The Big East regular-season title is out of reach for West Virginia and Georgetown, but both teams could use some momentum as the conference tournament approaches.
The Mountaineers have started to create some, while the Hoyas are sputtering.
Tenth-ranked West Virginia looks for its fourth win in five games as it tries to clinch a two-round bye in a matchup with No. 19 Georgetown on Monday night.
Syracuse has secured the Big East title and the top seed in the tournament, which begins March 9 at Madison Square Garden. The top four teams get byes to the quarterfinals, while the next four skip the opening round.
A win Monday would secure a top-four seed for the Mountaineers (22-6, 11-5), while the Hoyas (19-8, 9-7) can clinch a bye to the second round.
West Virginia concludes the regular season at No. 7 Villanova on Saturday, while Georgetown hosts Cincinnati - one of five teams behind it that are also seeking first-round byes.
The Mountaineers have been surging down the stretch, winning three of four after losing consecutive games for the only time this season.
Kevin Jones helped West Virginia continue its strong stretch Saturday, scoring 10 of his 15 points in the second half as the Mountaineers overcame a 13-point deficit to beat the Bearcats 74-68.
“I didn’t stand around in the second half waiting for something to happen,” said Jones, who averages 13.7 points and 7.5 rebounds. “I tried to be more aggressive and my teammates were looking for me in good spots and I give all the credit to them.”
The Mountaineers, though, could use some improved play from Da’Sean Butler, the team leader with 16.9 points per game.
The senior forward has struggled over the last two games, going 5 of 22 from the floor and totaling 17 points after averaging 21.9 points in his previous seven contests.
Butler had 27 points on 11-of-18 shooting and added eight rebounds in a 75-58 win at then-No. 12 Georgetown on Jan. 22, 2009, the teams’ last meeting.
The Hoyas, however, won 58-57 in the last matchup in Morgantown on Jan. 26, 2008.
Victories Monday and in its season finale could give Georgetown a chance at one of the top four spots in the Big East tournament.
The Hoyas, though, haven’t resembled one of the top teams in the conference lately, dropping three of four and seven of 15 since opening 11-1. They plummeted eight spots in this week’s Top 25.
“You can’t play from behind all the time,” coach John Thompson III said. “We’ve come from behind in several games. That’s not necessarily a script we want to follow, so we have to do a better job early.”
Austin Freeman being ill has not helped, and the Hoyas will not have their leading scorer available Monday night.
Battling the flu, the junior guard scored a season-low five points in 23 minutes off the bench Saturday as Georgetown fell 78-64 to Notre Dame, which played without star forward Luke Harangody. Freeman is averaging 17.0 points and shooting 47.3 percent from 3-point range.
He made the trip with his teammates Sunday, but “took a turn for the worse” overnight, team spokesman Michael Carey said. Freeman returned to campus on Monday for further treatment and rest.
Freeman averaged 21.6 points in eight games prior to Saturday, scoring 29 to power a 70-60 victory at Louisville on Tuesday.
He shot 1 of 6 and had nine points against West Virginia last season.