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?

Best of NHL: Matt Murray, Penguins cruise past Habs

Best of NHL: Matt Murray, Penguins cruise past Habs

MONTREAL -- Eric Fehr and Jake Guentzel scored in the second period to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins past the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 on Wednesday night.

Defensemen Ian Cole and Olli Maatta also scored for Pittsburgh, which won its second game in a row after a three-game skid.

Sven Andrighetto scored for Montreal, which lost its second straight and has only two wins in its last six games. The Canadiens' offense remained in a rut coming off a 1-0 loss Monday in Detroit.

Penguins goalie Matt Murray was back in form after Monday's wild 8-7 win over Washington, making 19 saves. But Carey Price's woes continued as Pittsburgh outshot Montreal 26-20. Price allowed three or more goals for the eighth time in 10 games (see full recap).

Vanek, Nielsen lead Wings over Bruins
DETROIT -- Thomas Vanek and Frans Nielsen scored in a shootout, lifting the Detroit Red Wings to a comeback 6-5 win over the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night.

The Red Wings rallied from 3-0 and 4-1 deficits in the first period, and with 3:04 remaining in regulation, Gustav Nyquist scored to pull them into a tie.

In the shootout, Tuukka Rask and Petr Mrazek stopped the first shots they faced before Vanek scored for the Red Wings and Brad Marchand countered with a goal for the Bruins. Nielsen, who like Vanek joined the team last summer as a free agent, scored on the team's third attempt and Vatrano missed the net with a chance to extend the 1-on-1 duels.

The Bruins were dominant early before blowing a chance to keep Detroit at a distance in the Atlantic Division standings (see full recap).

Burns, Pavelski push Sharks past Kings
LOS ANGELES -- Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski and Tommy Wingels scored in the San Jose Sharks' seventh win at Staples Center in their last eight trips, 3-2 over the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night.

Joe Thornton had two assists and Martin Jones made 22 saves for the defending Western Conference champion Sharks, who wrapped up their regular-season series against their biggest rivals with three victories in five games.

After Burns scored his 19th goal in the opening minutes, San Jose hung on through a scoreless third period to continue its recent domination in downtown Los Angeles, including three victories in last season's first-round playoff series.

Tanner Pearson and Marian Gaborik scored for the Kings, who ended a seven-game homestand with four defeats (see full recap).

McDavid scores in OT, Oilers edge Panthers
EDMONTON, Alberta -- Connor McDavid scored the winning goal in overtime as the Edmonton Oilers won their fourth game in a row, 4-3 over the Florida Panthers on Wednesday night.

McDavid, who also had two assists in the game, got a breakaway late in overtime and got the puck away with 2.6 seconds left. Florida's James Reimer made the glove save, but the puck was ruled to be across the line via video review.

Zack Kassian, Mark Letestu and Jordan Eberle also scored for the Oilers, who have their longest winning streak since December 2015.

Vincent Trocheck, Michael Sgarbossa and Greg McKegg had goals for the Panthers, who have lost two straight (see full recap).

Joel Embiid, Sixers prove plenty with benchmark win over Raptors

Joel Embiid, Sixers prove plenty with benchmark win over Raptors

BOX SCORE

The Sixers weren’t supposed to beat the Raptors, were they? This was going to be an “easy” game for the visiting team, which was coming to Philadelphia on a back-to-back that started in Brooklyn. The Raptors are a playoff team, and second in the Eastern Conference at that. Not to mention, they had defeated the Sixers in their last 14 meetings.

Maybe easy would have been the case the last time the two teams played back in mid-December. For the Sixers, though, things have changed since then and a 94-89 win over the Raptors on Wednesday proved this recent success is not fleeting (see Instant Replay).

“I don’t think it’s a fluke,” Joel Embiid said. “We’re competing. We’re winning games. We’re playing great defense. We finally found what we’ve been looking for.”

The Sixers had been missing clearly-defined roles and a defensive identity (see story). Now that Brett Brown has whittled down his roster to 10 players and laid out a starting five and second unit, the team has been gelling in those two aspects. The Sixers have won seven out of their last nine games, with the Raptors being the highest caliber of competition.

The Raptors entered the game averaging 111.5 points per game, first in the East and third in the NBA behind only the Warriors and Rockets. They had scored less than 100 points in just seven games this season. Additionally, the Raptors had been held to under 90 points by a single opponent: the Spurs. Not bad company to be in. 

Embiid led all players with 26 points (including 12 for 14 from the free throw line) to go with nine rebounds (see highlights). The Sixers staved off 25 points (11 for 21 from the field), six assists and three rebounds from DeMar DeRozan and 24 points (11 for 16 from the line), four rebounds, four assists and five steals from Kyle Lowry, who fouled out. The Raptors shot 25 percent from three and 65.2 percent at the free throw line.  

“We’re playing with a spirit, we’re playing with a defensive mindset,” Brown said. “There is a belief within each other amongst the team that is the best that it’s been since I’ve been here.”

The Sixers' winning stretch began against subpar teams, opponents who earlier in the season some would look at the schedule and say, the Sixers could probably take that one, as they tried to project a batch of victories. The Sixers turned those wins over the Nuggets, Timberwolves and Nets into momentum and carried it into a matchup against the Knicks.

Even though the Knicks are looking lost this season, they still have veteran offensive firepower that can take over a game against a struggling opponent. The Sixers made noise by beating them at the buzzer, then escalated their performance against the postseason-hungry Hornets and Bucks. 

The Raptors are different, though. There is no questioning their success and potential to make a deep playoff run … again. Nonetheless, the Sixers handled this well-seasoned opponent with composure and confidence down the stretch. 

They stayed together when DeRozan hit a jumper with 1:53 to play to give the Raptors their first lead since the second quarter. The Sixers responded to the one-point deficit with a 7-0 run to push the edge up to six points with 20.7 seconds to go.

“I think it says we’re for real. It shows our consistency that we’ve built throughout the year,” Nerlens Noel said. “We’re relentless. We have a young group of guys that know how to play the game and play it the right way and will come out there and compete against anybody in this league. I think the perception should be a whole different one now.”

The Sixers showed they can compete with top talent. Their wins aren't just coming from teams at the bottom of the standings. 

"That gives us a lot of confidence," Embiid said. "Coming into the game, we had a lot of confidence. Winning against the second-best team in the East is just amazing. We’re going to keep on working."