There are bad weeks and then there was last week. The Big 5 managed an awful three days, Thursday through Saturday, the five schools losing by a combined 109 points, each school contributing an “L,” all games lost by at least double digits. Was that the worst-ever collective Big 5 showing?
Hey, this is a City 6 space, which means for that three-day stretch, Drexel was king of the city, after beating Delaware. Let’s take a look at the whole thing, in City 6 observations, Vol. 8.
The Dragons earned that Friday night. If you list the ingredients necessary for a successful Drexel season, the base would include a win over Delaware. Can’t get swept by the Blue Hens. Shouldn’t lose at home to the Blue Hens. Drexel improved to 9-7 Friday with its 61-55 victory, as James Butler did his usual thing on the glass, with 16 rebounds. His 7 offensive boards were as many as Delaware’s entire team.
Nobody thought Villanova would go undefeated on the road in the Big East, so losing at Marquette, not a huge shock. St. Joe’s went to Richmond and got rocked, but looked much better at home against Dayton. No shock waves there. La Salle was surprisingly noncompetitive at home against Dayton, but rebounded in a place that offers a rebound, at Fordham.
Which brings us to Penn. It’s a cliché that anything can happen inside the Palestra, but this wasn’t that. This wasn’t two teams clawing toward a thrilling ending, the result in the balance the whole time. This was a 4-8 Princeton team showing up Saturday night and just having its way with Penn, which is supposed to be one of the two Ivy League favorites this season.
It’s one thing for Penn shots not to start falling. That happens. Another for Quakers star AJ Brodeur to have an off offensive night. He’s allowed. But to see Princeton guys continually get right to the rim at the other end for easy buckets — that was a stunner.
Since four schools make the Ivy playoffs, Penn now has a crucial visit Friday to Princeton, to try to turn the tables. The Quakers don’t want to be two games behind their rivals, plus a tiebreaker. That would put them in an uncomfortable position where they’ve been before, where every Ivy game becomes a big one as they try to get to the postseason tournament, held this year at Harvard.
To state the obvious: Saturday’s efforts won’t even get them to Cambridge. The Quakers usually are pretty good at defending two-pointers, with opponents at 48%. Princeton, however, was at 63% on twos, a season worst for a Penn team that has played Alabama, Arizona and Villanova.
Villanova has all sorts of positive statistics, but there is a glaring one that factors into how this season plays out, and maybe how it will end. This Villanova group is an unselfish bunch, leading to the 10th-best offensive efficiency in the nation. Impressive.
However, when the ball isn’t going in the basket, Villanova does not have the kind of defense that can create havoc. (Picture Mikal Bridges and Josh Hart in passing lanes in past years of greatness.) There are no super weak links out there right now. Villanova plays fundamentally sound D, and is outshooting opponents both from two-point and three-point range. But when it comes to creating turnovers, Villanova doesn’t do it. The Wildcats are 251st in the nation in percentage of defensive turnovers created.
So when Villanova has a game like Saturday’s at Marquette, where the Wildcats made just 9 of 38 threes, their D can’t rev up and bail them out, since Marquette committed just 10 turnovers.
Look at these scores: 70-44, 76-58, 76-58 again, 74-55, 55-39. Those are the losing margins of Temple’s games at Tulsa since they began playing in the AAC. There are no winning margins. So forget the NCAA Tournament. We’ll know Temple has taken a big step up when the Owls actually show up for a league game in Oklahoma and at least make the game competitive.
Although La Salle took care of business Sunday at Fordham after Thursday’s debacle against Dayton, getting freshman guard Sherif Kenney back from a sprained wrist is vital for the Explorers, who need both Kenney and Ayinde Hikim making contributions at the point. He’s been day-to-day, with La Salle next at Massachusetts on Wednesday.
You can’t go overboard suggesting a 13-point loss to Dayton is like a win, but if you’re looking for signs of life from St. Joe’s, at least that game provided some. Ryan Daly did his thing with 22 points, 12 rebounds, 7 assists. But 18 points on 4-for-6 three-point shooting by freshman Cameron Brown maybe draws the most attention as we look to see who can make steady future contributions for the Hawks.