Fastbreak Friday: Villanova hosts Virginia in ACC-Big East battle

Fastbreak Friday: Villanova hosts Virginia in ACC-Big East battle

CSN anchor/reporter Amy Fadool and producer Sean Kane get you set for all of the weekend's local college basketball games with Fastbreak Friday. Look for this column every Friday during the college basketball season.

No. 12 Virginia (16-3, 6-2 ACC) at No. 1 Villanova (19-2, 7-2 Big East), Sunday 1 p.m.

SK: This is big, even by Villanova standards. The ACC meets the Big East as 12th ranked Virginia pays a visit to No. 1 Villanova on Sunday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center. A national television audience will be treated to a showdown that will have the feel of a game typically played in late March or early April. The Wildcats are coming off their second loss of the season, a 74-72 setback at Marquette on Wednesday in which they squandered a 13-point lead with five minutes remaining. The Cavaliers meanwhile are coming off an impressive 17-point win Wednesday at No. 14 Notre Dame.

This is the back end of a home-and-home series between Villanova and Virginia. The Cavaliers beat the Wildcats, 86-75, in Charlottesville last season in a much more high-scoring game than Virginia is accustomed to playing. Tony Bennett's team prefers to grind you down on the defensive end. They currently lead the nation in scoring defense, surrendering just 53.3 points per game.

Of all the things the Villanova program has accomplished over the last four years (a national championship and three straight Big East titles included), one thing in particular stands out to me — no player on the current roster has ever lost two games in a row. That's a remarkable feat for a group of 19-22-year-old kids. I spoke with Jay Wright on Friday morning and asked him what that says about the makeup of his team. At first he joked that he has really good players but eventually credited their resiliency and ability to put a loss behind them and focus on the next game on the schedule. It's one of the mantras of the Villanova program — 'Next play'. Or in this case, next game. Move on and focus on the next challenge. Nobody has done that better than Villanova over the last four years.

The Wildcats have their work cut out for them avoiding a second straight loss on Sunday. Virginia is riding a five-game winning streak and is 9-2 in its last 11 games. Senior London Perrantes is a consummate Tony Bennett guard — a tough, physical player who leads the Cavaliers with 12.3 points and 3.7 assists per game while shooting a shade under 43 percent from three-point range.

As effective as Perrantes has been, this feels like a Josh Hart game to me. Hart scored 16 points in Wednesday's loss at Marquette, but foul trouble limited him to just 19 minutes. He played just four minutes in the first half and was on the bench with four fouls during a critical stretch late in the second half. Hart will be eager to put a frustrating night behind him, and Sunday's game is an opportunity to remind everyone why he's the frontrunner for National Player of the Year honors.

Villanova took 34 three-point shots against Marquette and made just six of them. I imagine Wright spent the last few days preaching the importance of getting to the basket, something that is Hart's specialty. Expect Hart to attack the rim from the get-go on Sunday and help Villanova avoid losing back-to-back games for the first time since March of 2013.

Villanova 65, Virginia 57

La Salle (11-7, 5-2 A10) at Saint Joseph's (9-10, 2-5 A10), Saturday 6 p.m. on CSN

AF: These two teams meet this weekend both coming off losses, both heartbreakers but for two different reasons. Let's start with the visitors.

The Explorers were riding high one week ago. Going into last weekend's game against VCU, they had won six of the previous seven games. They'd taken care of teams above them in the A-10 standings and were climbing their way up. Then La Salle traveled to Richmond to face the Rams. That did not go well. Dr. John Giannini's team lost, 90-52. The Explorers returned to Philadelphia to host Big 5 foe Penn at the Gola. In that game, the Explorers came out of the gates as flat as a team that had just been beaten by nearly 40 points the game before. They had eight of their 17 turnovers in the first half while shooting less 31 percent from the field, including 2 for 13 from three-point range before halftime. They made a game of it in the second half but it wasn't enough. Penn picked up its first Big 5 road win since January 2007.

So let's move to the host team, St. Joe's. The Hawks were cruising in their game this week against St. Bonaventure, up by as many as 18 points. But they went stone cold from the field in the game's final five minutes. That will not earn you any wins, no matter the opponent, especially on the road. The good news was that Phil Martelli saw Lamarr Kimble, James Demery and Charlie Brown all post double figures, something he needs with his leading scorer Shavar Newkirk sidelined for the season.

The Hawks lead this series with La Salle, 62-48, and have won three in a row over the Explorers dating back to the 2014-15 season. The last time La Salle won at Hagan was 2014. This is not a Big 5 game this time around, but of course it counts in the A-10 standings. Saint Joseph's got some other good news this week: Jameer Nelson the program's all-time leader in points and assists, will be inducted into the Big Five Hall of Fame this year.

But I think it's La Salle who gets the good news Saturday night with a win.

La Salle 70, St. Joe's 65

Temple (11-10, 2-6 AAC) at Houston (14-7, 5-4 AAC), Saturday 10 p.m.

SK: Temple got a much-needed win over Memphis Wednesday night, snapping a three-game losing streak and securing just its second victory in the last eight games. Sophomore guard Shizz Alston Jr. led the way for the Owls with 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting while playing the full 40 minutes. Alston has been outstanding as of late, averaging 24 points and shooting 56 percent from the field in the last three games.

Saturday night's visit to Houston is a significant challenge for Fran Dunphy's team, but it's certainly a winnable game. The Cougars are 2-4 in their last six games and just snapped a three-game losing streak themselves with a win over Tulane on Wednesday. Kelvin Sampson has re-energized the Houston program, winning 22 games a year ago following a 13-win season in 2015. Sampson has had his share of off-court issues with the NCAA over the years, but he's proven himself as one of the top coaches in the country during previous stops at Indiana and Oklahoma.

This is a matchup of desperate teams and logic tells me to go with Houston playing on its home court. But I'm riding with Temple for one simple reason — Dunphy's teams typically find their footing in late January and February. It's been a struggle for the Owls this season but they may have found a winning formula against Memphis with Alston playing a starring role. Expect a close, hard-fought battle on Saturday night in Houston. But I look for Temple to find a way to win.

Temple 68, Houston 65

Charleston (16-6, 7-2 CAA) at Drexel (8-13, 2-6 CAA), Saturday 2 p.m.

AF: Drexel comes into this one with the positive momentum of an overtime win Thursday night over Hofstra. Once again, Kurk Lee was the catalyst for the Dragons' victory. He was held scoreless in the first half but poured in all 17 points after the break. And it was Lee's three-pointer with 17 seconds to go that was the game-winner for Drexel in OT.

Another good sign for Miles Overton in this game. The transfer finished with 10 points, his 13th times scoring in double-digit scoring in his last 14 games.

The Dragons stay at home this weekend, welcoming Charleston to the DAC. The Cougars are currently second in the CAA behind juggernaut UNCW. In fact, they were keeping pace with the leaders until this week. Charleston dropped just its second conference game this week. So it's a bit of a wounded Cougars team coming in. This would've been a tough test regardless for Zach Spiker's team, since Charleston boasts three double-figure scorers. Joe Chealey leads the way with 16 on average and had 25 in an overtime loss Thursday to Towson. But that combined with a team who's fighting to stay with the CAA front-runners, and it could be too much for the Dragons.

Charleston 72, Drexel 65

Prediction Records
Sean Kane: 19-5
Amy Fadool: 15-7

Drexel's Chris Crawford soaks up tradition at U.S. Open

USA Today Images

Drexel's Chris Crawford soaks up tradition at U.S. Open

ERIN, Wis. — The U.S. Open is all about tradition. This week is the 117th playing of golf's national championship and this event more than most celebrates those golfers who play the game as amateurs. 

Soon-to-be Drexel graduate Chris Crawford has been soaking up all the traditions this week at Erin Hills. Playing in his second U.S. Open after qualifying through both local and sectional competition for the second straight year, an extremely difficult feat, the 23-year-old fifth-year senior enjoyed the amateur dinner put on by the tournament organizers with the USGA. Crawford and his fellow amateurs, a stout list including Texas' Scottie Scheffler, who shot 3-under Thursday to seize the early low amateur lead, were celebrated the entire evening — one of Crawford's early highlights in a long week here in Wisconsin. 

Crawford produced a 3-over par 75 Thursday during the first round to tie for 102nd out of a field of 156 players.

"I played OK (Thursday)," Crawford said. "I'm going to take more positives than negatives out of the round. I played really well for 14 holes and just had a few bad swings on the other four holes."

Indeed, Thursday morning started nervously for the former Drexel golf standout. On the opening par-5 first hole, he snap-hooked his drive into the weeds out of bounds to the left, resulting in a double bogey. Three holes later, he chipped one shot over the back of the fourth green and took another double-bogey, placing him 4-over through four holes. 

Although bogeys might keep many of us alive in our weekend matches, it doesn't cut it in a U.S. Open. Crawford responded well in the ensuing 14 holes, going 1-under in that stretch.

Crawford's coach Mike Dynda, who teaches him at LuLu Country Club in Glenside, Pennsylvania, said he makes a big point to prepare Crawford's mind for his big rounds.

"I texted him last night and said, 'When you got to sleep, imagine that you're on the 18th hole and you have a putt for 9-under,'" Dynda said. "It's important to go to sleep and dream like that."

On the other side, Dynda — who taught the golf team at Drexel from 2003-2015 — also told his pupil to stay away from expectations. When you're 23 and you're playing in your second consecutive U.S. Open, one might think it would be easy to get ahead of yourself. Not so with Crawford, according to Dynda.

"I've taught him to not have any expectations for the five years we've been together," Dynda said. 

Crawford had a superstar practice round on Monday, playing with Jordan Spieth, Jim Furyk and Wisconsin's own Steve Stricker.

"It was a lot of fun playing with those guys and just watching them strategize about learning a brand new U.S. Open course," Crawford said. "I think that's the biggest thing I was impressed with, was the way they talked about strategy on this golf course.

"They were all very nice with me and were very specific to ask about me and they wanted to learn a little bit about my life, so I appreciated that."

For Dynda, talking with Furyk brought back a fond memory. Furyk's father, Mike, actually sold Dynda his first set of golf clubs, Tommy Armor 845s, back in Philadelphia years ago. 

With one round in the books and the forecast calling for rain this weekend, Crawford was looking forward to having the proper mentality as he headed into Friday's second round.

"I want to go out there and just not get ahead of myself," Crawford said. "I'm going to think positively and appreciate that I'm playing in the national open."

Crawford teed off at 2:31 p.m. local time off of the 10th hole.

"This week is so cool because I never do something like this," Crawford said. "Playing in front of such large crowds is a treat and I just love the interaction with the fans before and after the rounds as well."

Last year at Oakmont, dozens of friends and family made the drive down the turnpike to see him play in his first U.S. Open. This year, Crawford estimates that he has around 15 friends and family out in the galleries cheering him on. Though coach Dynda caddied last year, those duties have gone to current Drexel golf coach Ben Feld.

It's a party this week of Drexel golf proportions.

Atlantic 10 reveals 2017-18 schedule pairings

Atlantic 10 reveals 2017-18 schedule pairings

Philadelphia basketball fans will be getting a double dip of one of the Atlantic 10 conference's best rivalries once again next season.

With the league's 18-game regular season format in place for a fourth straight year, it was revealed Wednesday afternoon that Saint Joseph's and La Salle will battle twice — once in North Philly at Tom Gola Arena and a second time at the Hawks' home just off City Line Avenue. Each team in the 14-member conference will play eight teams once and five teams twice.

The full pairings for the Explorers and Saint Joe's are listed here:

La Salle
Home: Dayton, George Mason, St. Bonaventure, VCU, Fordham, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Saint Joseph’s, Saint Louis
Away: Davidson, Duquesne, George Washington, Richmond, Fordham, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Saint Joseph’s, Saint Louis

Saint Joseph’s
Home: Dayton, Duquesne, Saint Louis, VCU, Fordham, George Mason, La Salle, Massachusetts, St. Bonaventure
Away: Davidson, George Washington, Rhode Island, Richmond, Fordham, George Mason, La Salle, Massachusetts, St. Bonaventure

It was also rumored earlier in the day that the Hawks have added a Big Five matchup at Temple for Dec. 9.