When compiling an All-City Six men’s basketball team, there is the temptation simply to put Villanova’s lineup as the first team. The Wildcats were head-and-shoulders above the rest of the region’s teams.
Yes, Villanova made an early exit from the NCAA Tournament. But nobody else even came close to qualifying for the NCAA Tournament.
But I’m not going to take the easy way out. I’ll try to mix it up for the PhillyPhanatics.com All-City Six team.
Two automatic selections are Big East Player of the Year and Naismith Award finalist Josh Hart and his Villanova teammate, point guard Jalen Brunson. Both players were unanimous selections to the Big East first team. That speaks volumes.
Kris Jenkins, who hit the winning 3-pointer in Villanova’s triumph over North Carolina in last year’s NCAA Tournament title game, experienced an inconsistent year, but he averaged 13.1 points per game. Jenkins made honorable mention in the Big East, which still has meaning.
B.J. Johnson, who led La Salle in scoring (17.6 points) and rebounds (6.3) earned a place on our first team. Selecting the fifth and final players for the first team was more difficult. In the end, I chose Saint Joseph’s guard Lamarr Kimble (15.5 points), who had to carry a lot of the load after guard Shavar Newkirk – who was headed for a spot on this first team – suffered a season-ending knee injury.
There is more competition for the second team than the first team. Temple’s Obi Enechionyia (13.1 points, 5.8 rebounds) and the La Salle duo of Jordan Price (15.3 points) and Pookie Powell (13.7 points). Penn freshman forward A.J. Brodeur, who led the Quakers in scoring (13.8 points) and rebounding (6.9) earns a spot on the second team. Drexel forward Rodney Williams (15.6 points, 6.8 rebounds) rounds out the second team.
There were some tough decisions when constructing the second team. Those who didn’t make it were given honorable mention. The honorable mention list includes Villanova’s Mikal Bridges and freshman Donte DiVincezo; Saint Joseph’s James Demery and Newkirk; Temple’s Shizz Alston Jr., Daniel Dingle and Quinton Rose; Penn’s Matt Howard and Ryan Betley; and Drexel’s KurK Lee and Sammy Mojica.
DEALING WITH DISAPPOINTMENT: Villanova was obviously disappointed with its early exit in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. As the top seed in the tournament, Villanova was expected to advance much deeper.
Adding to the disappointment is that the loss to Wisconsin was the final game for seniors Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins and Darryl Reynolds. It might also have been the final game at Villanova for Jalen Brunson, who could enter the NBA Draft.
Don’t cry for the Wildcats, though. Redshirt freshman Donte DiVincenzo was the Wildcats’ second- or third-best player during the NCAA Tournament. Mikal Bridges and Eric Paschall are redshirt sophomores, and current freshmen forwards Dylan Painter and Omari Spellman (Spellman was ineligible this season) could make a major impact. Oh, and don’t forget about Phil Booth. A knee injury kept Booth sidelined for most of this season, but, if healthy, he could give the Wildcats a huge boost. Villanova isn’t rebuilding; it’s reloading.
YOUTH IS SERVED: Although this was a down year for the City Six, the future could be bright. In addition to the Villanova freshman trio mentioned in the previous note, many other teams had freshman make important contributions.
Penn freshmen A.J. Brodeur and Ryan Betley were first and third, respectively, in scoring for the Quakers. Temple freshman Quinton Rose was selected for the American Athletic Conference All-Rookie team. Freshman forward Charlie Browns was fourth in scoring for Saint Joseph’s. Kurk Lee and Kari Jonsson were second and fourth, respectively, in scoring for Drexel.
TEAM OF THE FUTURE: Guard Matt Howard is the only senior on Penn’s roster, so the Quakers, who finished fourth in the Ivy League, should be regular performers in the Ivy League’s postseason tournament, which started this year. Freshmen A.J. Brodeur and Ryan Betley were first and third, respectively, in scoring for the Quakers. The fourth- and fifth-leading scorers were junior guard Darnell Foreman and sophomore Jackson Donahue. With so many talented young players returning, Penn should be an Ivy League contender for at least several years.
DUNPHY ON HOT SEAT? If Temple doesn’t make the NCAA Tournament next season, head coach Fran Dunphy may find himself under fire. After six straight trips to the NCAA Tournament under Dunphy, the Owls have only been invited to the tournament once in the past four seasons, and that was after earning an automatic bid.
Even when the Owls have made the NCAA Tournament under Dunphy, they have not experienced much success, going 2-5 in the first round and never making the Sweet 16. The Owls’ greatest postseason success under Dunphy came in 2015, when they reached the NIT semifinals. It’s one thing not to experience tournament success at Penn, where making the NCAA Tournament nine times out of the Ivy League is considered a success. It’s another thing to repeatedly exit the tournament at Temple – or not to make the NCAA Tournament at all.
FEELING A DRAFT: La Salle junior B.J. Johnson announced that he will declare for the NBA Draft, but he will not sign with an agent. Not signing with an agent keeps the option open for Johnson to withdraw from draft consideration and return to La Salle.
HEARTBREAKERS: On the same day that Villanova was eliminated by Wisconsin in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, the Temple and Penn women’s teams suffered heartbreaking defeats.
The Owls lost to Oregon, 71-70, with their winning layup attempt blocked at the buzzer. I’m not sure if it makes the Owls feel better or worse that the Ducks have reached the Elite Eight.
Penn seemed on its way to an upset over fifth-seeded Texas A&M, but the Quakers blew a 21-point fourth-quarter lead during a 63-61 defeat. The 12th-seeded Quakers did not make a field goal during the final nine minutes. Prior to this game, no team had ever overcome a 21-point deficit in the history of the NCAA Women’s Tournament.
LAST CAT STANDING: It’s not surprising that Villanova is the last remaining local team playing basketball. What’s surprising is that it’s the Villanova women who are still playing.
The Wildcats defeated host Indiana, 69-57, on Sunday, to reach the semifinals of the Women’s NIT Tournament. Villanova plays at Michigan on Wednesday (7 p.m.) in the semifinals.
GUARD DUTY: Former Saint Joseph’s guard Jameer Nelson, the Hawks’ career leader in points and assists, will be among the Big 5 Hall of Fame inductees at the Philadelphia Big 5 banquet on April 17 at the Palestra.
Former Villanova standout guard Randy Foye and former Temple star guard Lynn Greer will also be inducted into the Hall of Fame, as will former Penn guard Ibrahim Jaaber. Former La Salle star Carlene Hightower will be the lone woman inducted. Former Villanova team captain and assistant coach George Raveling, who had an extensive coaching career before working for Nike, will also be inducted.
Former Inquirer sports columnist Bill Lyon will also be inducted into the Big 5 Hall of Fame at the banquet.