Our resident college basketball junkies -- CSN producers Brian Brennan and Sean Kane -- make their predictions for this weekend's games involving the City Six teams.
Brown (8-21, 2-10 Ivy) at Penn (17-11, 9-2 Ivy) - Friday, 7 p.m.Yale (19-7, 9-3 Ivy) at Penn (17-11, 9-2 Ivy) - Saturday, 7 p.m.
BB: Some plays are so memorable that two words instantly bring them to mind. John Elway made "The Drive" famous, while Joe Montana hit Dwight Clark for "The Catch". Last Saturday against Harvard, Tyler Bernardini took what could forever be known at Penn as "The Charge", giving up his body as Kyle Casey knocked him to the floor with three seconds left, preserving not only a 55-54 Quakers win, but also their Ivy League title hopes.
Now, just three games stand between Penn and at least a share of the league crown; those games begin this weekend at the Palestra. The Quakers will beat 8-21 Brown on Friday before a Saturday showdown with Yale, who previously beat Penn back on Feb. 3. And if you think that Zack Rosen, Rob Belcore and Bernardini are losing on Senior Night, you haven't been paying attention. Look for Rosen to have a huge game and Penn to keep its NCAA Tournament dream alive.
Penn 67, Brown 52Penn 62, Yale 55
SK: Loyal Fastbreak Friday readers (and there have to be thousands of you by now), recall I predicted an Ivy League title for Penn back in January. There were some potholes along the road -- losses at Yale and at home against Harvard -- but here the Quakers are, controlling their own destiny with three regular season games and a possible one-game playoff remaining.
Frequent readers of this section are also familiar with my admiration for Zack Rosen, who I tabbed as the Big 5 Player of the Year over a month ago. The senior guard enjoyed his finest hour last weekend at Harvard, dominating the game down the stretch before punctuating his performance with a pair of free throws in the final seconds to put Penn ahead, where it would stay. No one in the country has done more with less help this season than Rosen. His teammates are a collection of hard-nosed, determined kids. But outside of the occasional Miles Cartwright drive to the basket, no one on the Quakers' roster other than Rosen can create his own shot. He has been a marked man by every opponent he's faced, yet he has turned in one of the best seasons in school history. Give him the Big 5 Player of the Year; give him the Ivy League player of the Year; and here's hoping he doesn't leave campus without the chance to play in the NCAA Tournament.
Penn will handle Brown, and get its revenge on a Yale team still fighting for an Ivy League title itself. Then it's on to Jadwin Gym on Tuesday for the right to play for a trip to the Big Dance. I'm not betting against Zack Rosen.
Penn 70, Brown 54Penn 68, Yale 62
Drexel (25-5, 16-2 CAA)- CAA Tournament Quarterfinal - Saturday, 12 p.m.
BB: Can the Dragons go dancing without winning the CAA Tournament? It's a fascinating debate, and one Bruiser Flint would love to avoid with three wins in Richmond. In my mind, there's no doubt that Drexel passes the "eye test," and its 17-game win streak and CAA regular season title will be hard to ignore. On the other hand, the Dragons didn't accomplish much in their non-conference slate, which could place them squarely on the dreaded bubble if they fail to win the CAA Tournament.
Drexel won't lose the quarterfinal game on Saturday, but the Delaware-Old Dominion winner will pose a serious challenge in Sunday's semifinal. Delaware comes into the conference tournament on an eight-game win streak, and Old Dominion senior Kent Bazemore went off for 37 points against Drexel in the regular season finale. If the Dragons reach the final, they'd likely face either George Mason or hometown favorite VCU. I hope the Dragons cut down the nets, but 20 straight wins is a lot to ask. I think they'll fall in the CAA final and will be sweating it out on Selection Sunday.
SK: Don't underestimate the loss of Derrick Thomas for the Dragons. The junior guard has been charged with simple assault and criminal trespassing for his role in an incident on La Salle's campus in December. Thomas played more than 31 minutes per game in the regular season, averaging 8.0 ppg. More importantly, he was a vital cog in the Dragons' stifling defense. Drexel entered the week sixth nationally in scoring defense, and the absence of Thomas takes away a lot of that bite. But Drexel still has plenty of firepower as it readies for the conference tournament. You don't win 17 straight games and 23 of your last 24 without having plenty of guys contributing on a nightly basis.
The Dragons don't want to leave their fate in the hands of the selection committee. Despite their gaudy record and the fact they haven't lost in exactly two months, their RPI and strength of schedule numbers put them squarely on the bubble if they fail to earn an automatic bid. Drexel fans remember 2007 well, the year the Dragons won 23 games -- including victories at Villanova and Syracuse -- and found themselves in the NIT. It's best to leave nothing to chance this time around. Bruiser Flint wasn't the CAA Coach of the Year by accident. He'll have his kids ready to play this weekend. I say they make it 20 straight wins Monday night.
Cincinnati (21-9, 11-6 Big East) at Villanova (12-17, 5-12 Big East) - Saturday, 2 p.m.
BB: This season's Wildcats never make it easy, but they did get a much-needed road win Thursday night at Rutgers, barely avoiding another second half collapse in the process. Maalik Wayns and JayVaughn Pinkston both had 18 points, which Jay Wright has to hope is a preview of things to come next season. Cincinnati still has plans for this season, however. The Bearcats have an RPI hovering near 70 despite wins over Marquette, Georgetown and Louisville and simply cannot lose this game. They played with tremendous focus in Wednesday's win over Marquette and I can't see Villanova matching that intensity for 40 minutes.
Cincinnati 74, Villanova 66
SK: Villanova gets a shot at redemption in the regular season finale. The Wildcats lost 82-78 at Cincinnati on Jan. 14th despite a career-high 39 points from Maalik Wayns. Since that game, Wayns, James Bell, and JayVaughn Pinkston have been in and out of the lineup due to injuries. Often playing shorthanded, Jay Wright's team has dropped seven of it's last nine games while also battling inconsistency. Villanova puts together stretches that make you think the Wildcats can play with anyone in the Big East. Those instances are typically followed by stretches where they can't get out of their own way -- scoring droughts marred by turnovers and bad shot selection (see losses to Marquette, Notre Dame, Connecticut, and even Thursday's win at Rutgers).
That said, I think Villanova beats Cincinnati on Saturday. The Wildcats are finally getting healthy. And in Wayns and Pinkston, they have two guys who put all kinds of pressure on opposing defenses. The relative emergence of Maurice Sutton over the past week shouldn't be undersold either. He's a long, rangy, active body who's been a tremendous help defensively and on the boards. Cincinnati has more to play for in terms of the postseason, but Villanova wants to end what's truly been a season to forget on a positive note.
Villanova 74, Cincinnati 71
St. Bonaventure (17-10, 10-5 A-10) at La Salle (19-11, 8-7 A-10) - Saturday, 2 p.m.
BB: With apologies to Ramone Moore and Khalif Wyatt, the Atlantic-10 Player of the Year has to be St. Bonaventure's Andrew Nicholson. The Bonnies' senior forward had 32 points and 14 rebounds on Wednesday night, making big shot after big shot and simply willing St. Bonaventure to a double-overtime win over St. Joseph's. Nicholson will be a tough cover for an undersized La Salle team that has fallen on hard times. It's almost hard to believe now that the Explorers led the A-10 halfway through the conference season. They've lost a ton of close games down the stretch, and you have to wonder if those losses have zapped some of their confidence. I think Nicholson will have a huge game at the Gola, and La Salle will suffer another narrow defeat.
St. Bonaventure 74, La Salle 70
SK: La Salle got a much needed win Wednesday over George Washington. But the Explorers' postseason hopes dimmed significantly after losses in five of their last seven games. St. Bonaventure is coming off an emotional win over Saint Joseph's and has locked up a first round bye in the A-10 tournament. Sounds like a recipe for a letdown to me. A 20th win would be meaningful for La Salle, and would provide some much needed momentum entering the conference tournament. Andrew Nicholson clearly presents problems for the Explorers, and I have little doubt he will put up his standard numbers on Saturday. But La Salle is playing at home and is in desperate need of a win for the sake of positioning in the A-10 Tournament.
La Salle 76, St. Bonaventure 73
Temple (23-6, 12-3 A-10) at Fordham (10-18, 3-12 A-10) - Saturday, 4 p.m.
BB: If the Owls are in fact leaving for the Big East, they've got a chance to exit in style. A win here would give Temple its first outright A-10 title since 1990, when Mark Macon was still getting buckets on North Broad. The current Owls should be able to outclass the Rams, losers of seven of their last eight games. Fran Dunphy will no doubt be preaching the importance of defense now that the calendar has turned to March. Temple has allowed an average of 83 points in the last three games, and as efficient as the Owls are offensively, that kind of porous defense won't lead to a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
Temple 82, Fordham 64
SK: Not a whole lot to be said here. The best team in the A-10 against the worst. Yes, Temple has looked less than stellar in its last two outings -- a loss at Saint Joseph's and an overtime win at home over Massachusetts. But the Owls will have a five-day layoff after the regular season finale, and Fran Dunphy wants his team coming off a solid performance during that stretch. The real work for Temple begins next weekend, when it will be expected to win its fourth A-10 Tournament in the last five years.
Temple 79, Fordham 65
BB: 3-3 (30-11 overall)
SK: 3-3 (28-13 overall)