Six in the City: Gearing up for the Madness

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Six in the City: Gearing up for the Madness

Friday, February 25, 2011
Posted: 5:42 p.m.

By Dave Zeitlin
CSNPhilly.com Contributor

Check your calendars the best month for any college basketball fan is almost upon us. But before the madness of March truly begins with postseason tournaments, teams around the nation will try to polish up their rsums and stamp their credentials for the Big Dance. With that in mind, heres a look at what each of the citys six Division I teams have done through February and what they can do, if anything, to enjoy the fruits of March.

Villanova Wildcats

Record: 21-7 overall, 9-6 Big East
RPI: 30 (14 Pomeroy)
On tap: vs. St. Johns, Wells Fargo Center, Saturday, 2 p.m.
Signature win: Jan. 22 at Syracuse, 83-72
Worst loss: Feb. 9 at Rutgers, 77-76

What theyve done well through February: The Wildcats have been ranked all season, thanks to the two Coreys, who have both lived up their billing in their senior seasons. Corey Fisher is averaging 16 points and five assists per game, while Corey Stokes is averaging 15 points per game and shooting 42 percent from three-point range.

What they need to do better in March: Villanovas third star guard, sophomore Maalik Wayns, has been up-and-down since head coach Jay Wright decided to bring him off the bench. If the Wildcats wants to slow down their Big East skid theyve lost six of their last 11 and make a deep NCAA run, theyll need all of their guards to be at their best at the same time.

Realistic expectations: Anything short of the Sweet 16 would be a disappointment for these Cats, and a trip to the Elite Eight is certainly attainable if things break right. But advancing to the Final Four is probably a stretch for a team skidding at the wrong time.

Temple Owls

Record: 21-6 overall, 11-2 Atlantic 10
RPI: 32 (36 Pomeroy)
On Tap: at George Washington, Saturday, 2 p.m.
Signature win: Dec. 9 Georgetown, 68-65
Worst loss: Nov. 25 California, 57-50
What theyve done well through February: The critics have been hard on Lavoy Allen all season, but the Temple senior is a college star, plain and simple. In the past week, Allen set the programs all-time rebounding record in an Owls win over St. Joes and followed it up with a 17-point, 13-rebound output against No. 1 Duke on Wednesday. He is the main reason why the Owls have once again won over 20 games.

What they need to do better in March: Its very simple: the Owls must get healthy and stay healthy. Micheal Erics season-ending knee injury stung, but even worse is the loss of junior swingman Scootie Randall, who was having a breakout season. Randall has missed the last two games with a foot injury and his return is uncertain. Without him, leading scorer Ramone Moore, point guard Juan Fernandez and Allen will have to be almost perfect for the Owls down the stretch.

Realistic expectations: Again, this all depends on Randalls return, but the Owls will certainly be gunning for their fourth straight Atlantic 10 tournament championship. At least one win in the NCAA tournament would also be a boon for the program and for head coach Fran Dunphy, who has lost 11 straight NCAA games dating back to 1994.

Drexel Dragons

Record: 19-9 overall, 10-7 Colonial Athletic Association
RPI: 59 (94 Pomeroy)
On Tap: at Towson, Saturday, 4 p.m.
Signature win: Dec. 14 at Lousiville, 52-46
Worst loss: Feb. 15 at UNC Wilmington, 51-43

What theyve done well through February: The Dragons have been among the best teams in the nation all season in two very important categories: defense and rebounding. Theyre holding opposing teams to less than 60 points per game, while averaging just over 40 rebounds per game one of the top 10 totals in Division I.
What they need to do better in March: The Dragons will never light teams up offensively, but theyll need to avoid going ice cold from the floor. In their last loss, an ugly 51-43 loss to lowly UNC Wilmington, they shot just 26 percent from the field.

Realistic expectations: This is a very solid Drexel team. The Dragons showed that with back-to-back wins over Kent State and VCU in the past week. The next step now is to try to win the CAA tournament, which begins next Friday. With conference powers George Mason and Old Dominion standing in their way, it will be a very difficult task but very likely the only way for the Dragons to make the Big Dance. If not, an NIT bid awaits.
Penn Quakers

Record: 11-12 overall, 5-4 Ivy League
RPI: 168 (171 Pomeroy)
On Tap: vs. Columbia, tonight, 7 p.m.
Signature win: Nov. 13 Davidson, 69-64
Worst loss: Dec. 29 at Marist, 66-57

What theyve done well through February: Although its not going to translate into an Ivy League title this season, the Quakers are showing signs of improvement following last years dreadful six-win campaign. Junior guard Zack Rosen and senior forward Jack Eggleston have been among the best players in the Ivy League, and senior sharpshooter Tyler Bernardini has been lights-out after a slow start.
What they need to do better in March: Losing close games has been an issue for the Quakers, whose Ivy title hoops were doomed with three straight overtime defeats earlier this month to Harvard, Princeton and Cornell. All of those games played out the same way with Penn falling behind early, storming back to force overtime and then making critical errors down the stretch. The key for Penn going forward is not getting into such a big hole to begin with.

Realistic expectations: Without a conference tournament to fall back on and with Harvard and Princeton dominating the league the Quakers dont have much of a chance to play in the postseason. For them, beating archrival Princeton in their final regular-season game would be a great finale and could also spoil the Tigers NCAA hopes. With all of their top guards coming back next season, the Quakers would also be wise to keep developing freshman forwards Cameron Gunter and Fran Dougherty, both of whom will likely be major contributors in 2011-12.

La Salle Explorers

Record: 12-16 overall, 4-9 Atlantic 10
RPI: 179 (195 Pomeroy)
On Tap: Sunday vs. UMass, 2 p.m.
Signature win: Nov. 23 Providence, 84-73
Worst loss: Dec. 29 Towson, 93-90, OT

What theyve done well through February: Offense has never been an issue for the Explorers, who rank 31st in the nation with 76.6 points per game. Sophomore center Aaric Murray (14.9 ppg), senior forward Jerrell Williams (13.9 ppg) and senior guard Ruben Guillandeaux (12.3) are all scoring in double figures, and guards Tyreek Duren (9.9 ppg) and Earl Pettis (9.7 ppg) are not far behind.

What they need to do better in March: Its been a season-long struggle for head coach John Giannini to get his team to defend, especially in key spots when they need a big stop. Theyve been giving up just about 80 points per game, and thats just not going to cut it in March.

Realistic expectations: The season began with a lot of promise after near misses against Missouri, Oklahoma State and Villanova. But the Explorers have sputtered in conference play, losing five of their last six. At this point, La Salles goal should be to win their first-round game in the Atlantic 10 tournament and then try to spring an upset in the conference quarterfinals in Atlantic City.

Saint Josephs Hawks

Record: 7-20 overall, 2-11 Atlantic 10
RPI: 200 (214 Pomeroy)
On Tap: Saturday, vs. Saint Bonaventure, 4 p.m.
Signature win: Nov. 26 Rutgers, 76-70
Worst loss: Nov. 12 Western Kentucky, 98-70

What theyve done well through February: Sophomore Carl Jones has been the top scorer in the city for most of the season, and highly touted freshmen Langston Galloway, C.J. Aiken and Ronald Roberts have all shown flashes of promise.

What they need to do better in March: With such a young team, you expect some growing pains but at the same time, all of the losses have been hard to bear for the SJU faithful who have come to expect winning on Hawk Hill. At this point, the only thing the Hawks can do is keep trying to come together as a team as they build for the future.

Realistic expectations: Just being one of the 12 teams to qualify for the A-10 tournament is important for the Hawks. To do that, they will likely need to beat Charlotte next weekend in their final regular season. Both SJU and Charlotte are currently tied for the 12th place in the 14-team league.

Six in the City is a weekly feature on the citys six Division I college basketball programs written by CSNPhilly.com contributor Dave Zeitlin. You can email him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.

City 6 Scouting reports: No. 2 Villanova, Temple and St. Joe's in action

City 6 Scouting reports: No. 2 Villanova, Temple and St. Joe's in action

Three City 6 schools will hit the floor in some conference games Wednesday night. Let’s take a look at the matchups.

No. 2 Villanova (26-2, 13-2 Big East) vs. No. 22 Butler (21-6, 10-5 Big East)
9 p.m. at the Pavilion on FOX Sports 1

Last time out
Jalen Brunson and Kris Jenkins each had 22 points and shot a combined 15 of 17 from the field, as the Wildcats steamrolled Seton Hall, 92-70, on Saturday (see story).

Josh Hart chipped in 19 points, four rebounds, one assist and a steal. Brunson shot a perfect 7 for 7 from the field and racked up a double-double with 10 assists. Villanova got off on a 15-4 run early in the second half to build on a 42-31 lead entering halftime.

Thanks to four players scoring in double figures, Butler beat DePaul, 82-66, at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Sunday. 

Butler trailed by five with just under five minutes to go in the first half, but the Bulldogs finished the frame on a 14-0 run, giving them a 36-27 lead entering halftime.

Nate Fowler led the Bulldogs in points with 15 off the bench on 7-of-9 shooting.

Scouting report
The Wildcats will return home on a seven-game winning streak after three straight road games.

Brunson has been red hot for Villanova on that streak. The sophomore guard has scored at least 15 points in five of the past seven games. He’s also shooting the ball at a 54 percent clip during that stretch.

Although Donte DiVincenzo didn’t have his best outings scoring-wise in the past two games against DePaul and Seton Hall, he’s been a huge help for Wildcats off the bench this season. Over the past seven games, DiVincenzo has had three games in which he’s scored more than 15 points.

Butler enters this game shooting 56 percent or better in back-to-back games. With Villanova possibly missing Darryl Reynolds for a fourth straight game, the Bulldogs could use the 6-10, 250-pound Fowler to take advantage of a smaller ‘Cats lineup.

Despite averaging 5.5 points per game, Fowler scored 15 on Sunday and 19 against Providence on Feb. 11.

What it means
If Villanova wins, it will clinch the No. 1 seed in the Big East Tournament outright.

With a victory, Butler could solidify itself as the No. 2 seed in the Big East Tournament. Creighton is a half-game back of the Bulldogs in the conference standings.

Series history
This is the ninth time Villanova and Butler will play each other. Villanova leads the all-time series, 7-1. Butler’s only win over ‘Nova came on Jan. 4 in a 66-58 decision.

What’s next?
Villanova will host No. 23 Creighton Saturday at 3 p.m.

Butler will travel to Cincinnati to play Xavier at the Cintas Center.

Temple (14-14, 5-10 AAC) vs. UCF (17-10, 8-7 AAC)
7 p.m. at the Liacouras Center on ESPNU 

Last time out
Temple led UConn by as many as 10 midway through the second half Sunday, but fell, 64-63, at the Liacouras Center thanks to a layup by Jalen Adams with 2.9 seconds left in the game (see story)

Daniel Dingle had a team-high 17 points for Temple while freshmen Damion Moore and Alani Moore II combined for 22 points on 9-of-10 shooting.

UCF on Saturday knocked off East Carolina, 61-58, after going on an 11-2 run late in the second half at the Minges Coliseum.

Nick Banyard led the way for UCF with his second double-double of the season, scoring 18 points and hauling in 11 rebounds.

Scouting report
Temple coach Fran Dunphy has gone with a different starting lineup in the past three games. Moore and Quinton Rose have replaced Ernest Aflakpui and Moore II in the starting lineup. Temple is 1-2 in that stretch, but the Owls have seen some flashes of talent out of their young group of players.

Against UConn, Moore looked comfortable in the offense and scored 11 points on a perfect 5-for-5 shooting. Rose is averaging 12.7 points, four rebounds and three assists per game in his three starts this season. 

Obi Enechionyia’s minutes have decreased over those past three games even though he’s started all of them. Enechionyia, who averages 32.3 minutes per game, played 29 minutes against Memphis, 21 against East Carolina and 19 against UConn. He’s also shot the ball only 4 of 14 from the field with a combined 18 points in those three games.

Defense has been the staple of UCF's team this season. The Knights are second in scoring defense in the AAC, allowing opponents 60.8 points per game. Opposing teams are shooting 36 percent against UCF, too, which ranks first in the AAC in field goal percentage defense.

Those numbers can be attributed to 7-6 center Tacko Fall, who averages 2.4 blocks per game and alters countless other shot attempts.

UCF is led by its backcourt combo of B.J. Taylor and Matt Williams. Taylor averages 16.6 points per game, while Williams averages 15.5 points per game. Taylor has scored in double figures in nine consecutive games.

What it means
A win could help Temple try to find its way out of the bottom four of the AAC. Currently, Temple ranks eighth in the conference, and would play in the first round of the conference tournament.

If UCF wins, it will bump the Knights up to fifth in the AAC standings above Memphis.

Series history
Temple and UCF are meeting for the ninth time. The Owls hold a 5-3 lead in the all-time series.

What’s next?
Temple will play its final home game of the season against Tulane on Saturday at noon.

UCF will face Cincinnati at the CFE Center Sunday at 3 p.m.

St. Joe’s (10-16, 3-11 A-10) vs. St. Bonaventure (16-10, 8-6 A-10)
7 p.m. at Hagan Arena

Last time out
St. Joe’s fell, 83-68, to La Salle at Tom Gola Arena on Saturday (see story). The loss was St. Joe’s sixth consecutive defeat, its longest losing streak since a nine-game skid back in 2011. 

St. Bonaventure lost a thriller in the final seconds to Dayton, 76-72, on Saturday at UD Arena. Darrell Davis of Dayton hit a pair of free throws with 0.9 seconds left to sink the Bonnies.

Scouting report
St. Joe’s hasn’t been lucky this season.

Its two starting backcourt players, Shavar Newkirk and Lamarr Kimble, both suffered season-ending injuries.

Kimble led the Hawks in scoring at 15.5 points per game, but since he's been sidelined two games ago against UMass, freshman Charlie Brown has played big.

Brown is averaging 16.0 points and 6.5 rebounds in Kimble’s absence. He’s also scored in double figures in every game except one since January.

St. Bonaventure enters this game winners in three of its last six.

Jaylen Adams, St. Bonaventure’s leading scorer, is tied for first in the A-10 in scoring with 21.6 points per game. Matt Mobley also averages 19.0 points per game for St. Bonaventure and shoots 41 percent from beyond the arc.

The Bonnies have the best scoring offense in the A-10, averaging 78.3 points per contest.

What it means
There really isn’t much to gain here for St. Joe’s. The best thing for the Hawks in this game is to test out some of their young talent on the roster for next season. They’re tied for last place in the A-10 with Duquesne and UMass. 

A win for the Bonnies could improve their seeding in the A-10 Tournament. The Bonnies are a 1 1/2 games back of Richmond and Rhode Island, who are both tied for the third spot in the conference.

Series history
This is the 35th time the Hawks and Bonnies will square off. St. Joe’s holds a 23-12 advantage in the all-time series.

What’s next?
St. Joe’s will be on the road against Saint Louis on Saturday at 4:30 p.m.

The Bonnies will be home against Duquesne on Saturday at 4 p.m.

Penn State succumbs to No. 14 Purdue in overtime

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Penn State succumbs to No. 14 Purdue in overtime

BOX SCORE

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Accustomed to dominating in stretches lately, the 14th-ranked Purdue Boilermakers found themselves on the other end of a big score and needed a savior against a gritty Penn State team on Tuesday night.

Enter Ryan Cline.

The guard scored six of his 11 points in overtime to lift Purdue to a 74-70 victory over the Nittany Lions in a game the Boilermakers led for just 9:16.

"It rarely happens where a team outplays another one, plays harder and they lose the game especially on their home court," Purdue coach Matt Painter said. "Thank the Lord Cline knocked those two shots down."

Cline's consecutive 3-pointers secured his team's sixth straight win and snapped the Nittany Lions' four-game winning streak against Top 25 teams visiting the Bryce Jordan Center.

Vincent Edwards added 14 points, Isaac Haas chipped in 13 and Dakota Mathias scored 12 for the Boilermakers (23-5, 12-3 Big Ten) who trailed 33-29 at halftime.

Tony Carr scored 21 points, Lamar Stevens added 18 and Mike Watkins finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds for Penn State (14-14, 6-9). The Nittany Lions owned the paint, even against Purdue's towering bigs -- 6-foot-8 Caleb Swanigan and the 7-2 Haas -- where Penn State owned a 46-12 edge.

But the Nittany Lions couldn't get deep shots to fall. They finished just 2 for 18 from 3-point range.

"That was as hard as we've played all year," Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. "Proud of my team. However, there's no more moral victories here. We've got to get some things done. We've got to close out games."

Penn State led for all but 7:35 of regulation and by as many as 10 points midway through the first half. But they surrendered the lead on a dunk by Haas with 10:13 left. The Nittany Lions used a 10-2 run and four straight baskets from Carr to send the game into overtime where Cline found his shot.

Big picture
Purdue: The Boilermakers cooled off after a recent hot streak saw them dominate for large stretches of games. Purdue's five-game winning streak entering the night included wins over Michigan State, Rutgers and Northwestern, all by at least 17 points.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions are still looking to eclipse their combined win total in January and February under Chambers. Penn State won six games for their best stretch in the two-month span a year ago and will have two more tries to surpass last year's mark.

Loose guards
Painter wasn't happy with his guard play for much of the game. He sensed confusion from his backcourt and it cost them in the form of turnovers. Ten of Purdue's 17 giveaways were committed by guards.

"Our guard play and overall ball control, there's no question, there were times they were hesitant," Painter said.

Big man battle
As Chambers spoke with reporters, he guessed Watkins was sitting in the locker room with nothing left in the tank.

"He's exhausted in that locker room," Chambers said. "He battled. He went toe-to-toe with a potential lottery pick and a potential first-rounder some day in Haas because I think Haas is a pro."

Watkins was outmuscled in his first game against Purdue's sizable forwards when he scored just six points and grabbed only three rebounds earlier this season. He had 12 rebounds in the first half -- including three straight offensive midway through the first half -- that brought the crowd to a roar when he finally drew a foul and made two free throws.

Shot clock issue
A shot clock mishap cost the Nittany Lions a possession in overtime. With 13 seconds left and Purdue up 72-70, Haas took a jumper and missed close to the rim with the shot clock waning. It would have run out had Shep Garner not fouled P.J. Thompson immediately afterward, however.

Chambers said he thought Garner might have believed Haas' shot hit the rim. Instead, Thompson made both free throws to put the game out of reach.

Poll implications
Purdue survived a scare and its place in the poll should remain safe.

Up next
Purdue plays at Michigan on Friday.

Penn State travels to Minnesota on Friday.