, Mamadou Diene and Josh Lomers, at Griffin to try to contain him. If Griffin is too fast for the lumbering Baylor giants, the Bears will counter with stud forward Kevin Rogers or super athletic freshman Quincy Acy.

OU's advantage will obviously be in the paint as Blake's older brother Taylor also mans the front line.

Oklahoma will have to find the right guard combination to stop Baylor's three guard set that is made up of arguably the best stable of guards in the country. Senior Curtis Jerrells, who will be in the NBA next year, will run the point but also provide an explosive scoring punch.

Even more deadly than Jerrells is LaceDarius Dunn who is coming off a brilliant performance against Kansas State where the sensational sophomore drilled nine of 12 shots from three and had 33 points overall.

Fellow guards Tweety Carter and Henry Dugat provide air-tight defense and a spark from three as well.

It will likely be another tight game as Oklahoma won last year's two meetings by a combined six points.

 

(12) Louisville at (8) Syracuse, 12:00 PM Sunday, ESPN360.com

Remember when everyone and their mother had Louisville ranked in either top ten or even in the top five to start the season?

Well the Cardinals are finally showing America why we thought to rank them so high. Rick Pitino's club is off to a solid 5-0 start in Big East play. In the conference, Louisville already has wins over Notre Dame, Villanova, and Pittsburgh.

Syracuse on the other hand is struggling a bit as the Orange is going through its gauntlet portion of the schedule.

Sunday's game marks the fourth consecutive game for the 'Cuse against a ranked opponent. On the road, Jim Boeheim's squad has embarrassed itself against Pittsburgh and Georgetown—playing without any energy.

But against Notre Dame at home last Saturday, the Orange came out in front of a crowd of 30,021 people and ran the Irish straight out of the building.

Syracuse is the kind of team that could excel under Louisville's pressure because of Andy Rautin's three-point shooting as well as Jonny Flynn, Paul Harris, and Eric Devendorf's ball handling ability.

But they could also fail miserably because the Orange has a knack for making tremendously poor decisions with the ball. Syracuse needs to get its transition offense going to be effective. Against Pitt, SU had only a few baskets in transition and lost that game by 18.

Louisville's key will be shooting the three-ball. SU will likely pack the paint with the school's trademark 2-3 zone and force Louisville to shoot the three. Syracuse has been a much better rebounding team this year, so Louisville should be able to pound the glass, but not as effectively as years past.

 

(4) Pittsburgh at West Virginia, 4:00 PM Sunday, ESPN360.com

West Virginia isn't currently ranked, but might as well be. The Mountaineers went to Georgetown Thursday night and came away with a convincing 17-point victory.

Bob Huggins' club has had its struggles, but by the numbers they have actually been very good.

According to efficiency data, West Virginia is the 12th ranked team overall because of its seventh ranked defense. WVU allows just .858 points per possession, is tenth in the country at forcing turnovers, and is third in the country in three point defense.

Considering Pitt isn't going to beat you from three, WVU can clog the lane and hit the glass to prevent put-back opportunites by the second best offensive rebounding team in the country.

Freshman Devin Ebanks got a crash course on defending a Big East center when WVU tipped off against UConn a few weeks ago. He'll need to take what he learned playing against seven-footer Hasheem Thabeet and translate it to the much shorter DeJuan Blair. West Virginia is almost as good as an offensive rebounding team as Pittsburgh as the Mountaineers rank fifth in the country in offensive rebounding.

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