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.
St. Bonaventure (7-9) at Temple (12-4)
Saturday, 1:00 p.m.
BB: Temple better hope its penchant for playing down to the level of its competition doesnt show up on Saturday. The Owls nearly fell to a struggling GW team on Wednesday, escaping the nations capital with a 55-53 win. Someone has to give Khalif Wyatt some help offensively if Temple is going to avoid these kinds of lapses. The best bet is Anthony Lee, if the Owls can get him the ball. The 6-foot-9 sophomore had just five field goal attempts against George Washington. That number needs to be doubled, at a minimum.
St. Bonaventure has lost six straight games, and the Bonnies are bad defensively. Look for a few Owls to reach double-figures and Temple to pull away in the second half.
Temple 76, St. Bonaventure 66
SK: Defense travels well in college basketball. That was exactly the case for Temple at George Washington. The Owls clamped down in crunch time, holding the Colonials scoreless for the game's final 7:53. As Temple struggles to find a consistent second scorer to compliment Wyatt, defensive intensity becomes paramount in A-10 play. The Owls will win their next two games -- at home against St. Bonaventure and Penn -- to set up a showdown with Butler next weekend.
But in terms of the big picture, Dunphy needs either Lee, Scootie Randall or Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson to develop into a reliable secondary scoring option. Until that happens, each game will be an adventure.
Temple 70, St. Bonaventure 61
La Salle (12-4) at Xavier (10-6)
Saturday, 2:00 p.m.
BB: Its time to find out what La Salle is made of. After Saturdays game at Xavier, the Explorers get a double-dip with the two ranked teams in the Atlantic 10, hosting No. 13 Butler on Wednesday and visiting No. 22 VCU next Saturday. Thats a brutal three-game stretch, and winning at Xavier will be no easy task to start it off.
Slowing down Musketeers 6-foot-3 freshman point guard Semaj Christon will be a big key for La Salle. He gets into the lane at will, and scored on a variety of tough drives and floaters in Xaviers 66-64 win at St. Bonaventure on Wednesday, finishing with 19 points and 10 assists.
Id love to see La Salle make a real run at the NCAA tournament, and this is one of those games the Explorers need to win to make that happen. Ill take them to win a nail-biter in Cincinnati.
La Salle 68, Xavier 66
SK: It's definitely put up or shut up time for La Salle, and Wednesday's win over Dayton was a step in the right direction. Tyreek Duren continues to be one of the most overlooked point guards in the country. In the Explorers' last two games -- critical A-10 wins against Richmond and Dayton -- Duren averaged 14.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 5.0 steals. His steady floor game has set the tone for La Salle all season long.
I really like Dr. John Giannini's team. The trio of Duren, Ramon Galloway and Tyrone Garland is terrific; the Explorers take a backseat to very few teams when it comes to guard play. With that said, they'll be lucky to win one of their next three games. The Cintas Center is no picnic, even against less talented Xavier teams like this year's group. Just ask Temple.
Xavier 70, La Salle 65
Drexel (5-11) at William and Mary (7-9)
Saturday, 2:00 p.m.
BB: I refuse to give up on Drexel. I know the Dragons are 5-11, but if you peel back the layers of the onion, many of their flaws can be fixed.
First, theyre seriously banged up. The last two losses have come without leading scorer Damion Lee and the Dragons were without Lee and leading rebounder Daryl McCoy in their last loss. Second, some of their less experienced players, like Kazembe Abif and Tavon Allen, are getting valuable experience now that will bode well later in the season. Once everyone is in their proper roles, I wont be surprised if Drexel goes on a major run. Finally, the CAA just isnt very strong this season, and the conference tournament will be wide open. The Dragons are losing plenty of battles now, but may ultimately win the war.
Lee is a game-time decision once again on Saturday, but either way, Ill pick the Dragons to beat a William and Mary team that has dropped six straight games.
Drexel 64, William and Mary 58
SK: On this week's "Big Men on Campus" on CSN, Bruiser Flint explained how he likes to break the season into three parts: non-conference play (which he calls the preseason), conference play, and the postseason. The non-conference part didn't go well due to a rash of injuries and the Dragons' inability to play their trademark defense. The second stage is off to a rough start too. Drexel has dropped three straight going into Saturday's visit to William & Mary, and even some of Flint's best teams have struggled to win in Williamsburg.
I have a tough time picking Drexel against anyone right now, even a team that hasn't won since before Christmas. Lee's status is clearly a big factor, but I'm going on the assumption he's out again.
William and Mary 60, Drexel 56
Villanova (11-6) at Providence (9-8)
Saturday, 4:00 p.m.
BB: Young teams are going to encounter some bumps in the road, but Villanovas performance against Pitt on Wednesday was more like a giant pothole. The Wildcats scored just 43 points in the loss, the fewest in the 27-year history of the Pavilion, and were held scoreless for the final five minutes.
The good news for Villanova is that Providence isnt nearly as tough defensively as Pitt. The Friars have allowed four of their last five opponents to reach 70 points, losing all four games. Providence does have firepower, though, led by junior guard Bryce Cotton, the Big Easts leading scorer with 21.6 points per game.
I dont think Villanova will win many road games in the Big East, but this one is very possible. The Wildcats have more talent, and I think theyll make some of those shots that werent falling against Pitt.
Villanova 74, Providence 70
SK: Villanova's problem offensively isn't complicated. The Wildcats don't have a "go-to" guy. Jay Wright's roster is full of complimentary parts, but lacks someone you can give the ball to in big spots and expect to come through. Ryan Arcidiacono can develop into that player, but he's not there yet. James Bell, Darrun Hilliard and Mouphtaou Yarou have all had their moments but are far too inconsistent.
JayVaughn Pinkston is Villanova's best offensive player. It really isn't close in my opinion. Pinkston is the only player on the team who can consistently get his own shot and get to the foul line. He's attempted 50 more free throws than any other Wildcat and he's fifth on the team in minutes played. Pinkston has to play more. It's one thing to bring him off the bench, but another to only play him an average of 18 minutes in the last three games. Foul trouble and defensive lapses can lead to Pinkston sitting on the bench. But the time has come for Wright to live with Pinkston's flaws and let him play. Without him playing 30 minutes a game (something he's done just twice this season), Villanova will keep struggling to score and lose winnable games like Wednesday against Pitt.
The last time Pinkston played against Providence, he had 28 points and 14 rebounds in 34 minutes. Villanova will need a similar effort to pick up a win in the always formidable Dunkin Donuts Center.
Villanova 71, Providence 67
Saint Josephs (9-6) at Penn (3-13)
Saturday, 5:00 p.m.
BB: St. Joes was 28 seconds away from a marquee road win at VCU on Thursday night, but the Hawks just couldnt get a stop when they needed it most, falling 92-86 in overtime. After the loss, Phil Martelli said the Hawks are close to becoming the team he thought they could be, and there were plenty of positives to take away from the near-miss. Carl Jones and Langston Galloway made huge shots down the stretch in regulation and the Hawks never stopped fighting.
Theres no denying, though, that St. Joes missed out on a golden opportunity for a signature win. As a result, the Hawks margin of error has decreased, and the remaining Atlantic 10 schedule is littered with land mines.
Penn finally ended its eight-game losing streak with a 54-53 win over NJIT on Thursday night, but the Quakers simply dont have enough to match up with a St. Joes team that appears primed to go on a run.
Saint Josephs 78, Penn 62
SK: Losses like the one St. Joe's suffered Thursday night have a tendency to linger. The trick for the Hawks will be putting it in the rearview mirror and not letting it eat at them. Phil Martelli's team has a favorable upcoming schedule and a real chance to gain ground in a hurry. When the backcourt combo of Jones and Galloway is clicking the way it did against VCU, the Hawks can play with anybody.
The fact of the matter is this team was labeled the preseason favorite in the A-10 for a reason. The talent is there, it's just a matter of it surfacing each time the Hawks take the floor. I'll end this column with a bold prediction -- the Hawks will win nine of their next 10 games and be right in the thick of the sprint to secure a top seed in the conference tournament.
Saint Joseph's 77, Penn 63