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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 9:32 PM

Friday Nights are often quiet in college basketball for fans and sports bettors. But, we’re in for a real treat this week because two Big Dance dangers from the Big East are squaring off in a game that will be nationally televised by ESPN.

Georgetown is currently ranked #15 in the country. Cincinnati has flirted with the rankings themselves much of the season. You’ll see in a moment that respected computer ratings are currently smiling on both teams as we approach the final weeks of the regular season.

First, because the Big East race has really tightened up in recent days because of losses by Louisville and Syracuse, let’s take a quick peak at the standings heading into this weekend. It’s a huge conference, so we’ll just focus on the teams contending for a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Note that St. John’s and Louisville played Thursday Night prior to publication deadlines. That game is not included in the numbers below.

BIG EAST

Georgetown 8-3

Syracuse 8-3

Marquette 8-3

Pittsburgh 8-4

Notre Dame 8-4

Louisville 7-4

Connecticut 7-4 (ineligible because of probation)

Cincinnati 7-5

St. John’s 7-5

Villanova 6-6

Georgetown is in a tie for first place at the moment, and would greatly love to be the first conference team to make it to nine wins. Cincinnati has had trouble keeping pace with the powers, and is in danger with dropping a sixth conference game already. Clearly there’s a greater sense of urgency for the Bearcats Friday Night, but both teams have a lot at stake. Georgetown could make a surprise run at the title, locking in a Sweet 16 seed in the process. Cincinnati has to worry about falling down to no-man’s land in the seedings.

What you’re about or read suggests these teams are much closer together in the big picture than those standings would have indicated. Let’s run both through our gauntlet to see how this big TV meeting might play out…

WON-LOST RECORDS

Georgetown: 18-4 (8-3 in the Big East)

Cincinnati: 19-6 (7-5 in the Big East)

Cincinnati’s played more games, so they have more wins and losses at this stage. They’re only a-game-and-a-half back in the standings, which would only be half a game with a win here. The distance looks greater up above because there are so many contenders in the Big East! Obviously the Bearcats don’t wan to lose contact with that contending pack.

COMPUTER RANKINGS

Georgetown: #18 with Sagarin, #26 with Pomeroy

Cincinnati: #20 with Sagarin, #20 with Pomeroy

That works out to a virtual dead heat. Jeff Sagarin of USA Today has Georgetown as the better team (just barely). College basketball guru Ken Pomeroy has it the other way, with Cincinnati enjoying a six spot lead. If you average them…Cincinnati’s locked in at #20, while Georgetown is #22. You’re not likely to see many more conference matchups this year anywhere that has two marquee teams this evenly matched outside of the Big Ten elite.

COMPUTER STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE RANKINGS

Georgetown: #47 with Sagarin, #66 with Pomeroy

Cincinnati: #56 with Sagarin, #73 with Pomeroy

Both of our publicly available sources agree that Georgetown has played the slightly tougher schedule. Ultimately, anyone who qualifies for the Dance from this conference is going to be battle tested. It’s impossible NOT to be. There’s more of a danger of being worn down physically than there is of being inexperienced in battle.

WON-LOST RECORDS VS. SAGARIN’S TOP 50

Georgetown: 4-3

Cincinnati: 5-4

Consistent with the dead heat theme. Cincinnati’s had more games on the schedule…that shows up here…and each team is one game over the .500 mark vs. quality. At this point, both are tournament caliber teams who are holding their own if not setting the world on fire when matched up against top opposition.

JOE LUNARDI’S BRACKETOLOGY

Georgetown: projected #4 seed

Cincinnati: projected #7 seed

This is more consistent with the standings than the computers. Georgetown has been rewarded for its solid league play, and is seeded as a Sweet 16 team. Cincinnati may be slightly ahead in a computer composite, but their position in the Big East standings has them down at a #7 in Lunardi’s vision. A loss here could drop them into the #8-9 range, which is a HORRIBLE place to be because you draw a #1 seed in the Round of 32. Keep an eye on this, because Cincy is capable of taking out any of the projected #1’s in a neutral court game! Still, if you ARE Cincinnati, you’d like to make things a bit easier on yourself that early in the Dance.

POMEROY’S ADJUSTED OFFENSE RANKINGS

Georgetown: #102

Cincinnati: #76

Moving to the chess game, Cincinnati has the edge here. But, neither team is particularly strong by Dance standards. If you’re looking at the top 300 teams, it’s fine to be in the top third of the sport. Come Dance time, a ranking like this will have you as one of the worst teams in your region. Both of these teams have WEAK offenses by what will be Dance standards in March. Edge to the Bearcats…but it’s a tight edge in grinder basketball.

POMEROY’S ADJUSTED DEFENSE RANKINGS

Georgetown: #7

Cincinnati: #8

Boom! Two great defenses here. Both really defend the bucket well after you’ve adjusted for tempo and quality of opposition. Get ready to play some Unders in the Dance with these guys! Does that mean an Under Friday Night? It’s worth thinking about. But, you can be certain that Vegas will post a low total in this one. Study what these teams have done in other grinder games before jumping on that horse.

POMEROY’S ADJUSTED TEMPO RANKINGS

Georgetown: #302

Cincinnati: #180

Georgetown is very slow…AND plays great defense…AND has a poor offense by Dance standards…so the Hoyas have to win ugly as a general rule. This will give them a chance to go deep if they can execute late in close games…but it will also give lesser opponents to hang within striking distance. This is a team that’s suffered disappointing Dance losses in recent memory because they couldn’t score enough against teams who happened to hit some early treys. Cincinnati’s close to middle of the road (fractionally below it in a way the naked eye wouldn’t notice).

BEST EXPECTATION

If you were saddened to hear that the Olympics dropped classic wrestling from its list of sports, you can get your fill of plodding physical play Friday Night in Cincinnati! We expect a classic Big East battle. Cincinnati does have the greater sense of urgency. JIM HURLEY will be working with his Big East sources to get a read on the mindset of both teams. The computer stuff has it being a close game. It would take an intangible or two to move us off of that assessment.

You can purchase the final word on Georgetown/Cincinnati here at the website with your credit card during the day Friday. Then come back early Saturday for another huge hardwood slate. College basketball fans are buzzing because of all the great hoops action on the card every day. IT’S ONLY GOING TO GET BETTER!

If you have any questions about our service, call the office at 1-800-323-4453. The schedule should allow you some time today to talk in depth about our seasonal packages in both college and pro basketball.

Back with you Saturday to run the numbers on ESPN’s “GameDay” matchup in prime time. Sunday will bring Ohio State-Wisconsin to the NOTEBOOK, as the great games continue day after day. Don’t play hunches on your own…WIN BIG with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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