MORGANTOWN -As far as regular season college basketball games go, it simply doesn't get much bigger than the one that will take place at 7 p.m. today at the Coliseum.
The home team, No. 6 West Virginia, will be going for its 20th win as the No. 6 Mountaineers enter the game with a 19-3 overall mark and an 8-2 record in the Big East Conference.
The visiting team, No. 2 Villanova, already has 20 wins -the Wildcats are 20-2 and along with Syracuse are the only Big East teams with one conference loss.
West Virginia's Da'Sean Butler, left, celebrates with teammates after the Mountaineers defeated St. John's, 79-60. The Mountaineers will face No. 2 Villanova tonight.
That loss came on Saturday when the Wildcats were drubbed at Georgetown, 103-90.
While Washington, D.C. -the site of the game -was getting buried, so was Villanova. The Wildcats not only saw their 11-game winning streak and undefeated Big East mark come to an end, but what looked like the best team in the Big East showed some vulnerability, falling behind 50-31 at halftime and never getting any closer than 10 points in the second half.
Meanwhile, playing at the same time on Saturday in Jamaica, New York, West Virginia also played a miserable first half. After 20 minutes of play at Carnesecca Arena, WVU trailed upstart St. John's, 33-22. Unlike Villanova, West Virginia not only mounted a second-half comeback, but it may have played its best 20 minutes of basketball of the season, outscoring its host 57-27 en route to a 79-60 win.
A win that sets up tonight's nationally-televised showdown that ESPN appropriately is promoting as Big Monday. It is indeed a big Monday for both teams. For West Virginia, it's a chance to keep alive its hope of winning the regular-season Big East title, not to mention making its case for a No. 1 seed in one of the NCAA's four regionals next month. For Villanova, it's chance to avoid its first losing streak of the season and to virtually eliminate one of its prime opponents for the Big East title.
Villanova is led by a pair of veteran guards in senior Scottie Reynolds, the team's leading scorer at 18.7 points per game, and junior Corey Fisher, who carries a 13.7 average. Junior forward Antonio Pena is the Wildcats other double-digit scorer, averaging 11 points per game. The team's other starters are junior guard Corey Stokes (9.1) and 6-11 freshman center Maurice Sutton (2.1).
West Virginia will counter with a lineup that includes four double-digit scorers -Da'Sean Butler (17.3), Kevin Jones (14.2), Devin Ebanks (11.1) and Darryl 'Truck' Bryant (10.3). The Mountaineers' other starter is Wellington Smith (6.0). Deniz Kilicki, who will be playing his third game as a member of the WVU roster, will see significant playing time.
While the show on the court will be more than worth the price of admission - the game has been sold out for some time -there will be another show taking place during the game.
It will occur in West Virginia's student section, which has been the subject of a national debate over its rowdy behavior at recent games. In addition to obscenities being hurled at the opposition, the student section also has been blamed for throwing objects onto the court.
There are rumors that the students attending Monday's game not only will be on their best behavior, but that the male students may be adorned in tuxedos and the female students in cocktail gowns.