CoBL Staff (@hooplove215)
(Ed. Note: This article is part of CoBL's 2015-16 College Season Preview, which will run from October 2-November 13, the first day of games. For the complete rundown, click here)
We already took a look at the best early-season matchups that area teams will be playing in; here the 10 conference clashes we’re looking forward to this season, in chronological order:
Villanova vs. Xavier (Dec. 31, Noon)
The Wildcats should get a good test as they prepare to again defend their Big East title. Xavier isn’t exactly the same team it was when it went to the Sweet 16 last season, but Chris Mack’s bunch was still picked to finish fourth in the Big East.
Penn vs. Princeton (Jan. 9)
The Tigers will make the trip down to the Palestra for Steve Donahue’s first Ivy League game in five seasons. The Quakers, who saw Tony Hicks leave the team last week, should have a good idea of what their rotation is like at this point in the season. Penn isn’t expected to do much in the conference this season, but maybe with a good crowd and better performance, the team could surprise Princeton. Crazier things have happened--even after a 2-10 start to the year, Penn downed an 11-2 Princeton squad 77-74 at home two years ago.
La Salle vs. Saint Joseph’s (Jan. 23, 4 PM)
The first meeting between these two Big 5 rivals will come at Tom Gola Arena, a few games into the Atlantic 10 schedule. Both teams were picked to finish in the middle of the pack of the 14-team league, and the teams split their season series last year with both winning at home. The possibility of the Explorers’ Jordan Price and the Hawks DeAndre Bembry trading buckets makes this one an intriguing matchup, as does a Catholic League reunion between La Salle redshirt sophomore Amar Stukes (La Salle HS) and SJU freshmen Chris Clover (St. Joe's Prep) and Lamarr Kimble (Neumann-Goretti).
Temple vs. SMU (Jan. 23, 8 PM)
SMU, the AAC favorites, will come to the Liacouras Center for a Saturday night showdown early in the conference slate. Temple knows firsthand the importance of resume-building wins, and the team will get plenty in the nonconference. But the Owls also are eyeing a top four or five finish in the league, and it will probably take an upset or two to get there. Last year, SMU took down TU three times, including a 69-56 defeat in the AAC semifinals that kept Temple out of the NCAA Tournament.
Drexel vs. Hofstra (Jan. 30, 4 PM)
Hofstra, the CAA favorite, is led by two Philly products in Juan’ya Green and Ameen Tanksley. And this game could be the final college game in their hometown for the players who were both named to the preseason all-conference first-team. It will also be the teams’ second meeting in 16 days, so it will be interesting to see how they adjust to facing each other again in a short period of time.
Lehigh at Bucknell (Feb. 10, 7 PM)
These two were at the top of the preseason Patriot League poll, and for good reason. They both have balanced attacks that feature some of the best players in the conference. The Mountain Hawks and Bison will meet once before this game, but both will only have a handful of matchups after it to help decide a regular season champ.
Lehigh vs. Lafayette (Feb. 21, 12 PM)
The Mountain Hawks are hosting their rivals in this late-season matchup after the teams split their season series in 2014-15. Lehigh could be closing in on a Patriot League title by this point in the year, and the Leopards could have a chance to play spoiler. Season and league records are always thrown out the window when the two Lehigh Valley teams meet.
Drexel vs. Delaware (Feb. 25, 6 PM)
This CAA showdown in Philly could have an impact in seeding for the conference tournament; it’s also for some bragging rights of the teams separated by less than an hour car ride. The two teams split their season series last year with the Blue Hens getting the last laugh, holding the Dragons to just 44 points in their own gym.
Temple vs. Memphis (March 3, 7 PM)
Aside from the conference tournament, this will be Temple’s last chance to make a strong impression on the selection committee. The Owls host the Tigers in the penultimate regular season game of the season, and it will be senior night at the Liacouras Center. Memphis was picked fifth and Temple sixth in the preseason AAC poll, so this game should have an impact on the upper half of the standings.
Villanova vs. Georgetown (March 5, Noon)
This list would not be complete without this game. To add to this season’s intrigue, the teams were picked No. 1 and 2 in the Big East preseason poll and this will be Ryan Arcidiacono’s and Daniel Ochefu’s (and maybe Jalen Brunson’s) last regular season home game in Villanova uniforms. It might not be their final game at Wells Fargo Center, however; if the stars align, the Wildcats could return if they make the Sweet 16.