Alihan Demir (above) and Drexel won two of their three games in the last two weeks. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
It’s been a strange last two weeks for the City 6.
There’s only two teams in the city that can really be pleased with their results of the past fortnight. The other four suffered at least two losses apiece, some that could be quite costly if those programs want to consider themselves potential at-large NCAA teams come February and March.
Here’s how the rankings shape up now that the season is nearly a month old:
6. Drexel Dragons (Previous Ranking: 6)
Last Two Weeks: @ NJIT (L, 65-53), vs. Lafayette (W, 68-67), vs. Rider (W, 89-77)
Star Watch: Alihan Demir (Soph./F)
Update: After three straight losses, the Dragons righted the ship with back-to-back wins this past week. Drexel started with a one-point victory against Lafayette. The Dragons followed with a hard-fought win against a talented Rider team on Saturday. Due to injuries, coach Zach Spiker has done some lineup experimenting with his team. Senior guard Miles Overton has only played one game, junior guard Troy Harper has missed Drexel’s past three contests, and sophomore forward Sam Green hasn’t been available for the team’s last two games. Luckily for Spiker he has some pretty good guards to rely on in Kurk Lee, Sammy Mojica and Tramaine Isabell. In Saturday’s win, Mojica (22) and Isabell (35) both set career highs in points. The Dragons have also found a new weapon in their past three games. Sophomore forward Alihan Demir is averaging 8.3 points and 5.7 rebounds in three games played this season after transferring from Central Wyoming College. The Dragons have three tough road games upcoming with La Salle, Robert Morris and Temple next on the schedule.
Next Two Weeks: @ La Salle (Dec. 7, 7 PM), @ Robert Morris (Dec. 10, 2 PM), @ Temple (Dec. 16, 5 PM)
5. Penn Quakers (5)
Last Two Weeks: Gulf Coast Showdown (Estero, Fl.): vs. Northern Illinois (W, 93-80), vs. Towson (L, 79-71), vs. UMKC (W, 68-65); @ Monmouth (W, 101-96 4OT), @ Villanova (L, 90-62)
Star Watch: Ryan Betley (Soph./SG)
Update: Following a 2-1 showing at the mid-major Gulf Coast Showcase, the Quakers traveled up to the Jersey Shore and played perhaps the game of the season thus far, outlasting Monmouth in four extra periods. It was just the second time in Penn hoops history that a game had required four overtimes, and the first time since March 13, 1920. Penn is in the midst of a month-long stretch where they won’t get a game in the Palestra, between Nov. 18’s win over Penn State-Brandywine and a Dec. 27 date against Delaware State, which comes at the end of a 16-day finals layoff that follows the Dayton trip. Sophomore forward A.J. Brodeur (11.1 ppg, 6.0 rpg) has started to get back to his normal level of production, going for 15 points and seven boards against Villanova and 25 points against Northern Illinois, but Betley (15.3 ppg) surpassed the 20-point mark against Monmouth and Towson.
Next Two Weeks: @ Howard (Dec. 4, 7 PM), @ Lafayette (Dec. 6, 8 PM), @ Dayton (Dec. 9, 3 PM)
Pookie Powell (above) and La Salle had an up-and-down past two weeks. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
4. La Salle Explorers (4)
Last Two Weeks: vs. Miami (Fl.) (L, 57-46), vs. Temple (W, 87-83), HoF Belfast Classic, Belfast, Ireland: vs. Towson (L, 67-60), vs. Holy Cross (W, 58-54)
Star Watch: Pookie Powell (R-Jr./G)
Update: The Explorers certainly had a roller-coaster of a past two weeks. They started off with a frustrating loss to Miami where they couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, then suddenly heated up and had their best offensive showing of the season against their second-toughest opponent of the year. Instead of keeping that momentum in Ireland, La Salle got out-toughed by Towson and then barely survived a Holy Cross squad that is 2-5 and had been beaten by 16 points by Manhattan the day before. Powell, the Explorers’ second-leading scorer on the season (15.7 ppg), deserves mention if only because of his 29-point outing against Temple, including the eventual game-winning 3-pointer in the final minute; he also had three assists and two steals without a turnover that game. After a home tune-up against Drexel, the Explorers will get their shot against the five-time-reigning Big 5 champs before a visit from Mercer the following weekend.
Next Two Weeks: vs. Drexel (Dec. 7, 7 PM), @ Villanova (Dec. 10, 1 PM), vs. Mercer (Dec. 17, 4:30 PM)
3. Saint Joseph’s Hawks (3)
Last Two Weeks: Wooden Legacy (Fullerton, Cali.): vs. Washington State (L, 75-71), vs. Harvard (L, 77-71), vs. Sacramento State (W, 74-69), vs. Bucknell (W, 83-70), vs. Villanova (L, 94-53)
Star Watch: James Demery (Sr./SF)
Update: We’re not going to fault St. Joe’s too much for the beating the Hawks took at the hands of archrival Villanova on Saturday evening, even though it was in the friendly confines of Hagan Arena. After all, Phil Martelli’s squad is without two of its starters -- and two players who would be amongst its leading scorers -- in Lamarr Kimble and Charlie Brown, and it’s not clear when Brown will make his return from a fractured left wrist; Kimble is out the entire season with a broken bone in his left foot. And they played the ‘Cats on a record-setting night where not many teams in the country could have done a thing about it; more on that below. Instead, we’ll focus more on a nice win over Bucknell that preceded it, as well as a half-decent showing out in California even though there were certainly some opportunities lost. Fairly quiet next two weeks for St. Joe’s, but they’ve got some time to rest up and prepare for Temple. Demery has become St. Joe’s leading scorer on the season (16.8 ppg), and he’s also their second-leading rebounder (5.1 rpg).
Next Two Weeks: @ Temple (Dec. 9, 2:30 PM), vs. Maine (Dec. 17, 4:30 PM)
Quinton Rose (above) has taken a big step up in production so far in his sophomore season. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
2. Temple Owls (2)
Last Two Weeks: @ La Salle (L, 87-83), vs. South Carolina (@ Madison Square Garden, W, 76-60), @ George Washington (L, 71-67)
Star Watch: Quinton Rose (So./G)
Update: The Owls are a tough team to figure out six games into the season. They started out with an impressive showing by winning the Charleston Classic. A loss to La Salle last week cooled some of the early hype. Temple started this past week’s games with a 16-point win against South Carolina at Madison Square Garden as sophomore center Damion Moore had a career night with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Sunday’s game against George Washington was another story. Temple allowed a GW team, which came into the game below .500, to shoot 60 percent from the field and 56.3 percent from three. What remained consistent for the Owls this week was the production of Quinton Rose, who is having the breakout year many expected from the 6-foot-8 guard. He scored a season-high 24 points against South Carolina and followed with 20 against George Washington for his third straight 20-point outing. After spending its first six games away from Philly, Temple plays its first home game on Wednesday. The Owls host Wisconsin at the Liacouras Center to start a stretch of four straight home games.
Next Two Weeks: vs. Wisconsin (Dec. 6, 7 PM), vs. Saint Joseph’s (Dec. 9, 2:30 PM), vs. Villanova (Dec. 13, 7 PM), vs. Drexel (Dec. 16, 5 PM)
1. Villanova Wildcats (1)
Last Two Weeks: Battle 4 Atlantis (Bahamas): vs. Western Kentucky (W, 66-58), vs. Tennessee (W, 85-76), vs. Northern Iowa (W, 64-50); vs. Penn (W, 90-62), @ Saint Joseph’s (W, 94-53)
Star Watch: Jalen Brunson (Jr./G)
Update: There was already a fair bit of distance between Villanova, which spent the past week as the No. 4 team in the country, and the rest of the City 6. But that gap got even wider this week, as the Wildcats handed the Quakers and then Hawks a pair of rather decisive defeats, first putting five players in double-figures in the win over Penn before setting a new program record with 19 3-pointers against St. Joe’s. Frankly, it’s difficult to find a Wildcat who isn’t playing well -- from Omari Spellman, who put up 30 points and 18 rebounds in the two Big 5 wins, to seventh man Collin Gillespie, who’s hitting 45 percent of his triples, everybody in Jay Wright’s nine-man rotation is chipping in. Brunson had as strong a two weeks as anybody, from a 25-point, six-assist effort against Tennessee to a 14-point, six-assist outing against St. Joe’s. Toughest portion of the schedule yet, with a trip to play the No. 15 Zags before two more Big 5 battles.
Next Two Weeks: vs. Gonzaga (@ MSG, Dec. 5, 7 PM), vs. La Salle (Dec. 10, 1 PM), @ Temple (Dec. 13, 7 PM)