City 6 Weekly Awards: Will anyone be dancing in March?

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City 6 Weekly Awards: Will anyone be dancing in March?

In each of the last 35 seasons, at least one of Philadelphias six Division I men's college basketball teams has made the NCAA tournament.

Could that streak get snapped this March?

After another week filled with losses, its looking more and more plausible that Philly could indeed get shut out of the Big Dance for the first time since 1977 which is a surprising possibility considering the big expectations coming into the season.

Lets recap the mostly disappointing week with our weekly awards and power rankings.

Player of the week
Saint Josephs sharpshooter Langston Galloway has been struggling with his shooting for part of the season.

Not this week.

In two games for the Hawks, Galloway shot a blistering 58 percent (11 for 20) from three-point rage and scored at least 20 points in both contests a loss to VCU on Thursday and a win over Penn on Saturday.

Galloway also brought down 12 rebounds, including nine against the Quakers, and seven assists on the week.

Game of the week
Galloways 22-point outing wasnt enough for St. Joes in a 92-86 midweek loss to VCU but the game was still the most thrilling one of the week, if not the year.

Despite being without a key player in Halil Kanacevic (who has missed three straight contests because of a death in his family), the undermanned Hawks were not overmatched against the nationally ranked Rams, who lead the nation in steals.

It looked like St. Joes would be able to pull off the signature win when it held a very late four-point lead but collapsed in the final seconds and then ran out of gas in overtime. Still, the Hawks made a lot of big plays and adapted well to VCUs frenetic style in a tough road environment.

Play of the week
Local hoops fans certainly know that La Salle has a bunch of high-flyers on its team and now a lot more people know, too.

In a 72-70 home win over Dayton on Wednesday (see story), the Explorers finished four consecutive possessions with dunks, three of them coming from Ramon Galloway.

That was good enough to land a spot on that nights SportsCenter Top 10, which you can watch here.

Quote of the week
I think maybe youre overrating us. Yeah, I think so. Were not as good as people maybe think we are. Temple head coach Fran Dunphy, after an 81-78 home loss to St. Bonaventure on Saturday (see story).

Stat of the week
Both La Salle and St. Joes are averaging over seven three-pointers made per game. The Hawks are 45th in Division I in the category (7.8) and the Explorers rank 74th (7.3).

Games to watch this week
If you want to get a live look at some of the best teams in the nation this week, the Wells Fargo Center is the place to be as Louisville faces Villanova on Tuesday and Syracuse plays Nova there four days later.

Another nationally ranked program homes to town Wednesday as La Salle hosts Butler in what figures to be a very exciting Atlantic 10 matchup at Tom Gola Arena. Brad Stevens red-hot Bulldogs play another Philly team Saturday when they host Temple.

Speaking of Temple, the Owls will look to go 2-0 in the Big 5 on Wednesday when Fran Dunphy meets his old Penn team at the Liacouras Center.

Other big games this week include Xavier vs. St. Joes on Saturday and La Salle at VCU the same day. And lets not forget Fridays Big 5 Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Palestra, with former St. Joes star Marvin OConnor among the inductees being honored.

Power rankings
1. Saint Josephs (10-6): The Hawks definitely should have beaten VCU but a road loss against a nationally ranked team is still nothing to be ashamed about. And responding by routing a Penn team that rarely gets blown out was impressive, especially without Kanacevic. The Hawks have two home games this week (against St. Bonaventure on Wednesday and Xavier on Saturday) and need to win both to show they belong in the upper echelon of the Atlantic 10.

2. Temple (12-5): The Owls had a rough week, barely surviving a below-.500 George Washington team before losing to Saint Bonaventure at home for the first time ever. Dunphys claim that his team might be overrated could be true, but the fact that the Owls beat Syracuse and nearly beat Kansas shows the potential is there. We could learn a lot about this group when they head to historic Hinkle Field House to take on a Butler team that just knows how to win.

3. La Salle (12-5): The Explorers midweek win over a strong Dayton squad was a good one and their Saturday loss to a Xavier team that never loses at home is not a bad one. But to get on the NCAA tourney bubble, La Salle needs a signature victory. And this is the week to get one as it faces both of the Atlantic 10 newcomers-turned Atlantic 10 favorites in Butler and VCU.

4. Villanova (11-7): The Wildcats also had a rough week, allowing Pittsburgh to score the final 15 points in a 58-43 loss Wednesday (see story) and then dropping a 69-66 decision to Catholic Seven comrade Providence on Saturday. Now the Wildcats have three straight games against nationally ranked foes, traveling to Notre Dame on Jan. 30 following Louisville and Syracuses visits to the Wells Fargo Center this week.

5. Drexel (6-11): The Dragons played only one game this week and it was a success, as they beat William & Mary on the road to snap a three-game losing streak. Drexel, which is still battling injury problems, should be able to now go on a three-game winning streak. The Dragons take on Hofstra on the road on Wednesday and host Georgia State on Saturday both of which are relatively easy matchups.

6. Penn (3-14): After eight straight losses, the Quakers finally won the 1,700th game in program history by virtue of a 54-53 victory over New Jersey Institute of Technology on Thursday. Despite that win, however, the Quakers turned the ball over a season-high 26 times. And two days later, they shot a woeful 4 for 21 from three-point range in a 20-point loss to St. Joes. The Quakers play their final non-conference game and final game in the month of January against Temple on Wednesday.

Penn, Villanova back for more championships at Penn Relays

Penn, Villanova back for more championships at Penn Relays

Like many people who come from nearby high schools, Penn senior Chris Hatler has been running at the Penn Relays since he was 15. But his initial experience at the famed meet did not go exactly as planned

“The first relay ever, I fell in the first 100 meters,” he said, “and made a fool of myself.”

Such can be the dangers of overwhelmed teenagers competing at a competition that also features college and professional stars — a three-day track & field carnival that is the oldest and largest of its kind in the country.

But last year, Hatler became one of those college stars himself, helping Penn to a dramatic win in the 4xmile — the host school’s first win in that event since 1950 and its first championship in any of the meet’s marquee distance relays since 1974.

Now, with the 123rd running of the Penn Relays set to kick off in full Thursday — the same day that the NFL draft begins across town — Hatler is ready to add another wheel before graduating, along with fellow senior Nick Tuck.

“Last year was exciting to win the 4xmile, but I kinda felt like for the seniors last year, it was their win, it was their wheel,” said Hatler, who also helped the Quakers set a school record in last year’s distance medley relay. “I know Nick and I kinda have a little grudge here. We want our own wheel for ourselves our senior year. So we’re gonna come out and see what we can do.”

Although the USA vs. the World races Saturday to highlight the meet, the college relays are often the most exciting with wild sprints to the finish line occurring in front of packed Franklin Field crowds. Last year, in between Team USA races, then-senior Thomas Awad chased down two other runners in the 4xmile to give Penn the victory on national TV, before being mobbed by Hatler, Tuck and Keaton Naff. 

Hatler couldn’t quite see the track from where he was standing but had a feeling that Awad — one of the most accomplished athletes in Penn’s track & field history — would come through on the final lap of his Penn Relays career.

“You never bet against Tom at the end of the race,” said Hatler, who earlier this year cracked the 4-minute-mile barrier. “We kinda knew it was gonna happen.”

Few other people expected it because the host school hasn’t always been competitive in the college championships at Penn Relays. But another local school always is — Villanova.

And the Wildcats are glad to get some more competition from their Big 5 rival.

“It was thrilling for me to see it happen,” Villanova men’s track coach Marcus O’Sullivan said. “This is really the home school. We’re happy to be sharing the stress of Penn [Relays] every year with the real home school.”

As for his own team, O’Sullivan said the Wildcats are dealing with injuries so it may not be in top form for the men’s distance medley relay (Friday, 5:30 p.m.), men’s 4xmile (Saturday, 1:15 p.m.) and the men’s 4x800 (Saturday, 4:40 p.m.), the first two of which will be broadcast on NBC Sports.

But he touted the talent of redshirt freshman Logan Wetzel, among others, and seems ready to throw some youngsters into the fire.

“I always say Penn is a defining arena for kids to grow up,” said O’Sullivan, who ran the Penn Relays as a student at Villanova. “You really start to learn. You prepare a year for Penn. 

“My junior year, we were annihilated, lost everything, and it one of the most humiliating moments of my life because so much is expected of you and you drop the ball. I spent a whole year just waiting for Penn, just training for Penn. The year I made the Olympic team, I kid you not, running at Penn, winning at Penn, was way more important for me at that time of my life. That’s how big it is.”

Villanova women’s coach Gina Procaccio also ran the Penn Relays in college and has similar feelings about the significance of the meet. And she’s ready to lead her powerhouse teams to more championships in the women’s distance medley relay (Thursday, 5:30 p.m.), the women’s 4x1500 (Friday, 1:20 p.m.) and the women’s 4x800 (Saturday, 4:10 p.m.).

Those relay teams will be led by Angel Piccirillo, a fifth-year senior who redshirted last year, and junior Siofra Cleirigh Buttner — two of the best distance runners in the NCAA. But it won’t be easy for them as this year’s field will be stacked with the likes of Oregon and Stanford.

But no one has done better at Penn Relays than the Villanova women, who have won 14 DMRs all time, including four straight from 2012-2015.

“I’m not one to shy away from the competition,” Procaccio said. “I like to earn those wins.”

Big 5 Hall of Fame inducts 'maybe the greatest class we've ever put together'

Big 5 Hall of Fame inducts 'maybe the greatest class we've ever put together'

About midway through Monday night's Big 5 Hall of Fame ceremony, the oldest inductee of this year's class paid homage to the youngest.

That's how much hoops legend George Raveling, a 1960 Villanova graduate, was blown away by Penn alum Ibrahim Jaaber's impassioned speech that ended with a powerful poem about how basketball saved him.

"It kept running through my mind that you represent everything good about sports," Raveling said to Jaaber. "And I hope you'll continue to use your wisdom, your influence, to make the game better, to make the world better. As a 79-year-old-man, soon to be 80 in June, I want to tell you that if I come back in the next life, I want to be like you."

That touching moment, in many ways, was a perfect encapsulation of the ties that bind the Big 5, from one generation to the next. But aside from Raveling and longtime Philadelphia Inquirer sportswriter Bill Lyon -- who, despite battling Alzheimer's, courageously gave an acceptance speech to a standing ovation at the Palestra -- this year's class was filled with contemporary guards who clashed in some great Big 5 games not too long ago.

Among them were two current NBA players in Saint Joseph's icon Jameer Nelson (class of 2004) and former 'Nova star Randy Foye (2006), as well as Temple's Lynn Greer (2002) and Jaaber (2007). La Salle women's player Carlene Hightower (2008) was the other member of the star-studded class defined by tough, gritty Philadelphia guards.

"The inductees here for the Hall of Fame have got to be maybe the greatest class we've ever put together," said Villanova head coach Jay Wright, who closed the night by accepting the Big 5 Coach of the Year award right after Josh Hart took home Player of the Year honors. "I grew up in Philadelphia and we always talk about what a great place the Palestra is -- and it is. But when you listen to Lynn, Randy, Coach Rav, Ibby, Jameer, you know why this is a great place. It's because of all the great man that have played here -- outstanding, humble, articulate, intelligent men that understand they're part of something that's bigger than themselves. That's what makes the Big 5. That's what makes the Palestra."

Nelson, the National Player of the Year during St. Joe’s historic 2003-04 season, certainly showed what kind of person he is, inviting all of his old Hawks teammates who were in attendance to stand behind him as he accepted his Hall of Fame award. And he even choked up at one point as he described what those teammates, coach Phil Martelli and Saint Joseph's University have meant to him as he's forged a long and fruitful NBA career.

"Without them, none of this would be possible," said Nelson, the Hawks' all-time leader in points (2,094) and assists (713). "These guys mean the world to me."

Nelson, now with the Denver Nuggets, just wrapped up his 13th season in the NBA, calling it an "unbelievable ride" for a 5-foot-11 kid from Chester. That's two more years spent in the league than Foye, who Nelson thanked for forcing him to be better back in their college days. He also called Greer one of his "great friends" and said that Jaaber's speech "touched me in so many different ways, I wish more young kids could hear it."

"I'm very grateful to be inducted with you guys," Nelson said, although he did point out that when he was at St. Joe's, the Hawks had Villanova down 43-9 at halftime one year. 

"But those next couple years, we paid y'all back," said Foye, now with the Brooklyn Nets, during his own speech.

Those rivalries were especially meaningful to Foye, who also played against Jaaber in both high school and college.

"Being from North Jersey, you never hear about the Big 5," said Foye, a first-team All-American and Big 5 Player of the Year in 2006. "For me coming here and witnessing it up close and personal, it's just something truly amazing."

Foye added that everywhere he goes, he tries to embody what a Philly guard is -- "small but play big," as he put it -- while reminding people that he's proud to be a Villanova alum. The same can be said of Raveling, a longtime college coach and executive who was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015.

"I'm so proud to say I'm a Big 5 product -- and a proud graduate of Villanova University," Raveling said. "I look back many times and realize the wisest decision I ever made in my lifetime was to enroll at Villanova University."

Just as he opened his speech, Raveling also closed it by saying he was "proud" to enter the Big 5 Hall of Fame the same year as Jaaber, whose remarks touched on spirituality, family and a unique journey from Morocco to New Jersey to Penn.

Jaaber also made sure to thank the person who perhaps embodies the Big 5 more than anyone else: former La Salle player, former Penn coach and current Temple coach Fran Dunphy.

"I don't think I could have had a better coach for me in my situation than my Coach Dunphy," said Jaaber, the 2006-07 Big 5 Player of the Year and the all-time Ivy League leader in steals (303). "I'm almost embarrassed to be inducted into the Hall of Fame before Coach Dunphy."