CSN anchor/reporter Amy Fadool and producer Sean Kane get you set for all of the weekend's local college basketball games with Fastbreak Friday. Look for this column every Friday during the college basketball season.
Saint Joseph's (3-3) at #2 Villanova (7-0), Saturday 1:00 pm
SK: Villanova has been very impressive in the early stages of the season. The defending national champions are a perfect 7-0, winning their games by an average of nearly 18 points. The senior duo of Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins is leading the way - combining for 31 points per game.
Following Villanova's 25-point win at Penn on Tuesday, Jay Wright referred to Hart and Jenkins as 'special guys'. There's no doubting how special their accomplishments have been to this point. Everyone remembers the Wildcats' national championship run last spring, during which Hart and Jenkins played central roles. But the numbers run deeper than that. The Villanova seniors have amassed a 104-13 career record, winning 89 percent of their games.
Hart, Jenkins and fellow senior Darryl Reynolds have never lost a Big 5 game and have never lost a game at the Pavilion. Those are remarkable accomplishments, and ones that spell trouble for St. Joe's given that Saturday's 'Holy War' is both a Big 5 game and at the Pavilion.
Phil Martelli's team has dropped three straight after starting the season 3-0. To be fair, those losses were to three quality opponents in Ole Miss, NC State and Temple. The Hawks' backcourt duo of Shavar Newkirk and Lamarr Kimble has proven capable of filling out the boxscore. Newkirk is averaging 35.3 minutes, 21.8 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists on the young season, while Kimble has been good for 36.0 minutes, 14.3 points, 4.5 assists and 4.2 rebounds.
The Hawks' backcourt will be tested against Villanova's defensive pressure, which is relentless both in the halfcourt and in their vaunted three-quarter court press. St. Joe's has struggled against their archrival in recent years. The Hawks haven't beaten Villanova since 2011, losing the last four meetings by an average of 19 points.
This will be another win for Villanova, who could once again be without Phil Booth. The junior guard has missed the last four games with left knee tendonitis (it's the same knee Booth had arthroscopic surgery on in the offseason). Wright is on the record saying the injury isn't serious and Booth is listed as questionable for Saturday's game. The Wildcats have managed to survive without Booth, but they're going to need him to accomplish their goals later in the season.
Without Booth, Wright has been going with a 7-man rotation featuring Jalen Brunson as the primary ballhandler. Brunson is more than capable, but Booth's presence relieves a lot of pressure and responsibility from his shoulders.
Villanova 81, St. Joseph's 65
Penn (2-3) at Temple (5-2), Saturday 4:00 pm
AF: Both of these teams are coming off Big 5 games, though only one earned a win in the city's annual series. The Quakers welcomed the defending national champs to the Palestra Tuesday, and Villanova marched out of the historic building with a dominant 25-point win. Penn only saw three players post double figures, which is not going to win you many games against that level of talent.
Jackson Donahue, though, is showing why he is an early favorite for team MVP. In 23 minutes of work against Nova, Donahue scored 12 points on 4-11 shooting. The problem? Check that line: all 11 of his shots, and all four of his makes were from three-point territory. Talk about borrowing a motto from Jay Wright, shoot 'em up or sleep in the streets. Coach Steve Donahue probably appreciates Jackson Donahue's shooting stroke (no relation - which I know we've told you before), but I'm guessing he's going to want his guard to vary his shot selection just a bit.
Temple meanwhile is coming off quite the run of games. The Owls earned two wins over top 25 ranked teams to claim the NIT Season Tip-Off. Then they followed it up by beating rival Saint Joseph's on Wednesday night. Obi Enechionyia is the main man for Fran Dunphy. He's doing everything for the Owls, averaging 21 points and 8.4 rebounds a game in 36 minutes of play. He was the leading returning scorer and the junior forward is picking up where he left off.
The big plus for big Obi is that at his size, he's more than just a viable three-point threat, he's an actual sniper from beyond the arc. Enechionyia shoots better than 50 percent from the field, and nearly 55 percent from three, and it's not like he's only taken a handful of shots from that range. Obi leads Temple with 24 makes on 44 triples attempted. You can't underestimate the versatility of having a 6-10 forward be that accurate from long range.
If you ask Fran Dunphy, this is always a hard game for him, given his success at and affinity for Penn. But that doesn't mean he doesn't want the win just as much. The Owls start 3-0 in the Big 5.
Temple 77, Penn 68
Bucknell (6-2) at La Salle (3-2), Saturday 2:00 pm
SK: La Salle completes a Patriot League double-dip with a Saturday afternoon visit from Bucknell. The Explorers beat a very good Lehigh team earlier this week and they'll face another stiff challenge from Bucknell. The Bison's only losses this season are at Wake Forest and at No. 18 Butler.
The city isn't lacking for dynamic duos with Villanova's Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins as well as St. Joe's Shavar Newkirk and Lamarr Kimble. You can officially add La Salle's Jordan Price and B.J. Johnson to that list. Price and Johnson were terrific against Lehigh on Wednesday, combining for 48 points in a 89-81 win.
Price was a one-man show at times last season but help has officially arrived in the form of Johnson. The Syracuse transfer has paid immediate dividends, averaging 18 points and 5 rebounds in the Explorers' first five games. Johnson is shooting 52 percent from the field, 48 percent from three-point range and 90 percent from the foul line.
La Salle will need another big effort from Price and Johnson to beat Bucknell. The Bison are led by versatile junior forward Zach Thomas, who has been good for 17.1 points and 6.1 rebounds while shooting nearly 46 percent from long range. Bucknell is well coached and always plays hard.
It will take a 'A-plus' outing from La Salle to win this game, and I think the Explorers deliver.
La Salle 75, Bucknell 70
Drexel (3-4) at High Point (4-3), Saturday 7:00 pm
AF: The Dragons have righted the ship a bit to start their season, winning three of their last five. Drexel picked up a four-point road win at Lafayette earlier this week. Zach Spiker's team found themselves down 14 points at the break in Easton, Pa., scoring only 24 points in the first half. But the Dragons stormed back, more than doubling that output in the second half and shooting over 58 percent with 50 points in the 74-70 win. Not getting off to a slow start is something I'm sure Spiker is drilling into his team, especially on the road as they are again this weekend.
Kurk Lee leads the way for the Dragons at 16 points a game and dishing out four assists per contest. Sammy Mojica is his usual stat-stuffing self, but I'm waiting for him to really hit his scoring stride and get over the 12 points a game threshold. Another player I'm waiting to find his stroke is Miles Overton. It's been a learning process for the transfer, but I think it will come.
High Point is not a high scoring team but they have a good scorer in Andre Fox. The sophomore averages just over 17 points a game, and can shoot the three with some reliability. I think these two teams actually match up quite well. They both have pretty good defenses, a few consistent scorers and slow starts to games.
The one thing that Drexel holds over High Point is the veterans. There are more junior and senior contributors on the Dragons roster, but playing under a new head coach, it sometimes doesn't feel like they are veteran college players. Spiker's team is still learning to play under him and his style, I think this could be a chance for a big road win for this team.
Drexel 71, High Point 69
Amy Fadool: 4-1
Sean Kane: 3-3