By Sean Kennedy
1:00 PM: Villanova (14-1, 3-0 Big East) @ St. John’s (9-5, 0-2 Big East) – Fox Sports 1
The Wildcats will pay a visit to Madison Square Garden looking to remain undefeated in Big East Play, facing a St. John’s squad still in search of their first conference victory. Villanova toppled the Red Storm in both of the teams’ games last season, including an overtime victory in New York. St. John’s feature a stout defense, leading the nation in total blocks. The Cats may find their usual forays to the rim more difficult than usual and may need to rely more on their perimeter attack than usual.
The host of that block party is 6’9″ center Chris Obekpa, who sits second in the nation at 4.21 blocks per game. Leading the scoring attack once again for the Johnnies is junior D’Angelo Harrison, averaging almost 19 ppg primarily by attacking the basket and getting to the foul line, where he shoots 84% at a high volume. Villanova will have to enter play with the utmost focus against a tough St. John’s squad, but they should avoid being caught up in this Red Storm.
2:00 PM: Drexel (8-6, 0-1 CAA) vs. Northeastern (4-11, 1-0 CAA)
In their midst of their longest losing streak of the season (3 games and 4 of 5), the Dragons will take on the Northeastern Huskies looking to rebound to .500 in Colonial. Speaking of rebounding, Drexel may struggle in that area of the game with both members of their starting frontcourt questionable for today’s game. Kaz Abif sat out the previous game with a knee injury and Dartaye Ruffin exited last game with a leg injury.
They’ll need those guys to battle against the tough frontline of the Huskies. Forward Scott Eatherton is averaging a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds and Reggie Spencer isn’t far behind at 10 points and 8 rebounds. Northeastern’s guard play leaves plenty to be desired (only shooting 30% on threes this season) and Drexel’s guard trio of Fouch, Massenat, and Allen will certainly have the advantage in that department. If Drexel enters play with a full deck they should break their skid, but without their starting frontcourt, they may have a battle on their hands.
3:00 PM: Temple (5-8, 0-3 AAC) vs. Memphis (11-3, 2-1 AAC) – ESPN2
At the rate they’re going, Temple will be lucky to field enough players to take the court this afternoon against Memphis. The Owls will only suit up 7 players this afternoon (8 if Mark Williams decides to give it a go on his recently sprained ankle), and they’ll likely need more than that to take down a Tigers squad that just defeated defeating champion Louisville on the road earlier this week. Memphis’ leading scorer is Joe Jackson, averaging 15 points on 44% shooting and 3.7 assists as a senior after being named C-USA Player of the Year in his junior campaign. The team’s leading rebounder is 6’9″ sophomore Shaq Goodwin, currently projected as a second-round pick in the 2015 NBA draft.
The high-tempo pace employed by the Tigers will likely wear out a shorthanded Temple squad and without starting point guard Will Cummings, the Owls may struggle against the team 5th in the nation in steals per game. Pepper, Lee, and DeCosey will likely do their best to keep Temple in the game but there’s too much working against the Owls in this contest. More than likely Temple will have to wait until another day to secure their first conference win of the season.
6:00 PM: Pennsylvania (2-10, 0-0 Ivy) vs. Princeton (11-2, 0-0 Ivy)
One thing Quakers are known for historically is their refusal to go to war; losers of 7 straight games, it’s seemed at times lately as though the Penn basketball squad has followed suit from their historical namesakes. They’ll have a tough go of things in their Ivy League opener when they face one of the conference elite in the Princeton Tigers. Princeton swept the Quakers last season and currently sports one of the better offenses in the nation.
As a team, the Tigers shoot a solid 38% from three, and are led by senior 6’5″ point guard T.J. Bray. Bray shoots 55% from the field and 44% from three to lead the team in both scoring (17.2) and assists (6.4). He is the type of player who could earn the call to play in the Portsmouth Invitational after the season in front of the NBA scouts. Against a deep Princeton squad and coming off one of their worst shooting performances of the year against La Salle, Penn will likely go another week without breaking their slide.
8:00 PM: Saint Joseph’s (9-5, 0-1 A-10) @ George Mason (7-8, 0-1 A-10) – CBS Sports Network
After their crushing second half collapse against Massachusetts, the Hawks will try to get their minds right when they travel to Virginia to take on the Patriots. We saw George Mason take down Penn a week and a half ago, but they’ve since lost two straight as their offense continues to struggle. The Patriots’ shooting has shrunk to just 42% from the field and 32% from three. Guards Bryon Allen and Sherrod Wright are the only Patriots averaging double figures but haven’t shot very efficiently on the season.
The Hawks defense should be able to stifle George Mason but may be without their top overall player Ronald Roberts, Jr. Roberts left the UMass game with back spasms and his status for tonight is questionable. If he’s not in there, guys like Bembry and Kanacevic will once again take on a larger role within the offense alongside the outside shooting of Langston Galloway. If it’s all systems go for Roberts, the Hawks should fly back home with their first A-10 victory of the season.