The most crowded bandwagon in the Big East the last two seasons has been the one carrying the critics of Dwayne (Pearl) Washington.
When his sophomore year wasn't one headlong drive to the hoop, people wondered if he was really that good. And this season, when he averaged 11 points through the first 14 games, those who wanted The Pearl were seeing too much Dwayne.
But when 13th-ranked Georgetown visits ninth-ranked Syracuse at 2:30 Sunday afternoon before more than 30,000, a national television audience should find out that Washington has reestablished himself as a possible all-America.
In the 10 games since Georgetown beat Syracuse at Capital Centre Jan. 15, Washington has averaged 20.8 points per game. And in the last five, with all-Big East teammate Rafael Addison and 6-foot-11 center Rony Seikaly injured, Washington has averaged 28 points.
"The Pearl has had an unbelievable run," Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim said. "He's also averaged about six assists and shot nearly 60 percent."
Syracuse (21-3, 12-1 in the Big East) is expecting both Addison, who badly sprained his ankle Feb. 5, and Seikaly, who aggravated an injured lower back, also Feb. 5, to play effectively Sunday.
With Addison's preinjury average of 18 points a game down to seven over the last five games, Washington has played as if Big East arenas are no more than the playgrounds back home in New York City.
Against Seton Hall and Notre Dame -- the only loss among the last five games -- he scored 28 points. A few nights later, against Villanova, Washington had 33 points (tying a career high) and seven assists.
Washington's formula has been simple: drive to the basket and shoot. Nobody has been able to stop him.
"Hopefully, he Washington won't have to do that much against Georgetown," Boeheim said. "Addison should be back to nearly 100 percent. We haven't been that good a team the last five games. We persevered and won four out of five, but we're looking to get better down the stretch."
So is Georgetown (20-5, 9-4), which needs a victory to avoid losing three straight in the conference.
In the Hoyas' 73-70 victory over the Orangemen Jan. 15, Georgetown desperately needed a strong performance from its frontcourt players and got one. Since then, similar performances have been unpredictable.
"You're not going to win the real wars unless you have that consistent play inside," Georgetown Coach John Thompson said.
Consider this one of the real wars.
"We still need a lot of improvement inside, offensively and defensively," Thompson said. "The major, major question is whether we can do it inside with consistency. We've had some good performances, but at times we've faded a bit."
Thompson wasn't referring to senior center Ralph Dalton, who has played beyond expectations most of the season, but to his trio of youngsters -- 6-10 sophomore Grady Mateen, 6-8 sophomore Ronnie Highsmith and 6-8 freshman Johnathan Edwards.
"We've gotten one of them on one night, another on the next night in some cases," Thompson said. "That's not bad, if we can get one every night. But one of them has to show up consistently. They've been working really hard though. It's just important now to find a level of consistent play."
Back in January, it was primarily Addison and Seikaly who were leading Syracuse. Now, it's Washington and 6-9 senior forward Wendell Alexis who have kept the Orangemen at the top of the league.
Alexis leads the team in scoring with a 16-point average. In addition to shooting 57 percent from the field, he averages 7.4 rebounds.