NEW YORK -- Villanova, Syracuse and West Virginia have all made their marks this season.
These three teams are clearly contenders for the Big East title. Winning elite tournaments in the month of November was a sure sign that none of them is going away anytime soon.
Now it's No. 13 Georgetown's turn.
If the Hoyas beat No. 20 Butler Tuesday night in the Jimmy V Classic (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET) at Madison Square Garden and then go to Anaheim and defeat No. 16 Washington in the Wooden Classic on Saturday, it would be an indication of Georgetown's ability to be a part of the same conversation.
Connecticut could also enter the discussion if it can knock off Kentucky Wednesday night (ESPN, 9:30 p.m. ET) in the SEC-Big East Invitational at MSG, but anything short of that would likely put the Huskies in second-tier status without a headline win so far this season.
This isn't meant to dismiss Cincinnati's chances to challenge for the title after beating Vanderbilt and Maryland and losing to Gonzaga in the Maui Invitational. Or to totally dismiss undefeated Seton Hall or one-loss Notre Dame with perhaps the conference MVP in Luke Harangody. But it's not a reach to say the title will likely come down to Syracuse, Villanova, West Virginia and then possibly the Hoyas or Huskies.
So, for now, it's up to the Hoyas to prove they belong with the elite in what is turning out to be the best conference yet again.
"This will be good for our team, regardless of how things go to get ready for the conference," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. "This will get us ready for the conference with a league type of week. In the Big East, no matter who you play on a Tuesday you're going to play a tough game on the weekend. We want our guys to go through those emotions this week."
Butler and Washington will present two different challenges for the Hoyas. The Bulldogs defend extremely well, run their system fundamentally, and can shoot from mostly all five spots. Washington will want to push the ball, exploit its speed on the perimeter, and get the game in a high-scoring mode.
That's indicative of the Big East, as well, with two different styles on two different courts in the same week.
Georgetown has actually hit the road this season, but wins at Tulane and Savannah State don’t exactly give a true read on the Hoyas yet. And beating Temple by one (46-45), in a game that went down to the final possession in D.C., also doesn’t give a true indication whether the Hoyas are ready for prime time.
Sophomore center Greg Monroe has been solid as expected with nearly 14 points and 10 boards a game. The play of guards Chris Wright and Austin Freeman hasn't disappointed either with both players in double figures scoring. The stunner though has been how consistent Jason Clark has been through the first six games, averaging a dozen points, five rebounds and three assists.
"I don't think anyone outside of our program expected this," Thompson III said. "We did because we saw what he could do at both ends of the court. He doesn't get tired and he goes 100 miles an hour on both ends of the floor."
Georgetown goes big the rest of the rotation with Julian Vaughn, Hollis Thompson and Henry Sims rotating, something that could cause Butler problems -- especially with Matt Howard having foul issues throughout November.
To Howard's credit, he finally shed the foul-prone label in the last two games by committing just one in a win at Ball State and three in a win over Valparaiso, after fouling out of two games in the 76 Classic in Anaheim and picking up four in the fifth-place loss to Clemson. Prior to that, Howard had fouled out of games at Northwestern and Evansville. That's why he is only averaging 23.8 minutes a game this season, down four minutes from a year ago.
Butler has bigs like Avery Jukes and Garrett Butcher to complement Howard, but if he can't stay on the court against the Hoyas' big men then that will put even more pressure on the shooting of Gordon Hayward, Shelvin Mack, Willie Veasley and Ronald Nored.
Georgetown probably has had as little spotlight shone on it this season of any Big East contender, but that's because the games haven't been featured -- yet.
"I don't mind us not getting our pop," Thompson III said. "I don't mind us flying under the radar in November and December. It's all about getting better and if it happens then fine."
If you remember, a year ago Georgetown was a early-season story with a blowout win over rival Maryland in the Old Spice Classic and then a Big East-opening win at Connecticut. But it all went downhill with a flame-out in the league and an NIT berth.
"The good thing for us is that we're not cruising," Thompson III said. "We have a long way to go, a lot of room for improvement. We're pretty good now, but this week will be a big test."
Thompson III is hoping he can get 6-foot-7 freshman forward Jerrelle Benimon increased time again Tuesday night. A high-ankle sprain limited his minutes early in the season and kept him out of three games. He played 14 minutes in the win over American last Saturday and made 2 of 3 shots for four points.
"He's an active big body kid," Thompson III said. "He'll give us even more presence and he's strong and aggressive."
Thompson III wanted to be in the Jimmy V Classic because of the cancer research angle. His wife, Monica, is going on four years of being a breast cancer survivor. Thompson III said Monica is doing well.
"It didn't matter who we played," Thompson III said. "I was going to be in this. They do great work with cancer research."