By Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
With two weeks under the season, we’ve got enough data for the first Big 5 Power Rankings.
Without further ado here's our first look at the men's side in 2023-24:
La Salle junior Khalil Brantley scored a career-high 30 points Sunday to keep his team undefeated. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
1. La Salle Explorers (4-0)
Notable Results: won vs. Drexel (67-61), won vs. Northeastern (79-74)
There’s only one unbeaten team left in the Big 5 on the men’s side — and thus, the Explorers find themselves atop the initial power rankings of the season, and the only team in our whole rankings trending “up” this early on. Fran Dunphy’s squad has played in four close games, so only eight players have seen the court for La Salle this year. Junior guard Khalil Brantley (17.5 ppg) just scored a career-high 30 points against Southern Indiana, and junior wing Daeshon Shepherd (12.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg) has been productive as a first-time starter. Big test coming up Tuesday at Cameron Indoor.
Next Up: @ Duke (Nov. 21), vs. Coppin State (Nov. 26), @ Temple (Nov. 29)
2. Villanova Wildcats (3-1)
Notable Results: loss @ Penn (76-72), won vs. Maryland (57-40)
The Wildcats would have been much lower on this list were it not for several ugly losses suffered by the rest of the Big 5, and their loss at Penn is the best of the bunch. ‘Nova looked good defensively on Friday, holding Maryland to its fewest points in the shot-clock era (after 1985), but this is still a team that’s got a lot of work to do to reach the level of some of its predecessors. Grad transfers Tyler Burton (11.8 ppg, 8.3 rpg) and T.J. Bamba (11.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg) have been productive, but they’re yet to get a big outing from starting sophomore guard Mark Armstrong (6.5 ppg, 1.8 apg).
Next Up: @ Battle 4 Atlantis (Nov. 22-24; first round vs. Texas Tech), vs. Saint Joseph’s (Nov. 29)
3. Saint Joseph’s Hawks (3-1)
Notable Results: won vs. Penn (69-61), loss vs. Texas A&M-Commerce (57-54)
The Hawks were flying high after putting 100 points on Stonehill in a rout Tuesday night, then came plummeting to earth against Commerce, a program only in its second year as a Division I member. Two of their next three are going to be major road tests, so they have a chance to get right back in the good graces of their fanbase, and a win over Villanova puts them in the Big 5 championship game on Dec. 2.Christ Essandoko (4.0 ppg, 6.7 rpg) has been hobbled by a foot injury, limiting his production early on, and players not named Erik Reynolds II and Lynn Greer III are just 22-of-86 (25.6%) from 3-point range.
Next Up: @ Kentucky (Nov. 20), vs. Sacred Heart (Nov. 26), @ Villanova (Nov. 29)
Penn's Johnnie Walter (3) and George Smith (40) celebrate after last week's upset win over Villanova at the Palestra. (Photo: Gavin Bethell/CoBL)
4. Penn Quakers (3-2)
Notable Results: won vs. Villanova (76-72), loss @ Maryland-Eastern Shore (83-80, OT)
Penn pulled off the Big 5 win of the year thus far, leading almost the entire way against Villanova, then gave up all that momentum by losing at Maryland-Eastern Shore on Saturday. They’ve got a winnable stretch upcoming before a visit from Kentucky on Dec. 9, but the turnovers (16.0/game) have to come way down, and the foul shooting (62.0%) has been concerning. Freshman Tyler Perkins (15.2 ppg) has impressed but his efficiency numbers need to get better; classmate Sam Brown debuted with 17 against UMES.
Next Up: vs. Lafayette (Nov. 24), vs. Belmont (Nov. 25), vs. Monmouth (Nov. 26)
5. Temple Owls (3-1)
Notable Results: won @ Drexel (66-64), loss vs. Columbia (78-73)
The Owls were off to a nice start in the Adam Fisher era, including a tough win at Drexel, but then couldn’t slow down a sharpshooting Columbia to drop their first game of the season. Temple’s been one of the worst teams in the country at making 2-point baskets (42.5%, 311th nationally per KenPom), starting forwards Steve Settle III and Sam Hofman combining to go 4-of-20 from inside the arc. Hysier Miller is averaging 20.0 ppg but hasn’t been efficient from the floor, either (.361/.293), and Jahlil White (14.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg) got hurt in the Columbia game.
Next Up: vs. Ole Miss (Nov. 22), vs. La Salle (Nov. 29), Big 5 Classic (Dec. 2)
6. Drexel Dragons (3-2)
Notable Results: loss @ La Salle (67-61), loss vs. Temple (66-64)
Zach Spiker likes bringing up media critical of his team in press conferences (in good humor), so we’ll head it off at the pass and say we’re waiting for it. If this seems too low for a team on a two-game winning streak, we’re taking the whole first two weeks into consideration here without any recency bias. Their outside shooting through five games is troubling (24.4%), and Amari Williams (12.4 ppg, 9.4 rpg) has been good-but-not-great thus far. The non-con isn’t super-punishing, and there’s room to build momentum before the league slate.
Next Up: @ Old Dominion (Nov. 26), @ Lafayette (Nov. 29), Big 5 Classic (Dec. 2)