Major League Baseball uses the term “Hot Stove League,” to describe its action-packed offseason. For No. 12 Georgetown (13-3, 4-2), it’s in the midst of its own hot stove league and there’s no end in sight.

Three days removed from a tough road loss in Philadelphia to No. 4 Villanova, in which the two teams amassed 52 combined personal fouls, the Hoyas must lick their wounds and travel to the western part of Pennsylvania to take on No. 9 Pittsburgh (15-2, 5-0). The Hoyas are one game into a two-week, five-game swing during which they play four teams in the national top 10.

“It’s the Big East and every night’s going to be just like that,” Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III said after Sunday’s loss to Villanova.

The Panthers, tabbed ninth in the Big East in its preseason coaches’ poll, have burst onto the scene, taking what some thought would be a rebuilding team into the ninth-ranked team in the nation.

Pittsburgh dropped a November matchup to No. 3 Texas and then lost in an uninspired 74-64 effort to Indiana in the nightcap of the Jimmy V Classic in December. Since that game, the Panthers are possibly the second-hottest team in the nation behind Kentucky, riding an eight-game winning streak heading into Wednesday night.

\”I know other people may look at us differently and where we’re picked,\” said Head Coach Jamie Dixon after his team cracked the Top 25 earlier this month. \”But I believe any team that commits to one another and commits to playing together can be as good as they want to be.\”

The Panthers are led by sophomore guard Ashton Gibbs, who has emerged as the Panther’s leading scorer one year after seeing just 10 minutes per game on an Elite Eight team. Gibbs is averaging 17.5 points per game on 42.5 percent shooting from the floor.

He’s backed up by junior Brad Wanamaker, a rangy 6-foot-4 guard, who, like the Hoyas’ Austin Freeman, has the size to go inside and grab rebounds in the paint, but the quickness and skill to handle the ball along the perimeter. Wanamaker is second on the team in scoring, averaging 13.5 points per game, and third in rebounds with 6.2 per game. Wanamaker, who suffered a bloody nose during a physical win over Louisville on Saturday, has also gained a penchant for a physical style of play.

\”People say I throw my body around,\” Wanamaker said after Saturday’s win. \”Sometimes I use it to my advantage, sometimes I get out of control. Once I settle down, I make plays.\”

Pittsburgh will only be the beginning for the Hoyas in their January gauntlet. A Saturday home date against Rutgers and the talented Mike Rosario leads into Monday’s trip to the Carrier Dome against No. 5 Syracuse to form a rough Saturday-Monday swing. Then comes the anticipated mid-season non-conference game against No. 6 Duke on Jan. 30 at Verizon Center.

All in all this makes for a two-week stretch that is more challenging than most, and it rivals the NCAA tournament with its level of competition in such a short span. The Hoyas are in the hot stove now and the question is whether they can get out of it before it gets too hot.

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