The local college basketball scene is quiet this week, with most teams taking a break for finals (of the academic variety, as opposed to tournament finals).
There aren’t any games until Sunday, when Villanova hosts La Salle and Drexel plays at Davidson, so this seems like a good time to assess the early-season performances of the City Six.
With teams completing approximately one-third of their regular-season schedules, let’s examine the good, the bad and the ugly from the first portion of the season.
The Good: The Wildcats are 9-0 and ranked 14th in the country. They defeated No. 2 Kansas and No. 23 Iowa (rankings at the time the Wildcats played them) en route to winning the Battle 4 Atlantis. The Wildcats capped off the first section of the season by slaughtering Saint Joseph’s, 98-68, at Hagan Arena in the annual “Holy War.” Villanova couldn’t have asked for a much better start.
Individually, you can’t ask much more from a senior leader than what guard James Bell has supplied. Bell is second on the team in scoring (17.6 points), leads the team in rebounding (7.3) and was named tournament MVP at the Battle 4 Atlantis. Forward JayVaughn Pinkston leads the team in scoring (17.8 points), junior Darrun Hilliard (13.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists) contributes all over the court and Dylan Ennis (10.6 points, 2.6 assists) has made an immediate impact since returning from a broken thumb. Freshmen Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins have stepped into the rotation and contributed.
The Bad: Sophomore guard Ryan Arcidiacono made a huge shot in the final moments of the Wildcats’ victory over Kansas, but the sharpshooter has been off the mark, shooting just 34.6 percent from the field, including 25 percent from 3-point range. The Wildcats also are too dependent on Pinkston inside. It would help if Daniel Ochefu (3.7 points, 6.1 rebounds) could add a few more inside baskets each game.
The Ugly: There isn’t any ugly for a 9-0 team ranked 14th in the nation.
The Good: La Salle won its last two games to climb back above .500 (5-4). Tyrone Garland is averaging 16.3 points per game. Center Steve Zack is averaging a solid 10.2 points and 9.3 rebounds. Garland, Tyreek Duren and Sam Mills are shooting close to 80 percent or above from the foul line. It was good to see forward Jerrell Wright break loose with 21 points Saturday in a victory over Stony Brook.
The Bad: Nobody has stepped up and replaced the scoring from Ramon Galloway. D.J. Peterson, who made 18 starts last season, is averaging 5.3 points. Duren (13.5) and Mills (7.2) are actually averaging fewer points than last season. La Salle is making just 29.5% of its 3-point attempts.
The Ugly: The Explorers seemed to think that after making the Sweet 16 last season, they could walk out on the court this season and win. There is a fine line between confident and cocky. The Explorers were confident at the end of last season. They seemed over-confident at the start of this season. La Salle’s ugliest loss was an uninspired 65-50 loss to Northern Iowa in a consolation game at the Paradise Jam. A 79-72 loss at Penn State wasn’t a great day, either. Even some of the Explorers’ wins were ugly and they have yet to register a signature win. That could change Sunday if they can defeat Villanova.
The Good: After a 1-3 start, the Owls (4-4) won three straight games before dropping an 81-80 overtime decision to Texas, which has only lost once this season. In the game prior to the loss to the Longhorns, Temple broke a 65-65 tie late in the game and, powered by Anthony Lee, pulled out a 77-69 victory over Saint Joseph’s. Lee is averaging a double-double (14.5 points, 10.3 rebounds). Will Cummings (17.3 points) and Dalton Pepper (16.5 points), who averaged just 2.9 points last season, have stepped up their games. Quenton DeCosey is averaging 13.6 points.
The Bad: The bench. The Owls’ lack of depth is evident on their bench, which is averaging fewer than 10 points per game. The Owls are making 69.1 percent of their free throws.
The Ugly: An 81-77 loss to Kent State at home on Nov. 11 was followed by a 75-69 loss at Towson.
The Good: The competition. When the NCAA Tournament committee meets, nobody can complain that the Dragons didn’t play anyone. They were extremely competitive in both of their losses, which came against Arizona (now No. 2 in the country) and UCLA (ranked 17th and 18th in the national polls), both of which are still undefeated. The Dragons (6-2) also beat Rutgers on its home floor and outlasted Alabama in triple overtime in the third-place game of the NIT Tip-Off Tournament at Madison Square Garden.
It appears as if Chris Fouch never missed a beat. After missing almost all of last season with a broken ankle, Fouch (19.3 points) leads the Dragons in scoring. Point guard Frantz Massenat (15.6) is second in scoring and leads the Dragons in assists. Tavon Lee (13.0) has stepped up his game, but perhaps nobody has made bigger strides than forward Kazembe Abif (8 points, 8.4 rebounds). Head coach Bruiser Flint won the 300th game of his career and became Drexel’s all-time leader in wins.
Drexel has an opportunity to solidify its strong start when it plays at Davidson on Sunday and at Saint Joseph’s on Dec. 18.
The Bad: The Dragons rely too heavily on their guards. Dartaye Ruffin leads the team in rebounds (8.5), but his scoring (5.4) has decreased since last season.
The Ugly: Guard Damion Lee will miss the rest of the season after tearing his ACL in the Dragons’ fifth game this season. Lee was averaging 13 points and is a solid all-around player. The absence of Lee will hurt the Dragons in the postseason, if not earlier.
The Good: The Hawks got off to a 4-2 start. One of the two losses was a respectable defeat at the hands of then-ranked Creighton. Senior guard Langston Galloway is averaging 18.1 points and 4.9 rebounds, although he only has 9 assists in 8 games. Ronald Roberts is averaging 17 points and a team-high 7.5 rebounds. Freshman DeAndre Bembry is averaging 11 points per game and does not look out of place at all. Forward Halil Kanacevic scores (8.8 points), rebounds (7.3) and leads the Hawks in assists (3.85). Oh yeah, the mascot is always a highlight for Saint Joseph’s.
The Bad: The Hawks haven’t been able to close out games. They could have won against both Creighton and Temple, but let the game slip away from them in the final minutes. The Hawks make just 66.5 percent of their free throws, which doesn’t help their end game.
The Ugly: There’s no shame in losing to 14th-ranked Villanova, but the way the Hawks were blown off their home floor during the second half of Saturday’s 98-68 humiliation was downright ugly. With the exception of Galloway, nobody made a 3-point shot during Wednesday’s 77-69 loss to Temple. The Hawks want to avoid three straight losses to City Six teams when they return to action Dec. 18 against Drexel at Hagan Arena.
The Good: Senior forward Fran Dougherty, who played only 12 games last season due to a bout of mononucleosis and a dislocated elbow, seems to be rounding into form. Dougherty (10.8 points, 6.4 rebounds) led the Quakers in scoring with 26 points against Lafayette and posted his first double-double of the season (17 points, 11 rebounds) during Saturday’s overtime loss to Wagner. Sophomore guard Tony Hicks leads Penn in scoring (16.1 points) and sophomore center Darien Nelson-Henry has significantly increased his scoring (12.8) and rebounding (team-high 7.4).
The Bad: You can’t get too upset with the Quakers for losing to Top 25 teams, but their 86-55 loss to Iowa and 77-54 loss to Villanova demonstrated how big a gap exists between Penn and the big conference teams. After their top four scorers, including senior Miles Jackson-Cartwright (12.1), nobody else is averaging 5 points per game.
The Ugly: Losing to Top 25 teams in understandable. A 79-76 loss to Lafayette, which was winless at the time, is ugly.