Syracuse University (13-0, No. 5 in the country and Seton Hall University (6-6) open their Big East Conference basketball schedules tonight. Syracuse hosts Providence (9 p.m. ET) and Seton Hall hosts South Florida (7 p.m. ET)
Here are brief looks at both games.
Syracuse (13-0, No. 5) vs. Providence (11-2)
(Sports Network) - The fifth-ranked Syracuse Orange put their perfect record on the line this evening, as they begin defense of their 2009-10 Big East regular season title, welcoming a tough Providence team to the Carrier Dome for conference action.
The Orange are off to a 13-0 start for the second straight season and seventh time under head coach Jim Boeheim. The team was last in action on December 22nd, blowing out a tough Drexel team, 93-65.
The Friars are certainly a tall task to open up league play with. Providence has won 11 of its first 13 games this year, with 10 of those victories coming at home. The team's only true road contest resulted in an 82-70 setback at Boston College, but the Friars have bounced back with two straight victories, including an 84-76 decision over Sacred Heart one week ago.
The Friars are a strong offensive team with plenty of firepower. It all revolves around the steady play of swingman Marshon Brooks. The 6-5 senior has been a mismatch for most opponents this year, averaging an impressive 23.1 points and 8.9 rebounds per game, while shooting 51.2 percent from the floor. Vincent Council, a 6-2 sophomore, also has a knack for filling up the basket at 16.0 ppg, while doling out nearly seven assists per game (6.8).
South Florida (6-7) at Seton Hall (6-6)
After falling to James Madison on Dec. 18th and Cleveland State on Dec. 22nd, the Bulls enter tonight's contest mired in a two-game slump. Their chances of breaking the streak seem unlikely, as the Bulls have yet to win a true road game this season.
The Pirates also find themselves in the midst of a two-game losing streak after back-to-back losses to Dayton and Richmond. Previously, the Pirates had won three straight, with wins over Massachusetts, Longwood and NJIT.
Seton Hall holds a commanding, 7-1, lead in the all-time series, although South Florida's lone win did come in the teams' last meeting, as the Bulls downed the Pirates in overtime, 76-74, on Jan. 29, 2010.
USF struggled from the perimeter in its 67-62 loss to James Madison, making just 4-of-16 three-points attempts on the night. The Bulls managed to shoot 48 percent from the floor, but 24 turnovers helped lead to their demise. Jarrid Famous continued his impressive work in the trenches, as he notched a double- double with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Augustus Gilchrist, another legitimate front line threat, added 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting off the bench and Hugh Robertson finished with 11 points. Famous and Gilchrist form one of the more sturdy front line tandems in the conference. They each average right around 10 ppg and six rpg on the season. Jawanza Poland averages 10.8 ppg himself, but has committed a team-high 31 turnovers. Poland's sloppy play has been contagious, as the Bulls currently post a minus-5.4 turnover margin.
In its most recent game, Seton Hall led Richmond 35-30 at halftime, but shot just 25 percent and scored just 26 second half points en route to a 69-61 defeat. Three starters scored in double figures for the Pirates, as Jeff Robinson scored a team-high 17 points, Jordan Theodore added 15 and Fuquan Edwin finished with 12. Herb Pope was solid as well, as he grabbed a team-high 12 rebounds to go with his nine points. The Pirates' downfall came in the paint, where they were outscored 32-33 and in support, as the bench managed to score just six points. The team has not been the same since leading scorer Jeremy Hazell underwent wrist surgery on Dec. 2nd. On Christmas night, Hazell was shot in a robbery attempt and his availability for the remainder of the year is in serious question. Theodore and Robinson continue to shine in Hazell's absence, as they each average around 12 ppg to pace the squad. Seton Hall's defense is currently holding teams to just 38.6 percent shooting on the year.