We’re a couple weeks into the college basketball season, and we’ve admittedly been slacking when it comes to shining a light on our area teams. I actually meant to write something up while watching Temple start their season against North Carolina, but that happened to occur on the same night as the horrible events that took place in Paris, so I got sucked into that and didn’t really care much about writing about sports at that point. What I’m hoping to do here is write up a periodical check-in on the Philly 6 teams and Penn State to update how they are doing throughout the season.
Season thus far: The Owls are not off to the best start this year, and that is partially attributable to their typically tough schedule. Temple currently sits at 3-4, with losses to three ranked teams (#3 North Carolina, #18 Butler, and #25 Utah) and Wisconsin, who will probably be ranked at some point this season. Their resume so far is not too impressive, beating Minnesota, Delaware, and Fairleigh Dickinson. Their remaining non-conference schedule includes a couple Big 5 games at Penn and at home versus St. Joe’s before finishing what should be a home squashing of currently winless Delaware State.
Players: Temple has been led by senior guard Quenton DeCosey, who leads the Owls in scoring (13.7 ppg), field goal % (.471), and 3-point shooting % (.455). Senior forward and Philly native Jaylen Bond is the primary force down low, leading the team in rebounding (7.4 rpg) and supplementing DeCosey with 11.3 points a game. They have received help from senior guard Devin Coleman (10.3 ppg, a team-leading .941 free throw shooting %) and freshman guards Trey Lowe (7.4 ppg) and Levan Alston (5.9 ppg). Junior guard Josh Brown leads the team with 4.4 assists per game, but is struggling mightily shooting from the field (.313).
Postseason outlook: Temple had their opportunities to make their case for the NCAA Tournament with some high-profile wins versus ranked opponents, but did not capitalize. At this point, they need to make a strong showing in the American Athletic Conference in order to turn this season around.
Season thus far: Penn started the season off with a 3-0 record before getting trounced in their highest profile game to date, a 104-67 loss to Washington out of the Pac-12. They bounced back with a Big 5 win over LaSalle and currently sit at 4-4. They have an upcoming run of local games (home against Temple and Ursinus, then on the road against Drexel and #9 Villanova) before taking on Binghamton.
Players: First off, the Quakers can’t help but be hurt by the departure of guard Tony Hicks, a 1,000 point scorer who led Penn in scoring the past two seasons. He has decided to take a break from basketball and may return elsewhere with his final year of eligibility after graduating from Penn. As far as the players who are here, the Quakers are led by 6’11” senior center Darien Nelson-Henry, who leads the team in scoring (15.0 ppg) and rebounding (8.5 rpg) while shooting .590 from the field and .848 from the free-throw line. Sophomore forward Sam Jones is second on the team at scoring at 13.1 points per game while sophomore guard Antonio Woods is chipping in with 10.6 point per game and a team-leading 3 assists per game.
Postseason outlook: Let’s be honest here, this is the Ivy League. If the Quakers want to sniff the NCAA Tournament, they will have to win their conference.
Season thus far: Simply put, Drexel’s season has been really rough so far. They lost their first six games of the season before finally picking up their first win over LaSalle. At 1-6, they need to finish their non-conference schedule (at South Carolina, home against Penn State and Penn, at Iona) strong before moving into Colonial Athletic Association play.
Players: It seems like the problem with Bruiser Flint’s Dragons is that they can’t shoot. Here are their top scorers with their accompanying field goal percentages: Tavon Allen (15.1 ppg, .364 FG%), Rashann London (12.0 ppg, .425 FG%), Terrell Allen (11.3 ppg, .446 FG%), Sammy Mojica (9.1 ppg, .344 FG%) and Ahmad Fields (9.0 ppg, .375 FG%).
Postseason outlook: Much like the Quakers in the Ivy League, the CAA is typically a one-bid conference. When you consider how poorly Drexel has started, they’re going to have to win their league to make the Big Dance.
Season thus far: LaSalle has accumulated a modest 4-3 record so far, playing a regional schedule that includes wins over Towson, Rider, Lafayette, and Rowan, with losses to Penn, Hofstra, and Drexel. Things will get a little tougher with a road trip to #9 Villanova and a home tilt against #17 Miami before ending their non-conference schedule at Florida Gulf Coast University.
Players: LaSalle’s season has been The Jordan Price Show. The junior guard is making a big name for himself, scoring 25.9 points a game, pulling down 4.9 boards a game, and dishing out 2.7 assists a game. Price is also shooting .530 from the field, .711 from the line, and .500 from the 3-point arc. Helping share the load is junior guard Cleon Roberts (12.9 ppg), sophomore guard Johnnie Shuler (10.4 ppg), and sophomore forward Tony Washington (8.2 ppg, team-leading 6.6 rebounds a game). Rohan Brown (5.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg) provides a strong defensive presence and senior leadership.
Postseason outlook: The Atlantic-10 is probably a three or four bid league. I would imagine that LaSalle, picked as a middle-of-the-pack A-10 team, will need to surprise in conference play and then make a deep run in the conference tournament to get consideration for the NCAA Tournament.
Season thus far: The Hawks are off to a promising 5-2 start, the only issue is that their two losses have come when they stepped up in weight class. They dropped a neutral-site game against Florida before losing their annual Holy War battle against Villanova at home. St. Joe’s wins have come against Drexel, Niagara, Buffalo, Old Dominion, and Columbia. They can continue to build their resume in non-conference play with upcoming games against Princeton, Temple, Illinois State, Virginia Tech, and Maryland-Eastern Shore before starting A-10 play.
Players: Junior forward DeAndre Bembry (14.1 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 4.6 assists per game, 1.3 steals per game, 1.6 blocks per game) is a jack-of-all-trades type who was a preseason all-conference pick. That being said, the emergence of senior forward Isaiah Miles has been a revelation. Miles leads the team in scoring (16.3 ppg), rebounding (7.0 rpg), and blocks (2.0 bpg), all while shooting .544 from the field, .850 from the line, and .355 from behind the arc. Senior guard Aaron Brown is chipping in with 12.0 points and 3.6 boards per game, while providing solid shooting as well. Sophomores James Demery (10.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg) and Shavar Newkirk (8.0 ppg, 3.4 apg) provide additional help.
Postseason outlook: Much like their Atlantic-10 and city rival LaSalle, St. Joe’s will probably need to make a strong regular-season conference and conference tournament run in order to get an NCAA Tournament invite.
Season thus far: The ninth-ranked Wildcats were rolling along with a 7-0 record until last night, where they were soundly beaten by #6 Oklahoma in a game played at Pearl Harbor. This game was a good measuring stick to see where Villanova stood among the game’s elite teams, the result was pretty discouraging. The remaining non-conference schedule includes what should be three gimmes when Nova hosts LaSalle, Delaware, and Penn. In between the LaSalle and Delaware games, Villanova will get a shot at redemption when they travel to tenth-ranked Virginia.
Players: The Cats are led by senior guard Ryan Arcidiacono (12.1 ppg, team-leading 3.8 apg) and senior forward Daniel Ochefu (9.3 ppg, team-leading 8.0 rpg and 2.0 bpg). Their leading scorer is junior guard Josh Hart (14.6 ppg, 7.3 rpg). Freshman guard Jalen Brunson (10.5 ppg, 3.4 apg) was a Top 25 recruit that I expect to improve as the season moves along. The biggest concern for me statistically with this team is their lack of 3-point shooting, which is a bit worrisome for a traditionally guard-dominant team like Villanova. Only Arcidiacono (.385) is shooting better than 35% from beyond the arc.
Postseason outlook: If I had to guess, Villanova will be the only area team that makes the NCAA Tournament this season. Hopefully, Temple, LaSalle, and St. Joe’s can pull it together and surprise me. Villanova was picked by many to win the Big East this season, and even if they fall to Virginia, they’ll have plenty of opportunities to pad their resume against a Big East conference schedule featuring ranked teams like #12 Xavier, #15 Providence, and #18 Butler, as well as traditionally tough opponents like Georgetown and Marquette.
Like I said, I’ll throw Penn State in here as well due to their large alumni base in the Delaware Valley.
Season thus far: The Nittany Lions have amassed a decent record (5-2) so far, but have done so against a non-conference schedule that can hardly be considered impressive. They have notched wins against the likes of VMI, DePaul, Bucknell, Boston College and Eastern Michigan, while dropping games to Duquesne and Radford. As I write this, they are playing at George Washington, a respectable Atlantic-10 squad. They finish up their non-conference schedule at home against Canisius and Louisiana-Monroe before playing what will essentially be a road game at the Palestra against Drexel and a neutral site game in Las Vegas against Colorado.
Players: The Lions are led in scoring and rebounding by senior forward Brandon Taylor (16.0 ppg, 6.4 rpg), and are led in assists by Chester native and Roman Catholic product Shep Garner (15.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.3 apg, 2.1 steals per game). Both Taylor (.438) and Garner (.467) are shooting the lights out from beyond the 3-point stripe, and it’s a good thing, because they are the only ones having great success doing so. Sophomore forward Payton Banks is chipping in with 11.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. Freshman guard and Top 100 recruit Josh Reaves has contributed 6.0 points and 3.0 rebounds per game, but has been an absolute horror show from 3-point land (.067). Unfortunately, fellow Top 100 recruit Mike Watkins was ruled ineligible for the season by the NCAA, so I would assume he’s redshirting this season while getting his academic affairs in order.
Postseason outlook: Well, Penn State may not have played the toughest non-conference schedule, but they’ll have plenty of opportunities to make up for that once conference play starts. The Big Ten is right up there with the ACC as far as the argument for the premier basketball conference in the country goes. The Big Ten boasts three Top 25 programs (#1 Michigan State, #6 Maryland, and #11 Purdue) with Iowa, Indiana, and Northwestern also receiving votes. And that list doesn’t even include Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio State, who are always tough. How do I think Penn State will fare in conference play? To quote Mr. T in Rocky III, my prediction…PAIN!