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Career goals for Flyers captain Claude Giroux

Eric Fisher’s weekly column about a variety of topics. This week Eric serves up opinions on the Eagles’ free-agent signings, why Selection Sunday won’t be as exciting as it usually is, and which teams did the best job during the early days of free agency.

Eric Fisher’s weekly column about a variety of topics. This week Eric serves up opinions on the potential impact of the Eagles’ loss to the Lions, the Flyers’ roster and the Union’s precarious predicament.

Mark Sanchez passed for 332 yards and two touchdowns Monday night as the Eagles dominated the visiting Panthers in all facets of the game en route to a 45-21 victory that was more lopsided than the final score indicates.

Archive for the ‘NCAA’ Category

College Notebook: Owls taking positive steps

Posted by Eric Fisher On February - 11 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

Give Temple credit. The Owls have won five straight games, establishing themselves as the second-best team in the region.

In my previous college basketball notebook (Jan. 28), I concluded that there wasn’t a clear No. 2 team in the region behind Villanova. I took some heat from Temple supporters for saying that La Salle, which defeated Temple, had the inside track to be No. 2.

I stand by my analysis two weeks ago, but it’s clear that the Owls (15-10 overall, 7-6 American Athletic Conference) have taken the necessary steps to be considered the second-best team in the region.

As I wrote in my conclusion for Temple on Jan. 28, the Owls were inconsistent during their first 20 games. They’ve corrected that issue by winning their last five games.

With freshman Nate Pierre-Louis (7.8 points per game) adding offense off the bench, the Owls are less apt to suffer through scoring droughts. The Owls don’t truly have a “go to” scorer for late in games, but Quinton Rose (14.9), Shizz Alston Jr. (13.4), Obi Enechoionyia (11.1), Josh Brown (8.8) and Pierre-Louis provide the type of depth that prevents the opposition from focusing on one player.

A critic would point out that four of the Owls’ five consecutive wins came against the bottom four teams (through Saturday’s games) in the AAC. A counter to that argument is that the five-game winning streak includes and 81-79 victory second-place Wichita State, which was ranked 16th in the nation when that game was played. Furthermore, the other four wins during the streak were all by at least seven points. The Owls lost by 10 points when they played Tulane at home on Dec. 28; they beat Tulane by seven points on Feb. 4.

Two weeks ago, Temple was struggling and head coach Fran Dunphy’s seat was getting hotter. Today, the Owls have a clear path to being No. 2 in the region and, more importantly, earning an NCAA Tournament berth.

Temple could take a big step toward an NCAA berth by defeating Wichita State for a second time on Thursday (7 p.m.), this time on the road. That’s followed by a home game Sunday (4 p.m.) against third-place Houston. If the Owls win both of those games, they would reach 20 wins by winning their final three games of the regular season. Even if they split the games with Houston and Wichita State, the Owls could make a strong bid for an NCAA Tournament berth by winning two games in the AAC Tournament.

The Owls no longer appear lost in the woods, as they did two weeks ago. They have a clear path to 20 victories and, possibly, an NCAA Tournament berth.

And, yes, Temple fans, the Owls clearly are the No. 2 team in the region.

*****

VILLANOVA ANSWERS BUTLER: After losing to St. John’s on Wednesday, top-ranked Villanova avoids two-game losing streak by defeat Butler, 86-75, at Wells Fargo Center. Butler, which had beaten the Wildcats in three straight meetings, held an eight-point lead with a little less than two minutes remaining until halftime. But the Wildcats clamped down defensively and took control of the game in the second half.

Villanova is playing without two starters, guard Phil Booth (broken bone in hand) and Eric Paschall (concussion). Donte DiVincenzo helped fill the void against Butler with a career-high 30 points.

*****

WHO’S NO. 1? It will be interesting to see if Villanova remains No. 1 in the national rankings (and you may already know the answer to this question by the time you read this article). Second-ranked Virginia appeared to be on a roll, but the Cavaliers were upset by Virginia Tech in overtime, 61-60, on Saturday. Also on Saturday, 4th-ranked Michigan State defeated 3rd-ranked Purdue, 68-65. Will the Spartan (24-3) jump over the Wildcats, Cavaliers and Boilermakers to attain the No. 1 ranking? Will Villanova remaining at the top, albeit with a smaller gap to the No. 2 team? We’ll find out soon.

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QUAKERS HIT ROADBLOCK: After not playing a road game since Dec. 9, Penn played three Ivy League road games this past week, defeating Princeton (82-65) and Dartmouth (64-61) before losing to Harvard, 76-67, on Saturday. The loss dropped the Quakers (17-7 overall, 7-1 Ivy League) into a first-place tie with Harvard.

The Quakers continue on the road against Columbia and Cornell next Friday and Saturday, respectively, before returning home the following weekend to face Dartmouth and, in a game that could decide the Ivy League title, Harvard.

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HAWKS SNAP STREAK: Saturday’s 83-75 victory over Massachusetts snapped a five-game losing streak for Saint Joseph’s. The Hawks (10-14) were at .500 before the losing streak began.

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TRAVEL PROBLEMS: In contrast to Temple (lead item in this article), La Salle is 1-3 since I proclaimed that it had the inside track to be the second-best team in the region. Not surprisingly, La Salle’s only victory was an 81-78 victory over Saint Joseph’s at Tom Gola Arena. “Not surprisingly” because the Explorers have had an extremely difficult to on the road this season.

The Explorers (10-15) are just 1-9 on the road this season. The lone road win came on Nov. 13, a 75-71 double-overtime triumph over Penn at the Palestra. La Salle is also 1-4 in neutral site games.

The bottom line is that La Salle is 2-13 away from home. The good news is that four of the Explorers’ six remaining regular-season games are at Tom Gola Arena.

*****

STREAKY DRAGONS: Drexel’s four-game winning streak was halted by Thursday’s 94-92 overtime loss to Towson. That winning streak was preceded by a five-game losing streak. The Dragons have lost two in a row – they were blown out by Charleston, 89-67, on Saturday – leaving them just four regular-season games left to reverse this streak and start to win before the conference tournament begins.

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FULL SPEED AHEAD: Former Saint Joseph’s star DeAndre Bembry, now with Atlanta Hawks, was arrested early Friday morning in Atlanta for driving 128 mph in a 55 mph zone. Bembry was charged with speeding and reckless driving during what is suspected to be a street race.

*****

LOOKAHEAD: All games are important at this point in the season, but the two biggest games this week are Temple visiting 22nd-ranked Wichita State on Thursday (7 p.m.), and top-ranked Villanova visiting 5th-ranked Xavier on Saturday (4:30 p.m.). (Rankings are prior to new polls being released for this week.)

College Notebook: Who is No. 2?

Posted by Eric Fisher On January - 28 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

Villanova (19-1) enters Sunday’s game against Marquette as the No. 1 team in the country, where the Wildcats have been for most of the past six weeks. But the Wildcats have been the top team in the Big 5 for much longer.

The Wildcats’ 22-game winning streak against Big 5 teams, including a 4-0 mark this season, removes any doubt about which team local team is the best. What is debatable, however, is which member of the Big 5 – and let’s add Drexel to make it the City 6 – is the second-best Division I team in the region.

Let’s take a look at each of the other City 6 teams and their stake to being No. 2.

PENN

Overall record: 13-6

Record against City 6: 1-3, with the lone victory being a 67-56 win over Saint Joseph’s on Saturday.

Argument in favor: The Quakers are the only member of the City 6, with the exception of Villanova that has a winning record. The record includes out-of-conference wins over Northern Illinois and Dayton, with the victory over Northern Illinois coming at a neutral site and the win over Dayton coming on the Flyers’ home court.

Argument against: The 1-3 Big 5 records makes it difficult for the Quakers to claim they are the second-best team in the region. If the 75-71 double-overtime loss to La Salle on Nov. 13 had gone the other way, the Quakers would have a better argument for being No. 2.

Conclusion: Penn has a decent case for being the second-best team in the region. The Quakers have a balanced lineup, with six players averaging at least eight points per game. Ryan Betley (14.9 points) and AJ Brodeur (12.2) lead the way. But the Quakers’ claim is hurt by the double-overtime loss to La Salle and a 60-51 loss to Temple on Jan. 20. In the loss to Temple, Penn had a late lead, only to see the Owls score the game’s final 12 points. What can Penn do to further their claim to be No. 2? The schedule includes only Ivy League teams the rest of the season. The Quakers (3-0) need to finish first in the Ivy League, win the league tournament and reach the NCAA Tournament. A first-round NCAA tournament win might solidify their claim.

TEMPLE

Overall record: 10-10

Record against City 6: 3-2

Argument in favor: The Owls have some impressive victories. The Owls beat Auburn (19-2), which is ranked 19th in the nation, and Clemson (16-4). The Owls also defeated South Carolina (13-8). The Owls also posted a 66-64 road win over SMU on Jan. 10, ending the Mustangs’ 33-game home winning streak.

Argument against: Even Temple’s 3-2 record against the City 6 isn’t overly impressive. The Owls beat Saint Joseph’s and Drexel by three points and were trailing Penn by three points before finishing the game on a 12-0 run. The 87-83 loss to La Salle hurts the argument that Temple is the second-best team in the region. Three of the four big wins cited in the “argument in favor section, with the exception of the SMU victory, took place in November. The Owls lost five straight games in December, including an 18-point loss at Georgia and a 60-39 defeat at Central Florida. The two-point loss to Cincinnati during that losing streak didn’t appear so bad, but the Owls weren’t even competitive in their 75-42 loss to the ninth-ranked Bearcats on Wednesday.

Conclusion: The Owls are an inconsistent team, which makes it difficult to get a good read on them. Josh Brown has made some big baskets late in games, but only averages 8 points per game. Center Obi Enechionyia (11.4 points, 6.7 rebounds) also seems to have regressed. With Brown, Enechionyia, leading scorer Quinton Rose (14.1 points), Shizz Alston Jr. (12.9) and emerging freshman Nate Pierre-Louis (6.6), it appears that the Owls should have a better record. But the pieces don’t seem to fit right now. Temple needs to win most of its remaining games and possibly advance deep into the American Athletic Conference Tournament to make a strong argument that it’s No. 2.

LA SALLE

Overall record: 9-12

Record against City 6: 2-2

Argument in favor: La Salle only lost to Villanova by nine points, the only City Six team to lose to the Wildcats by fewer than 20 points. The Explorers beat Temple (87-83) and Penn (75-71 in double overtime). Three of the Explorers’ losses, including the 77-68 loss to Villanova, came against teams ranked in the Top 20. Their four-game losing streak at the beginning of January, including an overtime loss to Massachusetts and a triple-overtime loss to Duquesne, came with B.J. Johnson, the Explorers’ best player, sidelined by an ankle injury.

Argument against: A 72-70 loss at home to Drexel – before Johnson was injured – hurts the Explorers’ case. Furthermore, it’s difficult to argue you are the second-best team in the region when you have a losing record.

Conclusion: The Explorers can make a statement Saturday (7 p.m.) with a victory when they host Saint Joseph’s. On the other hand, a loss would give La Salle a losing record against the City 6 (with a game remaining with the Hawks on March 3). La Salle also needs to improve its overall record, which isn’t a far-fetched notion if Johnson (21.3 points, 8.3 rebounds) and Pookie Powell (18.6 points) remain healthy.

SAINT JOSEPH’S

Overall record: 9-11

Record against City 6: 0-3

Argument in favor: The Hawks’ best argument is that they’re a better team than their record indicates – six of their losses are by four points or fewer – and that’s a bad argument. If Saint Joseph’s had defeated Penn on Saturday, the argument could be made that a three-point loss to Temple could be offset with a win next Saturday (7 p.m.) against La Salle. Now the Hawks need to beat La Salle to avoid dropping to 0-4 against the City 6. The Hawks’ best win is an 87-81 overtime win over VCU.

Argument against: Saturday’s 67-56 loss to Penn assured the Hawks of finishing with a losing record against the City 6 – even if they win both remaining games against La Salle. Getting blown out by Villanova, 94-53, at home doesn’t help. If the Hawks are the second-best team in the region, that game makes it appear that they are a distant No. 2.

Conclusion: The Hawks’ only chance to argue that they are second-best team in the region must start with a win at La Salle on Saturday (7 p.m.). If they can win both games against the Explorers and improve their overall record, the Hawks will at least have a case to make. If Brown can return and make valuable contributions, it would give the Hawks more depth behind seniors James Demery (17.6 points) and Shavar Newkirk (16.8) and emerging freshman Taylor Funk (12.7). Brown’s return would also help team depth. The Saint Joseph’s bench was outscored 19-0 during Saturday’s loss to Penn.

DREXEL

Overall record: 9-14

Record against City 6: 1-1

Argument in favor: The Dragons have been competitive in both City 6 games they’ve played, defeating La Salle on the road, 72-70, and dropping a 63-60 decision at Temple. The Dragons also hold an impressive 87-82 triumph over Charleston (16-6) and an early-season 84-80 victory over Houston of the American Athletic Conference.

Argument against: Having 14 losses hurts any claim to being the second-best team in the region. If Delaware were included in this comparison (it isn’t because it isn’t located in Philadelphia or its suburbs), the Blue Hens could point out that they defeated the Dragons.

Conclusion: The Dragons are a balanced team, with six players averaging at least 9.8 points per game. Tramaine Isabell (19.8 points) has emerged as a top scorer in recent weeks. Kurk Lee (12.6 points) is also effective. Sammy Mojica (11.2) provides versatility, and Austin Williams (9.8 points, 8.4 rebounds provides consistency. Without any City 6 games remaining on their schedule, the best way for the Dragons to make their case for being the No. 2 team in the City 6 is to win six or seven of their remaining regular-season games and then advance deep into the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament.

SUMMARY

There isn’t a clear-cut No. 2 team in the City 6. La Salle seems to have the inside track, but that could change Saturday if it loses to Saint Joseph’s. The No. 2 team might become clearer during the remaining portion of the regular season, but we may not know the answer until after the conference tournaments.

*****

COULD BOOTH INJURY TAKE ITS TOLL: Top-ranked Villanova has lost redshirt junior guard Phil Booth indefinitely due to a fractured bone in his right hand. Booth, who averaged 11.6 points while starting the Wildcats’ first 20 games, suffered the injury during the second half of an 89-69 victory over Providence on Tuesday.

Booth was a key member of Villanova’s national championship team two seasons ago. He was limited to three games last season by a knee injury. Without Booth, a team captain, the Wildcats will lose 3-point shooting, leadership and depth.

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ISABELL ERUPTS: Tramaine Isabell erupts for 40 points, the most by an local player this season, on Thursday as Drexel defeated Elon, 83-79. For an encore, Isabell scored 21 points Saturday as Drexel slipped past Northeastern, 68-67. Isabell made 1 of 2 free throws to tie the score, but got the offensive rebounds of his missed free throw and was fouled. He made 1 of 2 free throws again with one second remaining, capping a 7-0 run by the Dragons.

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JOHNSON IS BACK: After a tepid 11-point return by B.J. Johnson against Fordham on Jan. 17, the senior broke loose for 27 points during a loss to Richmond and 26 during a win over Massachusetts, indicating that his ankle injury is behind him. Johnson’s return, exactly one month after injuring his ankle during a win over Mercer, is tremendously good news for La Salle.

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ON THE REBOUND: During an 81-65 Saint Joseph’s victory over visiting Dayton on Jan. 17, Pierfrancesco Oliva went scoreless, but grabbed 15 rebounds. Oliva followed that up with a career-high 22 points during the Hawks’ 68-46 triumph over Fordham. Three days after Oliva’s big rebounding day, Penn’s Max Rothschild scored one point and grabbed 13 rebounds during a 60-51 loss to Temple.

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HOME, SWEET HOME: Since its 94-53 loss to Villanova on Dec. 2, Saint Joseph’s has won five straight games at Hagan Arena. The downside of that statistic is that the Hawks have lost seven straight games away from home. Until Saturday’s 67-56 loss to Penn, the largest margin of defeat during the Hawks’ losing streak was six points.

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THE 400 CLUB: Jay Wright registered his 400th win as Villanova’s head caoch with a 100-90 victory over Marquette on Jan. 6.

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HONORING ELITE TEAM: Temple will honor its 1992-93 team, which reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament, before Sunday night’s game (8 p.m.) against Connecticut. The 1992-93 team featured future Sixer Aaron McKie and Eddie Jones.

Chris Long, Lane Johnson lead E-A-G-L-E-S chant