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In college basketball, separation anxiety -- particularly in Big East

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Cheers and Jeers,Sports,College,Craig Stouffer

Anyone just turning to college basketball now that the NFL season has ended is no further behind in figuring out what March Madness has in store than those who have been devoted to the sport since November.

Things are wide open, starting with an AP Top 25 poll that has a new No. 1 for a fifth straight week -- the first time that has happened since 2008-09. It's not easy to separate seven teams with two losses apiece. Among major conference leaders, only Florida in the SEC and Miami in the ACC remain undefeated in league play. Four teams each in the Big Ten and Pac-12 are within a game of the conference lead.

The Big East is the most knotted of all, having finished the weekend with eight of 15 teams boasting at least six conference victories.

Georgetown (16-4, 6-3), which had opened 0-2 in Big East play for the first time under coach John Thompson III, has won six of seven to pull within a game of Syracuse (19-3, 7-2), which beat Notre Dame (18-5, 6-4) on Monday night.

The Hoyas also re-entered the rankings after a two-week absence at No. 20, ahead of the teams responsible for their slow start, No. 23 Pittsburgh (18-5, 6-4 entering Monday) and 24th-ranked Marquette (15-5, 6-2).

If there's one probable outcome, it's that either Syracuse or Duke likely will emerge as the top seed in the East Region, which would bring one of them through Washington for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight if it survives the first weekend of the NCAA tournament.

- Craig Stouffer

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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