With an abundance of Big East teams in the Top 25, many programs from this 16-team conference will find themselves facing daunting stretches in their schedules. One game into league play, Georgetown is already in the midst of one.
After defeating the nation’s second-ranked team their last time out, the 11th-ranked Hoyas will host No. 3 Pittsburgh on Saturday in a rematch of the last two conference tournament title games.
Georgetown (10-1, 1-0) was picked to finish seventh in the Big East, which boasts seven Top 25 teams, but has been an early surprise.
The Hoyas handed No. 2 Connecticut its first loss of the season on Monday, 74-63 in Hartford. It was their seventh straight victory since a 90-78 loss to then-No. 12 Tennessee in the semifinals of the Old Spice Classic on Nov. 28.
While Georgetown looked strong against the Huskies, leading by as many as 17 points late in the second half, the team knows it can’t get too caught up with the win, as it faces another undefeated team Saturday followed by a visit to No. 7 Notre Dame on Monday.
“We can’t get too high because we have Pitt on Saturday,” Hoyas forward DaJuan Summers said. “We’re where we’re supposed to be and we have a lot of work to do, so we can’t get comfortable.”
The Panthers were picked to finish third in the Big East and are off to their best start since going 15-0 in 2005-06, but they haven’t been tested like Georgetown, which also has a win over then-No. 17 Memphis.
Pittsburgh (13-0, 1-0) has yet to face a ranked team and struggled in its conference-opening 78-72 win over Rutgers on Wednesday, yielding its most points of the season and posting its smallest margin of victory.
The Panthers, who allowed an average of 57.1 points and won by an average of 20.8 points in their first 12 games, trailed 46-39 early in the second half before coach Jamie Dixon switched from their traditional man-to-man defense to a zone.
“We practice zone every day,” Dixon said. “People always think it’s the first time we’ve ever played it. We usually bring it out when we need to and it’s been successful at times.”
Sam Young, who is averaging a team-high 19.9 points, led Pittsburgh with 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting on Tuesday. The senior forward had 16 points and six rebounds in last season’s 74-65 win over Georgetown in the conference championship game.
The Panthers won both meetings against the Hoyas last season after Georgetown won the 2007 Big East title game 65-42.
Pittsburgh has lost its last two games at Georgetown with the Hoyas being ranked each time, and has lost eight straight road games against Top 25 teams since a 61-57 victory over then-No. 10 Louisville on Jan. 15, 2006.
Georgetown has won all seven of its games at the Verizon Center this season, and 29 straight home games - including five over ranked opponents - since a 56-52 loss to Villanova on Jan. 8, 2007.
While Summers leads the Hoyas with a 14.6 scoring average this season, Georgetown has received a big lift from 6-foot-11 Greg Monroe, the school’s biggest freshman presence since Allen Iverson.
The 18-year-old Monroe had no trouble in his Big East opener, as he outscored 7-foot-3 UConn junior Hasheem Thabeet by a 16-4 margin. While Monroe is fourth on the team in scoring (12.7), he leads the Hoyas in rebounding (5.4), field goal percentage (57.9), blocks (1.9) and steals (1.8) despite averaging the fewest minutes of any starter.
“Greg is poised,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. “He’s poised on the floor, he’s poised off the floor.
“I’m not sure whether it’s unique, but for someone who is as ballyhooed as he is, someone who has gotten so much attention, he truly embraces the concept of team.”