Drexel Will Wait; Penn, La Salle, Joe's and 'Nova Will All Press on

Drexel Will Wait; Penn, La Salle, Joe's and 'Nova Will All Press on

Back iron.
Drexel's Frantz Massenat dribbled once, took a step right, fired and...back iron.
Rather than capping off a 16-point comeback to force the game to overtime, the freshman's three-point attempt went a fraction too far. With their 59-56 win, Virginia Commonwealth clinched an auto-bid back to the NCAA tournament, where just once year ago they shocked the nation (and Dick Vitale) by reaching the Final Four.

[Your City Six Champ Week primer, featuring Tuesday Night Previews,
A-10 and Big East brackets and one very special Ivy League showdown
after the jump...]

Back to the Dragons, they'll be sitting on their hands -- when not practicing, of course -- waiting for Selection Sunday to see if 27 wins and top 30 mentions in both major polls will be good enough. Unlike like the Jones' piece we linked to over the weekend, we're now throwing you over to Roob Frank for why the Dragons deserve an at-large selection.
But Drexel or no Drexel, Championship Week does roll on. So before you kick it on over to Roob, we present to you the four City Six teams in action tonight and break down the roads they'll need to travel (sometimes literally) to make it to the Field of 68.
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Richmond vs. La Salle (Gola Arena) -- 7 p.m. / 990 AMThe first round of the A-10 tournament is held on the individual campus sites. As such, the La Salle Explorers will play host to the defending champion Richmond Spiders this evening.
We've mapped the A-10 bracket above, but we'll walk you through it down here as well. The Explorers are on the non-Temple-St. Joseph's side of the bracket, meaning they wouldn't see either Big 5 rival until next Sunday, if at all. Instead, a win tonight would put La Salle in line for a quarterfinal round matchup with the second-seeded St. Louis Billikens on Friday at Boardwalk Hall.
But before they can pack up to head down the Expressway, they'll need to plug the holes in their rapidly sinking ship to pull out one last win at the Gola. The Explorers have played less than .500 basketball over the last month and decided to tank when teams need to peak. We still believe they can do damage in postseason tournaments like the NIT, CIT or certainly the CBI, but they need another win or two to regain some of their early season confidence before they receive their eventual invites.
As for tonight, perimeter shooting will be even more important than usual for La Salle, as they have literally no way to matchup with Richmond power forward Derrick Williams. This matchup has upset written all over it if Williams does to La Salle what he did to Temple and Saint Joseph's earlier this season.
We'll be in-house for this one and are looking forward to it. Follow along @cnmenta for in-game updates.
Charlotte vs. Saint Joseph's (Hagan Arena) -- 7 p.m. / Atlantic10.com / 1210 AMWethinks the Hawks might be just a little upset with the (13-16, 5-11) 49ers. Far more than the Richmond game, it was SJU's loss to Charlotte at the Hagan Arena that shot their tournament resume mostly to hell.
With the Hawks having to get to at least the championship game (and, really, they probably have to win it) to get back to the NCAAs for the first time since 2008, their first step in the process will be to get revenge on Charlotte tonight.
We've got the Hawks going over big here, so, looking forward, you can expect to see them tipping off at 2:30 p.m. on Friday against the St. Bonaventure Andrew Nicholson's who needed double-overtime to just barely sneak past the Hawks in Olean, NY last week.
From there, we could see the completion of a best-of-three series between the Hawks and the Temple Owls on Saturday (assuming both teams take care of business beforehand).
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Penn at Princeton (Jadwin Gym) -- 7:30 p.m. / ESPN3.com / 88.5 WXPN FMWhile we're taking in the Explorers and the Spiders, we'll be keeping a close eye on this one, as well. This game gets the official T7L stamp of approval for "Game of the Night."
First, some background. The Penn Quakers have been chasing the Crimson of Harvard for weeks. Last Friday night, their path to the Ivy League Title (and the league's subsequent auto-bid to the NCAAs) seemed simple enough: win three games in four days, and the worst they could do would be to face Harvard in a one-game playoff.
The Quakers are now one win away from doing just that. After defeating Brown and Yale on back-to-back nights over the weekend, Jerome Allen, Zack Rosen and Co. will travel briefly over 676 before booking it up I-95 to Princeton, NJ to take on the Tigers.
With a win, the Quakers will guarantee themselves a one-game playoff with the Crimson at a neutral location later this week. The winner of that game will move on the NCAA tournament. It would be a rubber match, as the two teams have already split games 1-1 this season.
A loss, on the other hand, would see Zack Rosen's collegiate eligibility expire without a single trip to the tourney. If you've been watching Penn, you'll already know he isn't going to let that happen without one hell of an entertaining fight.
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Villanova vs. Rutgers (Madison Square Garden) -- 9 p.m. / ESPNU / 950 AMBleh. That sums up the Wildcats season for everyone except Maalik Wayns.
And just as it was Wayns who almost single-handedly defeated the Cincinnati Bearcats over the weekend (though we saw you getting your game on Mouph), it will need to be Wayns again if Villanova has any hopes of staying in NYC for more than just one night.
Tonight, they take on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, who they did defeat last Thursday night to snap a four-game losing streak. If they can do it again, they'll meet USF tomorrow. Should they somehow sneak past the Bulls, who are strongly in-line for an at-large, they'll have the pleasure of meeting Notre Dame in the quarterfinals.
Will a win over Rutgers and a solid showing against USF be good enough for a CBI? That's really all the Wildcats have to play for right now, other than pride.
*
And there you have it. We'll be back tomorrow with the winners and losers to set up the Atlantic 10 tournament, what's (potentially) left of the Big East for Nova and whether or not Penn will have its one last chance at Harvard.
As for tonight, what about you? Where will you be? What will you be watching?
Which of these team's do you see making a run? Which do you see in the NCAAs? The NIT? The CBI?

10 observations from Tuesday's Eagles OTAs

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10 observations from Tuesday's Eagles OTAs

The Eagles wrapped up their Tuesday practice just before 12:30 p.m. under a hot summer-like sun.

Tuesday was the first day of four in the team’s final week of OTAs, which are voluntary. The mandatory minicamp starts next Tuesday and runs through next Thursday.

That’s when we might see Fletcher Cox and Darren Sproles, both of whom have been staying away from the team during the voluntary period. And that’s where we’ll start with today’s 10 observations:

1. With Cox still out, Mike Martin was again working with the first team at defensive tackle next to Bennie Logan, as he was last week. Two weeks ago, Taylor Hart was next to Logan at tackle. Martin was a depth piece in Tennessee and that’s how he’ll fit with the Eagles once Cox comes back.

Martin was also involved in the first little scuffle we’ve seen during these spring practices. Nothing too exciting … just a little shoving with left guard Allen Barbre.

2. Sproles is still out, but Ryan Mathews returned. Mathews missed the last practice opened to the media with an illness but participated Tuesday. The interesting thing was that Mathews didn’t get all the first-team reps. In fact, Kenjon Barner actually opened the 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 portions of practice with the first team.

It’s early, but Barner has looked pretty good this spring. It’ll be interesting to see if he fits with the team. He’s ahead of rookie Wendell Smallwood now, but would the team really elect to keep him over a fifth-round pick? Or will the team be OK keeping four running backs again?

Another note: Rueben Randle (gallbladder surgery) is still out.

3. We saw a little trickery from Doug Pederson’s offense on Tuesday against no defense. First, Chase Daniel threw a lateral screen to Josh Huff, who threw down the right to Smallwood. Then, Carson Wentz threw a lateral pass to Nelson Agholor and then Wentz ran a route down the left sideline, but Agholor overthrew him.

Maybe the trick plays are just way to keep practice lighter, but it might also mean the offense is moving along nicely and installing more and more of the playbook. It’s a good sign.

4. Wentz was up and down on Tuesday, but his best completion came on a deep pass down the right sideline to wideout Xavier Rush (who is a candidate for best name on the team). Rush wrestled the ball away from corner C.J. Smith, who should know Wentz pretty well. The two played together at North Dakota State.

Meanwhile, Sam Bradford had a shaky day, throwing several balls that could have been picked off.

5. Again, Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks – the two Jim Schwartz guys in the secondary – were working with the first team. On Tuesday, Eric Rowe was the extra corner on the field in the Nickel. When Rowe came in, Brooks shifted into the slot. It still looks like Nolan Carroll isn’t yet allowed to practice during team portions.

On the first play of 11 on 11s, Ron Brooks broke up a pass from Sam Bradford that was then picked off by Rodney McLeod and taken the other way. Not a good throw from Bradford, but Brooks was aggressive and jumped it.

6. Down by the goal line during the team period, Malcolm Jenkins made a nice play to get in front of a pass, but couldn’t pick it off. He’s in mid-season form. Jenkins had a great season in 2015, but really struggled to intercept balls that he had in his hands.

7. Jordan Hicks didn’t participate in 7 on 7s or 11 on 11s Tuesday. Two weeks ago, he sat out with tightness in his legs, but returned last week. On Tuesday, with Hicks watching, Najee Goode filled in at first-team MIKE, flanked by Nigel Bradham and Mychal Kendricks.

8. Chase Daniel overthrew two balls badly within a few plays during the 11-on-11 drills, but then capped off a drive by dropping a ball into the hands of wideout Paul Turner in the back of the end zone. Decent day for Daniel.

9. The Eagles ran some scout team looks for the first time (that we’ve seen) on Tuesday. Daniel ran the scout team, which makes sense. Normally, it would be the third-string quarterback, but Wentz probably has plenty on his plate. Not sure who the offense was mimicking, but the two pinnies were Nos. 88 and 82. Perhaps the Cowboys?

10. At one point on Tuesday, the offense started to use a tempo offense, giving everyone in attendance flashbacks to Chip. Well, not exactly. The up-tempo didn’t last long and it did produce the ugliest Wentz pass since he’s been with the team.

We are seeing plenty of interesting looks from the Eagles. At times they’ve been using formations with three tight ends. And they even showed some designed quarterback runs on Tuesday. The progression and complexity of this offense is starting to be revealed by these practices and it’s something to keep an eye on.

Stupid Observation of the Day: Punter Donnie Jones has begun to wear a pretty sweet white and blue bucket hat at practice when he’s not wearing his helmet. Only a punter could get away with this. Here, you can see him in the background from last week.

Phillies-Nationals 5 things: Calling on Aaron Nola to stop 4-game skid

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Phillies-Nationals 5 things: Calling on Aaron Nola to stop 4-game skid

Phillies (26-25) vs. Nationals (31-21)
7:05 p.m. on CSN

The Phillies are in a rut, an expected rut given their recent schedule.

On Tuesday, they'll try to get back on track behind the young right-hander who's emerging as their stopper.

Let's take a look at the second of their 10-game homestand:

1. Not measuring up
The Phillies have lost six of their last seven games and are riding their first four-game losing streak since they started the year 0-4. Prior to last week, they'd done a decent job this season of avoiding lengthy skids, but this is definitely the toughest stretch they've faced in 2016.

Over these seven games, the Phils have been outscored 34-21 by the Tigers, Cubs and Nationals, three veteran teams filled with power. Two of the games have been decided by one run and the Phillies lost both after holding late leads. 

At 14-5, the Phils still have far and away the majors' best record in one-run games, but this is what regression looks like. Hector Neris wasn't going to go through a full season without a hiccup. And the best example of how unsustainably productive he's been was that even after allowing three runs in just two-thirds of an inning, Neris' ERA is still 2.20. It's difficult for a reliever to get hit around and still have that low an ERA, especially this early in the season.

If the Phillies lose again tonight, they'll be right at .500 for the first time since they were 10-10. They've spent the last 33 days of the season with a winning record.

2. Nola gets the nod
Jeremy Hellickson turned in his second straight excellent outing against the Nationals on Memorial Day and Aaron Nola looks to do the same.

Nola, like Hellickson, struggled the first time he faced Washington this season, allowing seven earned runs in five innings.

Nola, like Hellickson, rebounded the next time he faced the Nats — both allowed two hits over seven shutout innings in their second start against Washington.

Now Nola looks to build upon that success the way Hellickson did Monday night, when he lowered his own ERA to 3.68 by allowing a run on three hits over seven innings.

Nola is 4-3 with a 2.86 ERA in 10 starts this season. He's struck out 70, walked 12 and allowed five home runs in 66 innings. His opponents have hit .200.

Nola has missed more bats and struck out more batters at the major-league level than anyone expected. His control has been as advertised — he's walked just 31 batters in 143⅔ career innings. This season, he's cut his home run rate in half. He allowed 11 in 77⅔ innings as a rookie.

Nola continues to lead the National League with 242 called strikes, 17 more than Tanner Roark, who is second. That number speaks to the effectiveness of Nola's knee-buckling curveball, which has generated 65 swings-and-misses, second-most in the majors to Jose Fernandez's 77. (Jerad Eickhoff is third in the NL with 33.)

Current Nationals are 19 for 65 (.292) against Nola with two doubles, a triple, two homers and 18 strikeouts. Bryce Harper, who left Monday's game in the seventh inning after being hit by a pitch on the knee, is 6 for 10 with two of those home runs. Jayson Werth and Anthony Rendon have also taken Nola deep.

3. Harper out?
Harper left the game in the seventh with what was diagnosed a right knee contusion. It would obviously be a huge relief for the Phillies if he's out of the lineup Tuesday, especially considering how he's hit lately at Citizens Bank Park.

Harper brought into Monday's game a streak of six straight games with a home run at Citizens Bank Park, tying the longest home run streak in MLB history for any player at a visiting stadium. 

Harper, who hit .330 last season, won an MVP and led the NL in practically every meaningful offensive category, has been in a lengthy slump. Over his last 32 games, he's hit .183 with just five extra-base hits in 133 plate appearances. Teams have stopped pitching to him. Harper has 35 walks over that span, nine intentional.

But Harper is obviously a threat any time he comes to the plate, and he's hit pretty much any pitcher the Phillies have thrown at him the last two years. In 104 plate appearances against them since the start of 2015, Harper has hit .346 with three doubles, 11 homers, 23 RBIs, 21 walks and 23 strikeouts.

4. Another crack at Ross
Nationals right-hander Joe Ross (4-4, 2.52) makes his 10th start of the season tonight against the Phils. He shut them down on April 15 in his second start, pitching 7⅔ shutout innings in his best outing of the year.

Ross has allowed one run or fewer in five of nine starts and two earned runs or fewer in seven of nine. He's given up more than three earned runs just once all season, on May 10 against the Tigers.

The younger brother of Padres opening-day starter Tyson Ross, Joe is mostly a three-pitch pitcher who throws a lot of sinkers and sliders. When he faced the Phillies earlier this season he threw 55 sinkers, 38 sliders and 14 changeups. 

Like his brother, Joe Ross loves the slider with two strikes, throwing it 73 percent of the time this season with two strikes on a right-handed hitter. His opponents this year are 16 for 92 (.174) against the slider with four home runs and 37 strikeouts.

Lefties (.295 BA, .757 OPS) have hit him much better than righties (.209, .598). Might that mean another start for Ryan Howard?

5. This and that
• Carlos Ruiz is 0 for 21 over his last six starts and is down to .222 on the season.

• Daniel Murphy had three more hits and drove in three runs against the Phillies last night. He's a .313/.363/.487 career hitter against them in 457 plate appearances. Playing in the NL East the last eight seasons, Murphy has hit lower than .293 just once vs. the Phils.

• Freddy Galvis, who homered off Roark on Monday, has hit well at home this season with a .284 batting average and .779 OPS in 85 plate appearances. Galvis is 12 for 33 (.364) over his last eight games overall with four doubles, a triple and a homer.

• Jonathan Papelbon has faced the Phillies six times since they traded him to the Nationals last summer. In those six games, he's allowed nine runs (six earned) and put 13 men on base. The Phils have seven hits (five doubles) against him in 2⅔ innings this season.

Source: Former Eagles safety Walter Thurmond retires at 28

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Source: Former Eagles safety Walter Thurmond retires at 28

Defensive back Walter Thurmond, who had a productive year with the Eagles in 2015 in his first season as a safety, is retiring at 28, a source confirmed to CSNPhilly.com's Dave Zangaro.

The news of Thurmond's retirement was initially reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Thurmond was finally able to stay healthy in 2015. He played 16 games for the first time in his career, finishing with 71 tackles, three interceptions, two sacks and two forced fumbles. Thurmond and Malcolm Jenkins formed one of the NFL's better safety duos, but the Eagles upgraded the position even more by signing Rodney McLeod to a five-year deal.

Thurmond battled injuries throughout his six-year NFL career, missing 44 of 80 games over his first five seasons. A broken fibula cost him most of the 2011 season, he missed significant time in 2012 with a hamstring injury, and a torn pectoral limited him to two games in 2014.