By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)
1. Villanova (1-0, 0-0 Big East)
Previous week: W 77-66 vs. Lehigh
Upcoming week: Monday vs. Maryland-Eastern Shore, Thursday vs. Bucknell
It was an inauspicious start to the season for Villanova, as the Wildcats trailed by as much as 6 in the second half against a weak Lehigh team. The Wildcats had an extremely cold shooting night, particularly Darrun Hilliard and Ryan Arcidiacono, who combined to shoot just 8-32 from the floor, including 2-16 from downtown. Fortunately for Jay Wright’s squad, the Mountain Hawks weren’t equipped to deal with Villanova’s pressure defense, turning the ball over 23 times. New starter Dylan Ennis led the way with 19 points, and should continue to help fill the scoring void from James Bell’s departure throughout the season. You have to think the Wildcats will shoot the ball better going forward, and shouldn’t have any problems with their two contests this week.
2. La Salle (1-0, 0-0 A-10)
Previous week: W 57-52 vs. Colgate
Upcoming week: Tuesday @ Quinnipiac, Saturday vs. Saint Peter’s
The Explorers let Colgate hang around much of the game before finally pulling away with a late run in the closing minutes. Senior forward Jerrell Wright was his usual consistent self, wasting no time in recording his first double-double of the season with 10 points and 13 rebounds. Transfer Jordan Price was shaky in his first game in the blue and gold, shooting 2-12 and 0-5 from three. However, redshirt freshman Amar Stukes looked comfortable scoring the ball with 10 points on 4-7 shooting in 25 minutes off the bench; it wouldn’t surprise me to see him starting before too long. Quinnipiac has a strong offensive squad and should provide a tough road test early in the season for La Salle.
3. Temple (1-0, 0-0 AAC)
Previous week: W 40-37 vs. American
Upcoming week: Monday vs. Louisiana Tech, Friday vs. Duke (neutral site), Saturday vs. UNLV/Stanford (neutral site)
The all-offense, no-defense Temple team from a season ago was completely turned on its head in the season opener. The Owls shot just 22.9% from the field (including 1-13 from senior point guard Will Cummings), but were still able to hang on thanks in large part to grabbing 17 offensive rebounds. Sophomore Mark Williams nearly had his first career double-double with 11 points and 9 rebounds in the victory. It’s a brutal week upcoming for the Owls, as they’ll start with Louisiana Tech, a formidable squad out of Conference USA which made the NIT last spring. Then, they’ll head to the Barclays Center for the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, where Temple will face one of the top teams in the nation and big man NBA prospect Jahlil Okafor of Duke, followed by either UNLV or Stanford, both solid squads. We’ll know a lot more about the Owls come next week’s recap.
4. Saint Joseph’s (0-1, 0-0 A-10)
Previous week: L 58-57 vs. Fairleigh Dickinson
Upcoming week: Monday @ Drexel, Wednesday @ Gonzaga
It was heartbreak on Hawk Hill in the season opener as Philly native Mustafaa Jones’ three-pointer in the closing seconds lifted Fairleigh Dickinson to victory. Sophomore DeAndre Bembry struggled in his first game as the Hawks’ main scoring option, going just 3-10 for 8 points. Isaiah Miles had a nice game with 12 points and 14 rebounds, but the 16-7 turnover deficit doomed St. Joe’s. After letting a very winnable game slip away, things get much more difficult for the Hawks with a road contest against city rival Drexel and a match-up with Gonzaga, who’s right on the door of moving into the nation’s top 10. A possible 0-3 start to the season would be disastrous for the Hawks, lending Monday night’s contest that much more importance.
5. Drexel (0-1, 0-0 CAA)
Previous week: L 65-48 @ Colorado
Upcoming week: Monday vs. Saint Joseph’s, Thursday vs. Miami (neutral site), Friday vs. USC/Akron (neutral site), Sunday vs. TBD (neutral site)
It wasn’t expected that Drexel would travel across the country and take down a good Colorado team, but you would have preferred they didn’t fade late in suffering a large defeat to the Buffaloes. The new Drexel frontcourt couldn’t handle 6’10” Colorado big man Josh Scott, who tied a career-high with 21 points in addition to grabbing 11 rebounds. The entire Dragons team shot poorly (29.1% on the game); Tavon Allen came off the bench due to a lingering knee injury and led the way with 16 points, but shot just 5-17 himself. Luckily, a victory at home against city rival St. Joe’s would go a long way to forgetting the opener. Both teams really need that game Monday night as Drexel will then take part in the Charleston Classic, opening against the Hurricanes, with two more contests over the weekend to follow.
6. Pennsylvania (0-1, 0-0 Ivy)
Previous week: L 77-75 (OT) vs. Delaware State
Upcoming week: Tuesday vs. Rider, Saturday vs. Lafayette
If the Quakers were hoping to dispel the notion that they’re by far the weakest team in the city, losing at home to one of the worst teams in the nation wasn’t the way to go about it. Junior Tony Hicks (game-high 31 points) did everything he could to help Penn erase an early double-digit deficit and regain the lead for much of the 2nd half. Unfortunately, the Quakers went scoreless over the final 3+ minutes of regulation when they could have put the game away, including a couple misses in the final minute for Hicks himself. Penn will have to look to the game against Rider to earn their first victory, as Saturday’s game should be a difficult one against a decent Lafayette team looking to make noise in the Patriot League.