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Big East Notebook

January 8, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Big East Notebook

by Kevin Reilly

Let the Games Begin

Monday night’s feature presentation of then No. 6 Notre Dame and No. 3 Pittsburgh
signaled to me the start of another Big East season. It wasn’t exactly the first league game but a Monday night matchup of two top ranked teams is what I have enjoyed most over the past twenty years following the beasts of the east.

You can have your season ending tourney at Madison Square Garden. Give me
a Monday night tilt between two of the conferences heavyweights on a snowy January evening. Now, that’s entertainment.

Monday’s game was as advertised for the first twenty-five minutes. Notre Dame
actually held a lead early on in the second half until they collapsed under Pitt’s
relentless defense.

I wasn’t sold on Pittsburgh as you may have read in some of my earlier articles.
Now, I am a believer. This team plays hard, real hard. All of sudden they just shut
down the Irish. Chris Thomas was made look merely mortal by Brandon Knight and
the rest of the Panthers looked like men playing versus boys down the stretch.

What’s the greatest thing about the game Monday night? You may ask. We get to
see them again and The Irish are an extremely tough out at home. Mark this one down Sunday, February 9 on ABC at 3:30 PM. Mike Brey is a brilliant young coach and you can count on the rematch being a forty minute affair.

Reilly’s Ratings

My first look of 2003 at the upper echelon of the Big East:

1. Pittsburgh (11-1, 1-0)

Okay, okay. The Panthers are the real deal. They have the brand new arena
and a bunch of kids who play the game the right way. Ben Howland has done well
playing with the house money so far. Brandin Knight will hopefully make some free
throws. This could be the only thorn in the bouquet here.

2. UConn (9-1, 1-0)

The Huskies will give Pitt fits. They have a lot of weapons. Okeafor is a stat sheet
stuffer. He will get you points, boards and blocks. Taliek Brown fighting for his
acclaim nationally. Ben Gordon turning into a big-timer. The UConn-Pitt games
should be wars!

3. Notre Dame (12-2, 0-1)

The Irish pulled up short Monday night and now must regroup. They only played
thirty minutes and that will not get it done with the big boys. This team has some notches on its belt already (Texas, Maryland, Marquette) so look for Coach Brey’s
bunch to get off the mat quickly.

4. Syracuse (8-1, 0-0)

Just a matter of time here. This could be one of the nation’s sleeper teams.
Carmel Anthony continues to put up big numbers. McNamara is a keeper
at the point guard slot and may get help soon from Billy Edelin. Watch for some
monumental battles this winter under the Dome.

5. West Virginia (8-3, 0-0)

A sentimental choice here. A nice story in Morgantown with John Beilein doing it with frosh, walk-ons and others. Kevin Pittsnogle, only a freshman, but shooting the lights out despite being 6-10. Not sure if they can hold up. Achilles heel here is a
0-3 road record so far.

Others on the Reilly Radar:

Georgetown (8-1), Miami (7-4), St. John’s (7-3), Villanova (7-5)


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