City 6 Weekly Awards: La Salle atop Philly power rankings

City 6 Weekly Awards: La Salle atop Philly power rankings
January 28, 2013, 3:15 pm
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So you know how in the last City 6 awards column we said that it was looking like a real possibility that no Philly teams would make the NCAA tournament this year?

Yeah, um, never mind.

Since then, this city has enjoyed one of the greatest weeks in its illustrious college basketball history, with La Salle and Villanova both beating two nationally ranked teams, Drexel winning on an insane buzzer-beater, and Saint Joseph’s earning a signature victory of its own.

If you missed any of it, you can get caught up right here with our weekly awards and power rankings.

Player of the week
Until the final minute of La Salle’s game against No. 9 Butler on Wednesday, Ramon Galloway was struggling to find his shot. But the senior guard showed no fear when he drove to the basket for the game-winning layup to send the Explorers to their first win over a top 10 team since 1980.

How did Galloway follow that up? With an even better performance to lead La Salle to perhaps an even better win.

In a brutally tough road environment against No. 19 VCU, Galloway scored 31 points and helped ice the 69-61 Explorers victory from the free throw line by making nine of 10 foul shots. He also committed just two turnovers against a VCU team that leads the nation in steals.

Game of the week
How do you pick between La Salle’s massive wins over Butler and VCU and Villanova’s back-to-back upsets over two top five teams?

We’ll go with the ’Nova’s 75-71 overtime victory over No. 3 Syracuse at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday because of how the Wildcats proved their win over No. 5 Louisville four days earlier wasn’t a fluke and that they may just be a national contender this season.

The win over Syracuse also featured one of the best plays of the season as senior Mouphtaou Yarou collected an offensive rebound and dished it out to freshman Ryan Arcidiacono, who drilled a game-tying three-pointer with 2.2. seconds left in regulation.

From there, James Bell made some huge plays in overtime to set off the second court-storming at the Wells Fargo Center in the span of a week.

Play of the week
Arcidiacono’s clutch three-pointer would have been the play of the week, if not for an unbelievable game-winning basket from Drexel’s Frantz Massenat on Wednesday at Hostra.

With the game tied in the final seconds, the junior point guard got trapped in the backcourt and briefly lost the ball, before he managed to split two defenders and heave up a shot from beyond halfcourt.

The ball swished through the net, sent Drexel to a thrilling 55-52 victory and made SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays. The shot has more than 20,000 views on YouTube.

Quote of the week
“If you think we're surprised, you're nuts! You know nothing about our program and our players if you think we're surprised about winning against a good team.” – La Salle head coach John Giannini after the Explorers’ win over VCU.

Stat of the week
Take your pick between La Salle beating two nationally ranked teams consecutively for the first time since the 1952 NIT or Villanova beating two straight top five teams for the first time since the 1985 Final Four (and the first time ever in the regular season).

Games to watch this week
It will be interesting to see how La Salle and Villanova respond to being in the national spotlight. It doesn’t get much easier for ’Nova, which takes on another nationally ranked team in Notre Dame on the road Wednesday before hosting Providence on Sunday. La Salle has a couple of tough games as well, facing UMass at home Wednesday and George Washington on the road Saturday.

In other big games this week, Drexel tries to win its fourth straight when it hosts rival Delaware tonight, Penn plays its first two Ivy League home games Friday (against Columbia) and Saturday (against Cornell), and Temple and St. Joe’s square off in a Big 5 and Atlantic 10 showdown at Hagan Arena on Saturday.

Power rankings
1. La Salle (14-5): The Explorers are an easy choice to top the city’s rankings, in part due to their head-to-head win over Villanova earlier in the season and because they’ve been playing better than ’Nova for most of the season. More importantly, La Salle suddenly finds itself in prime position to make its first NCAA tournament since 1992. Can you feel the excitement on Olney Street?

2. Villanova (13-7): The Wildcats’ week was even more surprising than La Salle’s because they entered the week having lost three consecutive games. But they somehow were able to knock off two straight national championship contenders, on the strength of a talented young core that’s growing up in a hurry. It looks like Jay Wright will soon have his team back to elite status, if he hasn’t already.

3. Temple (13-6): For much of the season, it looked like the Owls would be the best hope to represent the city in the NCAA tournament. But Fran Dunphy’s squad hasn’t been overly impressive recently, struggling to beat undermanned Penn on Wednesday before losing at Butler on Saturday. The Owls face Richmond on Wednesday and then have a great test against an evenly matched St. Joe’s team Saturday.

4. Saint Joseph's (11-7): The Hawks fell behind by a ton in an ugly home loss to St. Bonaventure on Wednesday but responded with an impressive win over Atlantic 10 stalwart Xavier on Saturday to stay in the conference picture. With Halil Kanacevic back and playing well, St. Joe’s certainly has the potential to go on a run here, starting with a road game vs. bottom-feeder Fordham on Wednesday.

5. Drexel (8-11): For the first time this season, the Dragons have been able to put a little winning streak together, having won three straight. But this week will be a difficult one as they face Delaware tonight before tough CAA road tilts against George Mason (Thursday) and Northeastern (Saturday). If the Dragons want any chance of catching first-place Northeastern (which still hasn’t lost in league play) and earn the top seed in the CAA tournament, they’ll need to keep the winning streak alive.

6. Penn (3-15): The Quakers were the only team in the city not to win during the historic week but they still played one of their best games of the season in a 76-69 loss at Temple. If leading scorer and rebounder Fran Dougherty (mononucleosis) can return this weekend as expected and mesh well with emerging star freshman center Darien Nelson-Henry, Penn has a good enough frontcourt to win a bunch of games in the Ivy League.

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