Our resident college basketball junkies CSN producers Brian Brennan and Sean Kane make their predictions for this weekend's games City 6 teams. Look for Fastbreak Friday on CSNPhilly.com each Friday for the remainder of the season.
Penn (2-10) at La Salle (9-3) -- Saturday, 2 p.m.
BB: La Salle missed a golden opportunity for a big road win on Wednesday, blowing a six-point halftime lead against Miami in a 76-59 loss. Now the Explorers host Penn in a Big 5 game before starting A-10 play next week in Charlotte. A few La Salle players have to be chomping at the bit to erase some bad memories from Miami. Sam Mills and Tyreek Duren shot a combined 1-for-16 from the field and Ramon Galloway was held scoreless in the second half.
The Quakers acquitted themselves well in a tough road game at Butler, but 19 turnovers ultimately doomed them in a 13-point loss. Simply put, Penn doesn't have the offensive firepower to keep up with the Explorers or the defense to shut La Salle down.
La Salle 74, Penn 64
SK: It's quickly becoming "one of those years" for Penn. One week after Jerome Allen suspended five players for reportedly failing a drug test, the team announced that leading scorer and rebounder Fran Dougherty is out indefinitely with mononucleosis. The Quakers hung tough against Butler on Wednesday without Dougherty, but beating a Top 25 opponent on the road without their best player is asking too much. Wins will be hard to come by the rest of the way for Allen's team, particularly in a deep and balanced Ivy League.
La Salle should have plenty of motivation following the Miami loss. Dr. John Giannini was visibly upset after the game, namely with his team's defensive effort in the second half. I expect the Explorers to be firing on all cylinders against Penn. Then it's make or break time as the conference portion of La Salle's schedule commences. Are the Explorers for real? Or will they let down their fan base yet again after a promising start? Time will tell.
La Salle 77, Penn 62
Saint Joseph's (7-4) at Morgan State (3-7) -- Saturday, 4 p.m.
BB: This may sound crazy, but the Hawks' 24-2 run against Drexel on New Year's Eve may turn out to be one of the defining moments of their season. Trailing 18-10 midway through the first half, St. Joe's simply flipped the switch, showing the dominance they are capable of but have rarely displayed this season. C.J. Aiken fueled the run by blocking shots and getting out on the break, finishing with a dominant line of 19 points, eight rebounds and six blocks.
Morgan State won't provide much resistance on Saturday, allowing Halil Kanacevic another game to shake off the cobwebs before A-10 play begins against Butler on Wednesday.
Saint Joseph's 82, Morgan State 60
SK: It was nice to see Aiken assert himself in wins over Iona and Drexel. With his ability to knock down perimeter jump shots he is a tough matchup for opposing big men. Aiken needs to be featured more prominently in the Hawks' offense moving forward. While Langston Galloway and Carl Jones get most of the attention in the backcourt, don't overlook the contributions of Chris Wilson. He gives Phil Martelli valuable minutes each and every night. Wilson played 32 minutes against Drexel and had nine points, eight assists and five rebounds.
It will be interesting to see whether St. Joe's starts to wear down during the grind of Atlantic 10 play. The Hawks have six players averaging over 31 minutes. Given their sluggish start to the season, they can ill afford any fatigue-induced slip-ups in February and March. This much I can tell you -- they won't slip up against Morgan State on Saturday.
Saint Joseph's 78, Morgan State 62
Towson (6-8, 1-0 CAA) at Drexel (5-8, 1-0 CAA) -- Saturday, 4 p.m.
BB: Frantz Massenat picked a perfect time for his best game of the season on Wednesday, putting up 25 points in the Dragons' 77-60 CAA-opening win at Georgia State. Conference play marks a new beginning for Drexel, and with VCU now creating havoc in the A-10, the CAA is wide open.
Towson has a big-time player in 6-foot-8 Jerelle Benimon (16.4 PPG, 11.4 RPG), a Georgetown transfer who put up 30 points and 18 boards against Temple. He's going to be a problem for a thin Drexel front line, but I like the Dragons' backcourt of Massenat and Damion Lee to do just enough to get Drexel off to a 2-0 start in CAA play.
Drexel 62, Towson 58
SK: The Massenat of 2011-2012 resurfaced in Drexel's win over Georgia State. For Bruiser Flint's sake, let's hope he's here to stay. The Dragons are a different team when Massenat is playing with confidence like he did on Wednesday. His struggles are a big reason Drexel is 5-8 on the season. Massenat's production is down across the board from a year ago -- scoring, assists and most alarmingly three-point shooting. He shot 45 percent from long range as a sophomore. This year, just a shade over 31 percent.
With any hopes of an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament having gone out the window weeks ago, Drexel needs to focus on getting a high seed for the CAA tournament. The Dragons started off on the right foot, and they'll continue on that course Saturday.
Drexel 64, Towson 59
Temple (10-2) at No. 6 Kansas (11-1) -- Sunday, 4:30 p.m.
BB: Fran Dunphy loves a challenge, and he picked a monster to close out Temple's non-conference schedule. The Jayhawks have won 29 straight at Allen Fieldhouse, currently the second-longest home streak in the country. Kansas has one of the nation's elite coaches in Bill Self and four senior starters, yet redshirt freshman Ben McLemore may be the Jayhawks' biggest weapon on Sunday. He's an incredibly athletic Dwyane Wade clone and a likely top-five pick in the NBA Draft. The Owls have played great competition in Duke and Syracuse, but they haven't seen anyone like McLemore this season.
To win in Lawrence, Temple needs a huge game from Khalif Wyatt, who loves the big stage. Wyatt had a career-high 33 points in the upset over Syracuse two weeks ago, but had just seven points on 1-for-7 shooting against Bowling Green last week. I'm guessing that the Jayhawks will make life difficult for Wyatt and Kansas will pull away in the second half.
Kansas 78, Temple 63
SK: Fran Dunphy discussed Temple's non-conference schedule on this week's edition of CSN's "Big Men on Campus." Dunphy told Neil Hartman that he's often asked who handles the Owls' non-conference scheduling. His answer: John Chaney.
Dunphy is only half joking. While the legendary former Temple coach is not directly involved in plotting the current team's schedule, he set a standard long ago that Dunphy upholds. Chaney's teams were known for enduring brutal non-conference schedules, then reaping the rewards of those early season tests come February and March.
Sunday's trip to Kansas is Temple's third game against a Top 10 opponent this season. And it is an extremely tall order. Kansas came into the season knowing it would rely on a veteran nucleus that helped take Kentucky down to the final minutes of the national championship game last spring. Then Self unleashed McLemore and suddenly it's not far-fetched to consider Kansas a serious threat to get back to the title game and finish the job. McLemore is a special talent. He and his teammates will be too much for Temple on Sunday.
Kansas 84, Temple 68