February 18, 2016
It’s getting to be that time of year when college basketball has its brief moment on the sports calendar, and with the Flyers and Sixers both off on Wednesday, we had an excellent night of basketball all over Philadelphia. This included:
• No. 1 Villanova making the short trip to Temple to face the American Athletic Conference leaders at the Liacouras Center.
• Saint Joseph’s getting the chance for a badly needed statement win on Hawk Hill against No. 15 Dayton.
• And just for kicks (“kicks” meaning high school basketball, I guess), Neuman-Goretti-Ryan and Carroll-Roman at the Palestra in the Catholic League semis.
I was on North Broad Street for the Wildcats’ systematic handling of the Owls, 83-67. Paul Franklin was at St. Joe’s for us as the Hawks picked up that statement win, 79-70. Oh, and Neumann-Goretti and Roman Catholic are your PCL finalists.
Here are the winners and losers from the night in local hoops:
The at-large potential for Saint Joe’s: The Hawks are now sporting a sterling 22-4 record, but they were still on the bubble in a lot of bracketologists’ minds before the win over Dayton. “What good teams have they beaten?” is a fair question to ask when an Ivy League team is probably your best win.
Knocking off Dayton will greatly help Phil Martelli’s team in its quest for a second NCAA bid in three years. It’s not like the Hawks can afford to collapse down the stretch, but they are looking better and better for an at-large bid. SJU’s KenPom (35th) and RPI (30th) ratings are solid.
The future of the Big Five: There were some huge performances from freshmen on Wednesday. The player that everyone was talking about after the game at Temple was Villanova guard Jalen Brunson, who went 9-11 from the field for 25 points. To steal something that I overheard on press row (and liked), Brunson looked a lot like former Temple great Lynn Greer on this night.
“I think that’s what drives the great ones, they want that moment,” Fran Dunphy said. “And he seized the moment. He was really impressive and there was nothing cheap about any basket that he got.”
Brunson was great, but so was Temple’s highly-rated freshman Trey Lowe. Lowe got hot from behind the arc in the second half and poured in 21 points for the game in a losing effort.
“We recruited him too, so we knew he was a great scorer in high school,” Jay Wright said. “Once he got it going, it didn’t surprise us.”
For St. Joe’s, freshman point guard Lamarr “Fresh” Kimble had 13 points (on five shots) and five assists. Overall, it was a good night for the young guys around the city.
La Salle: You thought we forgot about the Explorers, didn’t you? Really tough year for John Giannini’s club, but Jordan Price’s 18 points led La Salle to a 71-64 win over a good Saint Bonaventure team that won on Hawk Hill just a few weeks ago.
Villanova’s defense: The game was won in the first half when ‘Nova held Temple to only 23 points. The Owls were stagnant, and they just couldn’t get anything going against what is a top-five defense nationally. Dunphy knew that his team, which isn’t a very efficient group, might have some trouble scoring against Villanova.
“We didn’t run good enough offense in that first half,” Dunphy said. “But I like the effort and our guys understand that part.”
Temple fans: If we’re being honest, the Liacouras Center isn’t usually much of an atmosphere. Villanova didn’t give the home crowd a chance to get into the game all that much much, but when they had a little shot to make some noise, the record 10,472 people in attendance did just that.
“There’s nothing like playing a road game in the Big 5,“ Wright said.
Brandon McManus: After a perfect performance in the Super Bowl, the Denver Broncos kicker got a pretty big standing ovation when he was introduced on the big screen.
James Demery's hops:
Rick Brunson: On one hand, his son just played an incredibly poised game in front of a hostile crowd. Temple, if you’ll recall, was close to landing both Brunsons at one point:
Rick Brunson: I mean, he still did go to school that lost.
Everybody chasing Villanova: The 3rd, 4th, and 5th ranked teams in the country all lost on Wednesday. These weren’t necessarily “great losses,” either. UNC completely collapsed at home against Duke (OK, that’s at least somewhat understandable), Iowa fell to Penn State, and Oklahoma lost at Texas Tech. Even an opponent like Texas Tech, which is 16-9 on season, is the caliber of team that ‘Nova consistently beats in the Big East.
Temple’s at-large hopes: It’s not looking good for the Owls, especially with tough road games at Houston (who spanked Temple earlier this year) and Tulsa this weekend. They almost assuredly need to win the conference tournament to go dancing.
Parity in the Big 5: At least at the top, anyway.
Gritty effort by Temple to get back in this but can't stop Villanova. Nova going to tie own Big 5 record w/ 14th City Series win in a row.— Dana O'Neil (@ESPNDanaOneil) February 18, 2016
“They’ve got perfect rotations,” Dunphy said of Villanova. “They’ve got eight guys they feel really go against. They got a like [backup center] Darryl Reynolds who comes in and just does what he’s supposed to do.”
The parking situation at Temple: Don’t get me started.
Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann