As the Big East season reaches its midway point this weekend, there are three clearly defined tiers, starting at the top with Seton Hall and Villanova. Residing in the bottom tier in the company of DePaul and Xavier are Georgetown and St. John's. The Hoyas (12-9, 2-6 Big East) and Red Storm (13-9, 2-7) meet Sunday, and the winner will take a key step towards joining the middle of the conference pack with teams like Marquette, Creighton, Butler and Providence. The loser will face a long road back in the second half of conference play.

Georgetown reeled off six straight wins before conference play began, including wins at SMU and Oklahoma State and a home victory over Syracuse. But the Hoyas have struggled on the road in the Big East and will be up against a St. John's team looking to snap a two-game losing streak inside Madison Square Garden.

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Georgetown: The Hoyas have lost three straight games by single-digits, are 0-4 on the road in the Big East and are outside the NCAA Tournament in Jerry Palm's latest Bracketology. But in this college basketball season of insanity, all hope is not lost for Georgetown's chances of snapping a a four-year NCAA Tournament drought. The Hoyas are still 49th in the NET ranking, and they have plenty of chances ahead to add to their total of two Quadrant 1 victories. As for Quadrant 2 games, a road win at St. John's, would bring the Hoyas to a sturdy 5-2. Considering that Georgetown lost reigning Big East Freshman of The Year James Akinjo and three other role players early this season, coach Patrick Ewing has done a solid job of re-centering the team around sophomore guard Max McClung and redshirt junior 7-footer Omer Yurtseven. But a fourth straight loss would be a gloomy omen.

St. John's: The Red Storm is 3-6 in Quadrant 1 games, which is solid for a team picked to finish ninth out of 10 in the Big East. But after a non-conference slate that included wins over West Virginia and Arizona, the Red Storm have struggled in the top-heavy Big East. They have dropped four of their last five, including two straight in the prestigious confines of Madison Square Garden. But those two losses came against conference leaders Seton Hall and Villanova, and a game against Georgetown represents a great chance to reclaim the home court advantage. The Johnnies have a solid back court with Rasheem Dunn, Mustapha Heron and LJ Figueroa all averaging double figures. But they are struggling to get consistent production in the front court, where they are undersized and lacking in experience.   

Game prediction, pick 

Latest odds via SportsLine: St. John's -1.5 

St. John's needs a big defensive effort from forwards Josh Roberts and Marcellus Earlington if it is going to contain Yurtseven on the interior. If the Hoyas' 7-footer can work his size advantage, Georgetown should be safe. Pick: Georgetown +1.5

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