Your 2013-14 City 6 College Basketball Season Preview

Your 2013-14 City 6 College Basketball Season Preview

The city's first Big 5 game tips off Saturday night, when Temple meets Penn at the Palestra. Also on Saturday, La Salle hosts Manhattan, St. Joe's visits Vermont. Villanova gets going Friday night against Lafayette, and Drexel takes on No. 22 UCLA at midnight ET (Friday into Saturday).

Zeitlin's going to be back tomorrow with a City 6 predictions post, but we're both here today to provide you these quick cheat sheets.

Remember, you're going to need something to do from January through March, especially with the way the Flyers are going.

LA SALLE EXPLORERS (schedule)
Key loss: Ramon Galloway
Key returners: Tyrone Garland, Tyreek Duren, Jerrell Wright
Hey, who's that new guy? Khalid Lewis

The Explorers are coming off their first trip to the Sweet 16 in 58 years, and although they did lose their best player, Ramon Galloway, this is a team that seems poised to make a run at its second straight NCAA tournament berth.

With Galloway's 17.2 points per game gone, two seniors, Tyreek Duren and Ramon Garland, now lead the backcourt. You best remember Garland for his "Southwest Philly floater."

Much like last year, La Salle will find itself playing a lot of small ball. Big man Steve Zack and the 6-foot-8 Jerrell Wright will play together, but take a look at the roster: Only four of John Gianinni's 15 players aren't guards. So they'll try to spread you out, dictate matchups, play a lot of drive-and-kick and look for threes.

La Salle and Saint Joseph's are your two remaining big Big 5 members in the Atlantic 10, and La Salle, per usual, will not face an overly challenging non-con schedule. Even if they Explorers rack up a win total similar to what they did last year, there's still a good chance they wind up in another tenuous RPI/SOS conversation come March. A win over Villanova or at Miami in December, the latter admittedly a bit of a stretch, would do a lot to avoid that.

Impossibly early tournament projection: The Explorers are one of four or five teams fighting for maybe three or four A-10 tourney bids. If they finish top-3 in the A-10 regular season standings -- and roll the reams they're supposed to out-of-conference -- it should be enough. NCAA.

Can you spot Michael-Carter Williams?

VILLANOVA WILDCATS (schedule)
Key loss: Mouphtaou Yarou
Key returners: JayVaughn Pinkston, Ryan Arcidiacono
Hey, who's that new guy? Dylan Ennis, Josh Hart

Another team with an abundance of guards and not a lot of height. In fact, Villanova has just one player on its roster taller than 6-foot-8. Jay Wright is going to need 6-foot-11 sophomore Daniel Ochefu to take a big leap forward in Year 2 and stay out of foul trouble.

Of course, Arcidiacono, the reigning Big 5 newcomer of the year, returns to lead a loaded backcourt. James Bell, Darrun Hilliard, and Tony Chennault are all back -- although Chennault almost wasn't -- and they're now joined by freshman Josh Hart, who's really more of a wing, and Rice transfer Dylan Ennis. Ennis, unfortunately, broke his hand two weeks back, and although the initial prognosis called for maybe only a four-week absence, it's beginning to look longer.

As for where the Wildcats are playing, it's still the Big East, just not the one you're used to.  It's the seven basketball-only schools from the old league -- Villanova, St. John's, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall and DePaul -- plus newcomers Creighton, Xavier and Butler.

Villanova, like La Salle, will end up playing some four-guard, but Ochefu, the man in the middle, will end up being the key to the whole season as Wright looks for his ninth NCAA appearance in 10 years.

Impossibly early tournament projection: The new league gets a lot of national love and the teams beat each other up all year. But as long Ochefu stays healthy and productive, 'Nova can hang. A nervous at-large on Sunday, but they get in. NCAA.

DREXEL DRAGONS (schedule)
Key losses: Daryl McCoy, Derrick Thomas
Key returners: Frantz Massenat, Damion Lee, Chris Fouch, Dartaye Ruffin
Hey, who’s the new guy? Freddie Wilson, Rodney Williams

Drexel’s 2012-13 season was one of the great mysteries in college basketball last year. How could a team that won 29 games in 2011-12 return almost everybody and win just 13 games the following season?

Injuries and a lack of senior leadership certainly played a role in those struggles, with sharpshooter Chris Fouch missing most of the year with a broken ankle he suffered when he stepped on someone near the Palestra baseline (probably another reason why head coach Bruiser Flint would rather end the “Battle of 33rd Street” series with Penn than keep playing every game at the Quakers’ home gym). But Chris Fouch, who also missed the entire 2008-09 campaign with a knee injury, will return as an oh-so-rare sixth-year senior, providing leadership in a loaded backcourt that also features the heady senior Frantz Massenat (whose ridiculous half-court game-winner from last year you can watch here) and high-scoring junior Damion Lee.

If Drexel can stay healthy, some of the five newcomers emerge as viable rotation guys (Wilson, a transfer from Seton Hall, won’t be eligible until the end of the fall semester) and Ruffin gets a little help in the paint, the Dragons should look more like they did two years ago than they did last year.

Impossibly early tournament projection: We know from past seasons that the Dragons need to win the CAA conference tournament in March to make the Big Dance. This is the year they’ll do it. NCAA.

SAINT JOSEPH'S HAWKS (schedule)
Key losses: Carl Jones, C.J. Aiken
Key returners: Langston Galloway, Halil Kanacevic, Ron Roberts
Hey, who's that new guy? DeAndre Bembry
Hey, who's that with the hair? Javon Baumann

St. Joe's was supposed to enter this season with four starting seniors but lost one sooner than expected. Big man and block specialist C.J. Aiken opted for the pros. The team's leading scorer, Carl Jones, is also gone. The point guard responsibilities fall to junior Chris Wilson and either of Kanacevic or Roberts will play center.

This is a St. Joe's team that was picked as the preseason favorite to win the Atlantic 10 last year but proved too inconsistent to do any better than 18-14 overall and 8-8 in the league. With Aiken back, it was hard not to like Hawks' chances of finally getting it together with this promising group of seniors. But he's not back, and the team isn't all that deep without him.

If sophomore Isaiah Miles and freshman DeAndre Bembry contribute as expected, the Hawks still have enough going for them to make a run at an at-large bid. But Aiken, Kanacevic and Roberts were a matchup nightmare together. It's a shame they didn't stay together to give it one more try.

Phil Martelli hasn't made it to the NCAA tournament since 2008. If is the year he makes his return, the Hawks are going to have to take down a La Salle, VCU or Saint Louis in league play -- and have 20 other wins.

Impossibly early tournament projection: The Hawks need a run in the A-10 tourney to nab a late at-large selection or an autobid and fall short. NIT.

TEMPLE OWLS (schedule)
Key losses: Khalif Wyatt, Scootie Randall, Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson, Jake O'Brien, T.J. DiLeao
Key returners: Anthony Lee, Will Cummings, Quenton DeCosey
Hey, who's that new guy? Josh Brown, Mark Williams

Where'd everybody go? And who's left?

Anthony Lee and Will Cummings were big parts of this team last year, but here's the important stat: Four of Temple's five leading scorers from last season -- Wyatt, Randall, O'Brien and Hollis Jefferson -- are gone, and so are their 50.9 points per game that made up 71 percent of the Owls' total output.

Temple has only 10 eligible players on its 2013-14 roster and maybe only eight of them can be counted on to play. Foul trouble will be a constant worry and one injury could spell big trouble.

Temple enters its first season in the American Athletic Conference with a very inexperienced roster. It's not impossible that the Owls could surprise everybody, but it would be a surprise. The inexperience aside, these kids are going to be learning against a crazy schedule that features home-and-homes with Louisville, UConn, Memphis and Cincinnati. The non-con slate doesn't give them a lot of time to learn either.

This is a team that might just need a year to find itself and grow. The Owls have a very strong young nucleus with Quenton DeCosey, Dan Dingle, Devontae Watson and Josh Brown. Lee and Cummings will be seniors next year, and junior transfer Jaylen Bond will then be available.

But in the meantime, a seventh straight NCAA tournament appearance for Fran Dunphy seems like a stretch.

Impossibly early tournament projection: The challenges prove too great, but there's a lot of optimism about 2014-15. NIT?

PENN QUAKERS (schedule)
Key losses: None
Key returners: Miles Jackson-Cartwright, Fran Dougherty, Tony Hicks, Darien Nelson-Henry
Hey, who’s the new guy? Tony Bagtas, Matt Howard

While everyone’s been talking about Harvard cruising to an Ivy League championship on its way to becoming the greatest Ivy team ever, Penn head coach Jerome Allen has quietly assembled a dangerous and confident team that could challenge the Crimson for league supremacy.

Leading the charge for the Quakers will be a pair of standout seniors in guard Miles Jackson-Cartwright and forward Fran Dougherty, the latter of who was enjoying a breakout year in 2012-13 before a bout with mono and a dislocated elbow derailed his season.

While Jackson-Cartwright and Dougherty represent a strong duo, the inside-outside tandem of highly skilled sophomores Tony Hicks and Darien Nelson-Henry is even more promising for Penn fans. Throw in another strong freshman class for Allen, who seems to be hitting his recruiting stride in his fourth full season at the helm, and you can see why Penn was picked to finish second in the Ivies despite stumbling to a 9-22 overall record last year.

Impossibly early tournament projection: In a one-bid, no-conference-tournament league like the Ivy, the only true path to the Big Dance is to win the regular-season conference crown. That’s a lot to ask and Penn’s NCAA tourney drought will likely hit seven years – although some sort of postseason berth certainly looks doable. CBI.

Phillies-Nationals 5 things: Calling on Aaron Nola to stop 4-game skid

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Phillies-Nationals 5 things: Calling on Aaron Nola to stop 4-game skid

Phillies (26-25) vs. Nationals (31-21)
7:05 p.m. on CSN

The Phillies are in a rut, an expected rut given their recent schedule.

On Tuesday, they'll try to get back on track behind the young right-hander who's emerging as their stopper.

Let's take a look at the second of their 10-game homestand:

1. Not measuring up
The Phillies have lost six of their last seven games and are riding their first four-game losing streak since they started the year 0-4. Prior to last week, they'd done a decent job this season of avoiding lengthy skids, but this is definitely the toughest stretch they've faced in 2016.

Over these seven games, the Phils have been outscored 34-21 by the Tigers, Cubs and Nationals, three veteran teams filled with power. Two of the games have been decided by one run and the Phillies lost both after holding late leads. 

At 14-5, the Phils still have far and away the majors' best record in one-run games, but this is what regression looks like. Hector Neris wasn't going to go through a full season without a hiccup. And the best example of how unsustainably productive he's been was that even after allowing three runs in just two-thirds of an inning, Neris' ERA is still 2.20. It's difficult for a reliever to get hit around and still have that low an ERA, especially this early in the season.

If the Phillies lose again tonight, they'll be right at .500 for the first time since they were 10-10. They've spent the last 33 days of the season with a winning record.

2. Nola gets the nod
Jeremy Hellickson turned in his second straight excellent outing against the Nationals on Memorial Day and Aaron Nola looks to do the same.

Nola, like Hellickson, struggled the first time he faced Washington this season, allowing seven earned runs in five innings.

Nola, like Hellickson, rebounded the next time he faced the Nats — both allowed two hits over seven shutout innings in their second start against Washington.

Now Nola looks to build upon that success the way Hellickson did Monday night, when he lowered his own ERA to 3.68 by allowing a run on three hits over seven innings.

Nola is 4-3 with a 2.86 ERA in 10 starts this season. He's struck out 70, walked 12 and allowed five home runs in 66 innings. His opponents have hit .200.

Nola has missed more bats and struck out more batters at the major-league level than anyone expected. His control has been as advertised — he's walked just 31 batters in 143⅔ career innings. This season, he's cut his home run rate in half. He allowed 11 in 77⅔ innings as a rookie.

Nola continues to lead the National League with 242 called strikes, 17 more than Tanner Roark, who is second. That number speaks to the effectiveness of Nola's knee-buckling curveball, which has generated 65 swings-and-misses, second-most in the majors to Jose Fernandez's 77. (Jerad Eickhoff is third in the NL with 33.)

Current Nationals are 19 for 65 (.292) against Nola with two doubles, a triple, two homers and 18 strikeouts. Bryce Harper, who left Monday's game in the seventh inning after being hit by a pitch on the knee, is 6 for 10 with two of those home runs. Jayson Werth and Anthony Rendon have also taken Nola deep.

3. Harper out?
Harper left the game in the seventh with what was diagnosed a right knee contusion. It would obviously be a huge relief for the Phillies if he's out of the lineup Tuesday, especially considering how he's hit lately at Citizens Bank Park.

Harper brought into Monday's game a streak of six straight games with a home run at Citizens Bank Park, tying the longest home run streak in MLB history for any player at a visiting stadium. 

Harper, who hit .330 last season, won an MVP and led the NL in practically every meaningful offensive category, has been in a lengthy slump. Over his last 32 games, he's hit .183 with just five extra-base hits in 133 plate appearances. Teams have stopped pitching to him. Harper has 35 walks over that span, nine intentional.

But Harper is obviously a threat any time he comes to the plate, and he's hit pretty much any pitcher the Phillies have thrown at him the last two years. In 104 plate appearances against them since the start of 2015, Harper has hit .346 with three doubles, 11 homers, 23 RBIs, 21 walks and 23 strikeouts.

4. Another crack at Ross
Nationals right-hander Joe Ross (4-4, 2.52) makes his 10th start of the season tonight against the Phils. He shut them down on April 15 in his second start, pitching 7⅔ shutout innings in his best outing of the year.

Ross has allowed one run or fewer in five of nine starts and two earned runs or fewer in seven of nine. He's given up more than three earned runs just once all season, on May 10 against the Tigers.

The younger brother of Padres opening-day starter Tyson Ross, Joe is mostly a three-pitch pitcher who throws a lot of sinkers and sliders. When he faced the Phillies earlier this season he threw 55 sinkers, 38 sliders and 14 changeups. 

Like his brother, Joe Ross loves the slider with two strikes, throwing it 73 percent of the time this season with two strikes on a right-handed hitter. His opponents this year are 16 for 92 (.174) against the slider with four home runs and 37 strikeouts.

Lefties (.295 BA, .757 OPS) have hit him much better than righties (.209, .598). Might that mean another start for Ryan Howard?

5. This and that
• Carlos Ruiz is 0 for 21 over his last six starts and is down to .222 on the season.

• Daniel Murphy had three more hits and drove in three runs against the Phillies last night. He's a .313/.363/.487 career hitter against them in 457 plate appearances. Playing in the NL East the last eight seasons, Murphy has hit lower than .293 just once vs. the Phils.

• Freddy Galvis, who homered off Roark on Monday, has hit well at home this season with a .284 batting average and .779 OPS in 85 plate appearances. Galvis is 12 for 33 (.364) over his last eight games overall with four doubles, a triple and a homer.

• Jonathan Papelbon has faced the Phillies six times since they traded him to the Nationals last summer. In those six games, he's allowed nine runs (six earned) and put 13 men on base. The Phils have seven hits (five doubles) against him in 2⅔ innings this season.

Source: Former Eagles safety Walter Thurmond retires at 28

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Source: Former Eagles safety Walter Thurmond retires at 28

Defensive back Walter Thurmond, who had a productive year with the Eagles in 2015 in his first season as a safety, is retiring at 28, a source confirmed to CSNPhilly.com's Dave Zangaro.

The news of Thurmond's retirement was initially reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Thurmond was finally able to stay healthy in 2015. He played 16 games for the first time in his career, finishing with 71 tackles, three interceptions, two sacks and two forced fumbles. Thurmond and Malcolm Jenkins formed one of the NFL's better safety duos, but the Eagles upgraded the position even more by signing Rodney McLeod to a five-year deal.

Thurmond battled injuries throughout his six-year NFL career, missing 44 of 80 games over his first five seasons. A broken fibula cost him most of the 2011 season, he missed significant time in 2012 with a hamstring injury, and a torn pectoral limited him to two games in 2014.

LSU PG Tim Quarterman on Ben Simmons: 'He's a great teammate'

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LSU PG Tim Quarterman on Ben Simmons: 'He's a great teammate'

By now, Tim Quarterman is used to being asked about Ben Simmons.

The former LSU point guard declared for the NBA draft following his junior season and enter the same draft in which Simmons, the freshman phenom, is projected to be the No. 1 or No. 2 pick.

As Quarterman goes through his own pre-draft process, it's inevitable he'll have to field questions about his former teammate he calls “his little brother” along the way.

“He’s a great passer, he can handle the ball and he’s always there to cheer you on,” Quarterman said Monday following a workout with the Sixers on Monday. “He likes for other people to accomplish great accomplishments. He’s a great teammate.”

Simmons came under criticism during his freshman year for “quitting” on the Tigers. The team went 19-14 and failed to make the NCAA Tournament. They also chose not to participate in any other postseason tournaments. Even though Simmons averaged a team-high 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.0 steals per game, there was question over his effort.

Quarterman said that wasn’t the case.

"Ben is a great person, a great player and he's a great competitor, so I don't think throughout the season he ever quit on us," Quarterman said. “I think he continued to play hard. I think us losing frustrated a lot of  us as competitors because we always wanted to win.”

The Sixers have an edge evaluating Simmons. While he grew up thousands of miles from Philadelphia in Australia, it just so happens Brett Brown coached Simmons' father David during his extensive coaching career in Australia. Not only does Brown know Simmons’ family, he still is closely connected to those involved in his basketball career.

“I know the people that have worked with him all across the board,” Brown said. “That’s just one of the benefits of living in the country and 20 minutes from where he grew up for 17 years, short of my Sydney days where it makes it 12 years.”

Of course Quarterman didn't work out with the Sixers just to speak on Simmons. He is also fighting for a place in the NBA as well.

"Tim did a very good job creating for others," Brandon Williams, Sixers vice president of basketball administration, said. "What I'm impressed by is he's such a nuisance defensively, his length and athleticism. Then he showed his ability to create off the bounce."