- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
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Saddle Up is our semi-daily preview of the night's best basketball action.
No. 9 Georgetown at No. 15 Notre Dame, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2: Two nights after Pittsburgh and Connecticut opened the Big East conference with a matchup of highly ranked, highly regarded teams, the Big East delivers yet again. Tonight's festivities include this game and, well, yeah. It's going to be a good one.
How do I know? Several reasons. The first is offense: Both Georgetown and Notre Dame excel at it. Thanks to their uncanny ability to put the ball in the basket from everywhere on the floor -- good for a 60.1 effective field goal percentage, the highest in the nation, in fact -- the Hoyas are the country's third best offensive team. This is remarkable, given how so-so the Hoyas are in other facets of offensive basketball. Georgetown turns the ball over a decent amount, doesn't get to the free throw line much, and isn't particularly tough on the offensive boards. But none of those things matter. The Hoyas make shots, and when you make shots, you're going to score a lot of points. True story.
Notre Dame isn't quite as good as the Hoyas on the offensive end of the floor, but it's an efficient scoring machine in its own right. The Irish like to slow the game down, take care of the ball, get good looks for Tim Abromaitis and Ben Hansbrough, and hope those looks turn into made buckets or free throws. That's usually the case, as both players shoot the ball well from the field and the line. This isn't the most entertaining way to score, but it's very effective. Gone are the days of Luke Harangody's high usage rates and bombs-away style. This Irish team likes to take its time.
Combine those offenses with a pair of so-so defenses, throw in Georgetown's well-deserved reputation as a nonconference road warrior, add a dash of innate Joyce Center madness, and you've got what should be a close, hard-fought Big East matchup with plenty of scoring to go around. Get the couch groove ready, kids, because it's time to settle in.
Everywhere else: Marquette's last best chance to get a quality nonconference win comes at Vanderbilt tonight, where they'll face an underrated and thus far impressive Commodores team that's yet to lose a game in Nashville ... A game with Iowa is the perfect remedy for an ailing team, but a game at Iowa -- especially for a team coming off two confidence-shaking losses, as Illinois is -- feels a bit like a trap ... St. John's will travel to West Virginia in search of a big win to kick off league play ... In a rare road game (and one that barely counts as a road game, but still) Duke will play at SoCon doormat UNC Greensboro ... Kansas will tune up for the Big 12 vs. Texas-Arlington ... Wake Forest will travel to Richmond ... VCU and Wofford, two potential mid-major NCAA tourney teams, will meet in the Holiday on the Hardwood tournament ... Texas Tech will try to turn things around when New Mexico arrives in Lubbock this evening ... Creighton goes to Illinois State for a matchup of two eight-win Missouri Valley squads ... Missouri State will try to establish itself as a potential MVC contender with a win at Northern Iowa ... and Washington and Washington State begin their twin tours of L.A.; Washington plays at USC tonight and at UCLA Friday, while Washington State does the exact opposite.