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Big East: Not your Garden-variety week

1/23/2006

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: MIKE GANSEY

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Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty ImagesGansey is Mr. Do-it-all for the 'Eers.
By Andy Katz, ESPN.com

Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun didn't hesitate: If the voting were conducted this week, West Virginia's Gansey would be his Big East Player of the Year. Unless something dramatic changes, don't be shocked if this stays true, especially with multiple players from Villanova and Connecticut possibly canceling each other out.

Gansey's performance at UCLA was sensational in every aspect of the game. His pick of Jordan Farmar to preserve the game was beautifully executed, but not just for the steal. Gansey knew the Mountaineers had one foul to give so it was OK to go for the theft. Farmar respected the move and gave Gansey the appropriate props for the play.

That steal came on the heels of a stellar shooting night in which Gansey made 7 of 8 shots, including all three 3s, and 7 of 9 free throws for 24 points. He had four steals, no turnovers, two assists and only one foul.

Earlier in the week, Gansey scored 18 in an easy win over Providence. He's averaging 19.8 points, 2.3 assists and 5.5 rebounds a game.

No one, and I mean no one, would have predicted that Gansey would have a shot to be Big East Player of the Year when he transferred from St. Bonaventure three years ago. He has found the perfect system in which to flourish.


TEAM OF THE WEEK: ST. JOHN'S

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AP PhotoThere was plenty for the Red Storm to celebrate last week.
By Andy Katz, ESPN.com

Georgetown's win over Duke was certainly a headline grabber. The Hoyas played exceptionally well in the win at the MCI Center, and the victory ultimately could be a difference-maker in terms of their getting a bid.

North Dakota State deserves consideration for shocking Wisconsin to snap the Badgers' 27-game nonconference home winning streak at the Kohl Center.

The team of the week honor goes to St. John's, though. The Red Storm picked up two wins this week that helped put this program back in the conversation in New York City. It was like the old days, when few teams could waltz into MSG and get a win.

St. John's beat Louisville earlier in the week, then took out undefeated Pitt on Saturday to move to 10-6 overall, 3-2 in the Big East. More than anything, though, St. John's helped give legitimacy to what Norm Roberts is trying to build in Queens. Most important, the two wins helped the Red Storm in their quest to ensure a spot in the 12-team Big East tournament and gave them a realistic shot at a postseason appearance. The NIT loves the Red Storm, regardless who is running the event.

3-POINT SHOTS

Jay Bilas

Jay Bilas Every year, we seem to say the job of the NCAA Tournament selection committee will be tougher than ever. But have we ever had a year that gave you such a feeling of indecision and uncertainty at this point in the season?

In every major conference, there are multiple teams that could go either way. And it is not just the idea of a team getting really hot or the wheels suddenly falling off. Every league has had periodic inconsistency, several teams that are eerily similar in ability and character, and some shaky traditional powers.

One thing seems clear: Evaluating teams based upon a historical perspective will not work this year. There are a bunch of teams that don't have the look or feel of NCAA Tournament teams but still will make it into the field. It's just one of those years.

Doug Gottlieb

Doug Gottlieb

While many of my co-workers at ESPN are riding the UConn wave, let us remember that UConn played one great half last week versus Syracuse. There is no doubt that when the Huskies "play," few teams, if any, can beat them. The question is why should they be No. 1? Sure, they jumped all over Syracuse, but so did Villanova. Maybe a better question is: How good is Syracuse?

Fran Fraschilla

Fran Fraschilla

Five years ago, Westchester High School in Los Angeles was the best high school team in California and among the three or four best in the country.

I was reminded of that this weekend, when Georgetown upset No. 1-ranked Duke 87-84 Saturday, because two key contributors to the victory were former Comets teammates Brandon Bowman and Ashanti Cook, who combined for 40 of the Hoyas' points. ...

For more of our experts' 3-point shots, click here.Insider

FIVE GAMES TO WATCH

By Andy Katz, ESPN.com

Cincinnati at Louisville, Wednesday (ESPN2, 7:30 p.m. ET)
It's late January, so we're going to put a must-win tag on this game. The Cardinals have a brutal road schedule remaining. They have to win a home game here. Taquan Dean might play, and that certainly would help.

Boston College at North Carolina, Wednesday (ESPN Full Court, 9 p.m. ET)
BC faced a must-get road game at Miami and won. Beating the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill certainly would send a message to the rest of the league that the Eagles are still a player. Getting the win would help them ascend toward the upper half. UNC escaped Tallahassee with a win Sunday night, one that will help its cause for a bid and could end up being devastating for the potentially bubble-bound Seminoles.

Michigan State at Michigan, Wednesday (ESPNU/Full Court, 8 p.m. ET)
Both teams are coming off surprisingly lopsided wins. It's hard to say which one was more impressive. The Spartans' win over Iowa was at home, and the Wolverines smoked the Gophers in Minnesota. The Wolverines are tough to figure, but they're certainly talented enough to get on a roll and climb back toward the top of the Big Ten.

UAB at Memphis, Thursday (9 p.m. ET)
Houston coach Tom Penders says that the Blazers are very, very good and that point guard Squeaky Johnson is as good as any in the country because he doesn't take bad shots. The Blazers get the first of two shots to take down league favorite Memphis. If they do, you can guarantee Johnson will be a factor in the outcome.

Washington at Cal, Thursday (10:30 p.m. ET)
The Huskies are back on a roll. The Bears are coming off a split at the Arizona schools, including a 30-point rout of ASU in Tempe. If Cal wants to be a serious player for the league title, then the Bears have to beat Washington at home. End of discussion.


INSIDE THE NUMBERS
By Mark Simon, Special to ESPN.com

Opening Tip
If you want to knock George Washington for playing a soft schedule, so be it, but the Colonials enter the week in an elite group: They are one of five teams with only one blemish on their schedule.

Although GW might not be in the same class as Duke, Connecticut, Florida or even Pittsburgh, the Colonials are among the best in the nation in capitalizing on opponents' mistakes. In each of its last four games, George Washington has scored off turnovers in bunches. The Colonials rank among the nation's steals leaders, and this has allowed them to get a lot of easy baskets, which is essential in explaining their success this season.

Since its only loss, an 18-point defeat at NC State, GW has averaged 17.8 turnovers forced, 21.0 points off turnovers, a 15.7-9.7 edge in fast-break points and a 12.8-point margin of victory.

Rocking The Rim
Rodney Carney doesn't rank among the nation's scoring leaders, but he's among the best in the nation at making the most of his time, with his points-per-minute production ranking right up there with the best players in the country.

In fact, Memphis' John Calipari has three double-digit scorers (Shawne Williams and Darius Washington are the other two) who are very efficient with their time on the floor. The trio's minutes figure to increase as the games get tougher and more important, starting this week against a hot UAB squad.

Matchup of the Week
While I was hunting for key games this week, a colleague reminded us that this marks the first Big East meeting between Cincinnati and Louisville -- even more noteworthy because the Cardinals have received a rough greeting from their new league.

Louisville swept the Bearcats last season for the first time since 1987-88, but both games were tight. In fact, the recent battles in this rivalry have been marked by close games. Of the last eight meetings, six have been decided by seven or fewer points.