1

Week (at least) that Joel Embiid is expected to miss due to left knee soreness

Like a deeply scarred lover, the Cavaliers seem thrilled that LeBron James deems them worthy of his attention again. But this courtship isn’t about the Cavs or winning a title for Cleveland. It’s all about LeBron.

With WrestleMania 33 taking place Sunday in Orlando, our Top 10 list becomes a Top 33 as we present the best 33 matches in WrestleMania history. Did any matches from last year make the list? Check out the list to find out.

Eric Fisher’s weekly column about a variety of topics. This week Eric serves up opinions on the Soul trying to repeat as Arena Football League champions, the Mayweather-McGregor fight and a ridiculous decision by ESPN.

Archive for the ‘NCAA’ Category

College Notebook: Wildcats bounce back

Posted by Eric Fisher On February - 3 - 2019 ADD COMMENTS

One week before Christmas, Villanova was sitting at 8-4, having just lost consecutive games to Penn and Kansas. The road loss to Kansas was understandable. The loss to Penn was a bit of a shock.

That was the second time the defending national champions had dropped consecutive games this season. The previous time both losses were at home, a blowout loss to Michigan and an overtime loss to Furman.

The reports of Villanova’s demise, however, appear to have been premature. The Wildcats have won 10 straight games since their loss at Kansas and have risen to No. 14 in the national rankings.

The Wildcats’ revival has been led by redshirt seniors Phil Booth and Eric Paschall. Booth is averaging 18.5 points and four assists. He is making 41 percent of his shots from 3-point range. Paschall is averaging 17.4 points and 6.3 rebounds while shooting 36.6 percent from 3-point range.

It can be argued that Villanova is becoming too reliant on Booth and Paschall. But it’s hard to argue that leaning in the Booth-Paschall duo isn’t working for the Wildcats.

Perhaps sophomore Collin Gillespie, a reliable third option, could join the top duo to form a triple threat. Gillespie poured in 30 points Sunday during a 77-65 win over Georgetown, which stretched the Wildcats’ winning streak to 10 games.

The argument could be made that the 10-game winning streak reveals the weakness of the Big East as much as it does Villanova’s prowess. The Big East certainly isn’t on the same level as the top leagues in the country. On the other hand, Villanova should receiver credit for handling its business in its league.

Gillespie is averaging 12.1 points per game, but no other Wildcat is above 7.8. Villanova will probably need more bench scoring in order to make some noise in the NCAA Tournament. Meanwhile, it’s top duo – with some help from Gillespie – is getting the job done.

*****

MAKING HISTORY: With victories over Temple and Saint Joseph’s, Penn wrapped up its first Big Five title since 2002. The Quakers put themselves in position to win the city crown by shocking Villanova in December.

AJ Brodeur led the Quakers against Temple with 16 points, but the most surprising contribution during the 77-70 victory came from junior Jacob “Kuba” Mijakowski. Mijakowski, who had never scored more than eight points in game while at Penn, scored 14 points during the first half as the Quakers built a 10-point lead.

The victory over the Owls clinched a share of the Big Five title. One week later, the Quakers clinched the title outright by beat Saint Joseph’s, 78-70. Brodeur scored 20 points, but freshman guard Bryce Washington paced the Quakers with 23 points.

*****

POISON IVY: Although Penn won the Big Five title, it has struggled in the Ivy League. The Quakers lost back-to-back games to Princeton, 68-65 in overtime and 62-53, in early January as part of a four-game losing streak. The Quakers then lost to Cornell on Friday, 80-71, dropping them to 0-3 in the Ivy League. Penn finally secured its first Ivy win Saturday, barely slipping past Columbia, 72-70.

Penn can’t afford many more losses or else it won’t qualify for the Ivy League Tournament at the end of the regular season. If Penn wins the Ivy League Tournament and gets into the NCAA Tournament, wins over Villanova, Temple and Miami should help its seeding, but the Quakers are in danger of not even qualifying for the Ivy League Tournament.

*****

CROSWELL BOOSTS EXPLORERS: After opening the season with a 10-game losing streak, La Salle has put together its second three-game winning streak. The Explorers posted wins over Fordham, Massachusetts and Richmond, and will try to stretch that streak to four on Tuesday (7 p.m.) when it hosts Saint Joseph’s.

The Explorers have received a boost the past two games from freshman forward Ed Croswell, a St. Joseph’s Prep graduate. Croswell scored nine points and grabbed 11 rebounds during a 60-51 win over Massachusetts, and then scored nine points and snared 16 rebounds during Saturday’s 66-58 win over Richmond.

*****

LITTLE MARGIN FOR ERROR: January wasn’t kind to Saint Joseph’s. The Hawks lost their first four games in 2019 and finished with a 2-5 record in January. Injuries, which have plagued the Hawks the past few seasons, have sidelined guard Lamarr Kimble and forward Pierfrancesco Oliva, who suffered a season-ending knee injury.

The Hawks have been left with little margin for error, as was evident Saturday during a 64-62 victory over Massachusetts, which was a good way to begin February. If we go back to late December, none of the Hawks’ last five wins have been by a combined 12 points, with no margin of victory larger than four.

*****

TOURNAMENT RUN: Temple’s NCAA Tournament hopes have taken a hit with three losses in its last five games. The losses came against Penn, Cincinnati and Houston. The Owls handed 13th-ranked Houston its only of the season earlier in January, but Houston got revenge Thursday with a 73-66 victory.

There’s no shame in losing to Houston or Cincinnati, but Temple, at 16-6, can’t afford many more defeats if it wants an at-large invitation to the NCAA Tournament. Sunday’s victory over Tulane, which lost for the 11th straight time, won’t impress the tournament committee. The Owls need to win at least seven of its remaining nine games and advance a round or two in the American Athletic Conference Tournament in order to have a legitimate shot at an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

*****

SETTING GOALS: With seven games remaining before the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament, a reasonable goal for Drexel would be to get above .500, both overall and in the CAA, before the postseason tournament. The Dragons are 11-13 with a 5-6 record in the CAA. Five of the remaining seven games are at home, where the Dragons are 7-4.

*****

LOOKAHEAD: This was a successful weekend for the City Six. After Penn’s loss to Cornell on Friday, all of the City Six teams except Villanova won a game on Saturday, and the Wildcats posted a win over Georgetown on Sunday. A Big Five team will have to lose Tuesday when La Salle tries to defeat visiting Saint Joseph’s for its fourth straight win.

Villanova will try to extend its winning streak to 12 when it hosts Creighton on Wednesday (8 p.m.) and then visits Marquette on Saturday (2:30 p.m.). Temple hosts Connecticut on Wednesday (6 p.m.) and visits Tulsa on Saturday (noon). Penn takes to the road Friday and Saturday against Brown (7 p.m.) and Yale (7 p.m.). Drexel hosts UNC-Wilmington on Thursday (7 p.m.) and Charleston on Saturday (4 p.m.). After visiting La Salle, the Hawks are back home on Friday (7 p.m.) against St. Louis. The Explorers return to action on Sunday (2 p.m.) at George Mason.

College Notebook: Quakers making statement

Posted by Eric Fisher On December - 22 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

Penn earned respect, both for itself and Ivy League basketball, with a 78-75 victory over defending national champion Villanova on Dec. 11.

The Ivy League champion is generally dismissed as a one-and-done participant in the NCAA Tournament. As Ivy League champion, Penn received a 16th seed last season, earning a first-round meeting with No. 1 seed Kansas. The Quakers put up a good showing in the first half before succumbing to the Jayhawks, 76-60..

If the Quakers win the Ivy League title again this season, they should be given more respect. The victory over Villanova ended the Wildcats’ 25-game Big Five winning streak, which lasted more than six years. In terms of its importance this season, it extended Penn’s winning streak to five games entering Saturday’s game at New Mexico (4 p.m.).

Penn is 9-2 for the first time since the 1994-95 season. If they defeat the Lobos in the legendary Pit, the Quakers will be 10-2 for the first time since the 1993-94 season.

Remember, this is a team that lost its leading scorer from last season, Ryan Betley, to a ruptured patellar tendon in the season opener. But, as was the case last season, Penn is receiving contributions throughout the lineup.

The latest player to step up is freshman forward Michael Wang, one of only five Division I basketball players born in China. After seeing limited action during the early portion of the season, the 6-foot-10 Wang has scored in double figures in five of the past seven games, including the past three. He scored 23 points during a convincing 89-75 win over Miami, then scored 18 points against La Salle and 14 against Villanova.

Another freshman, guard Bryce Washington, has been a consistent contributor. He scored a team-high 16 points in a lopsided win over Delaware State, but hasn’t scored fewer than seven points in his last six games, including nine against Villanova.

The freshmen are complementing the contributions of reliable juniors Devon Goodman (14.8 points) and AJ Brodeur (13.3) and senior Antonio Woods (10.9). Add in the resurgence of senior guard Jake Silpe, a Cherry Hill East graduate who is averaging 7.2 points after averaging fewer than two points in each of the past two seasons, and the all-around contributions of senior forward Max Rothschild, and it’s obvious that Penn has the depth to counter strategies designed to take away one player.

The Quakers only two defeats came at the Paradise Jam against Kansas State and Oregon State. They beat Northern Iowa at the Paradise Jam and have impressive wins over Miami and, of course, Villanova on their resume.

Although they don’t have a true superstar, a team effort makes the Quakers dangerous in the Ivy League – and perhaps in the NCAA Tournament.

*****

CENTURY MARK: There couldn’t have been a better way for Steve Donahue to celebrate his 100th game as Penn’s head coach than with a 78-75 victory over Villanova.

*****

PALESTRA DOUBLEHEADERS: In my previous college hoops notebook, while talking about the possibility of catching back-to-back games at different Big Five campuses, I got nostalgic for the Palestra doubleheaders of the past. We get even closet to that this Saturday, with Drexel hosting Temple at the Palestra (1 p.m.), and then Saint Joseph’s hosting Loyola of Chicago at the Palestra (5 p.m.).

The Temple-Drexel game will be the final game in the Palestra for Temple head coach Fran Dunphy, who spent 17 seasons as Penn’s head coach. Dunphy is leaving Temple after this season, his 13th with the Owls.

*****

LEGENDARY SITES: Villanova certainly didn’t enjoy its week of games at legendary college basketball venues. The Wildcats dropped three-point decisions to Penn at the Palestra and to Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse.

*****

NAILBITERS: Penn isn’t the only local team off to a 9-2 start. After losing to Villanova, 69-59, Temple pulled out a pair of two-point victories to improve its record to 9-2. The Owls beat Massachusetts, 65-63, behind Shizz Alston Jr.’s career-high 31 points, and then edged Davidson in overtime, 77-75, behind Alston’s 24 points and 11 assists. Quinton Rose’s steal and layup in the final seconds lifted the Owls to victory.

Temple also posted a two-point victory over Missouri earlier this season, meaning that three of its nine wins were by two points. That bodes well for the Owls when they have to play tight conference tournament games.

*****

FEELS LIKE THE FIRST TIME: Congratulations to La Salle and first-year head coach Ashley Howard for Friday’s 80-57 victory over Alabama A&M. Yes, Alabama A&M is winless (0-11) this season, but the Explorers still must have been relieved after notching their first victory this season.

*****

WOUNDED HAWKS: Saint Joseph’s got off to a rough start in its Big Five schedule, losing to Temple (77-70) and Villanova (70-58). To make matters worse for the Hawks, they faced the Wildcats without leading scorer Charlie Brown (ankle) and leading rebounder Pierfrancesco Oliva (concussion).

The good news for the Hawks is that Brown and Oliva are both expected to return for Saturday’s game against Loyola of Chicago. The bad news is that Taylor Funk broke his nose during practice, although he is expected to play despite the injury.

                              *****                               

INCREDIBLE BALANCE: Drexel (6-6) has seven players averaging at least 9.6 points. However, that list includes guard Kurk Lee, who has been sidelined since the third game of the season with a shoulder injury. The latest to join the list of top scorers is junior guard Zach Walton, who has only played seven games, but has made four starts. .

*****

LOOKAHEAD: After Saturday’s busy schedule, which includes the split-game Palestra doubleheader and all of the other City Six in action, there is a break for Christmas. Action resumes Friday with Drexel visiting Northeastern (7 p.m.). Next Saturday, Saint Joseph’s hosts Wagner (2 p.m.) and Penn visits Toledo (2 p.m.), and then Drexel returns to action Sunday (4 p.m.) at Hofstra.

 

Side angle of Cody Parkey's missed field goal