My weekly City 6 observations, Vol. 6:
Penn’s Michael Wang isn’t your everyday freshman, or even your everyday stretch four. The word was out in the preseason: Wang could score. His defense would be a work in progress. By now, it’s obvious: Wang can help an offense even when he’s not scoring, and that work in progress, put the emphasis on the work.
The 6-foot-10 freshman, a Chinese native who played four years at California prep power Mater Dei, is comfortable with the ball in his hands or moving without it. The simple act of curling around a screen makes opponents take note of Wang at all times. With the ball, he’s comfortable taking the three or faking one and dribbling to another spot, and is on the high end of Penn shooting percentages — from the three-point line, from two, from the free-throw line. You also see Wang doesn’t depend merely on his height to rebound, understanding the need to box out.
Penn already is comfortable using Wang late in games, including when the Quakers were holding their late lead last week against Villanova. With 23 seconds left, Wang made two free throws to push a three-point lead to five points.
With 15 seconds left, Wang had to do it again, same scenario. When he missed the first, you thought, OK, it turns out he is human. Then he made the second for a four-point lead.
Penn held on, and everyone inside the Palestra walked out knowing Wang was a huge part of it.
Speaking of freshmen
Villanova freshman Saddiq Bey isn’t a star just yet. He is a stat stuffer. He’ll hit a three, grab an offensive rebound, force a steal, find an open teammate. Maybe in Villanova’s perfect world, he’d have that sixth-man role that Donte DiVincenzo, Mikal Bridges and Josh Hart once had, but this isn’t the perfect Villanova team. Bey helps early, though, including at Kansas, where he had a basic seven points, but also four offensive rebounds and a couple of steals.
The Wildcats lost by three at the nation’s top-ranked team, but the Rock Chalk Jayhawks folks had plenty of nervous moments and a lot of that came when the Wildcats got out to a good start. Bey was all over that.
15:05 left in first half, Bey offensive rebound.
14:59, Bey dunk.
14:31, Bey three-pointer.
14:22, Bey steal.
At that point, Villanova was up, 13-8. Things stayed interesting the whole way.
The difference between in-rhythm Quinton Rose and out-of-rhythm Quinton Rose is something else. The Temple junior is as good as anyone locally at creating his own shot.
While his turnover ratio remains way too high, Rose created one at the other end Saturday to clinch Temple’s overtime victory over Davidson. He’s a walking X-factor, and there have been enough positives to land Temple at 9-2 with a Palestra game against Drexel left before starting AAC play.
That was the highlight, but Owls point guard Shizz Alston had the special game, with 27 points and 11 assists, continuing his all-Big 5 play.
Dragons have their way
Drexel made 21 of 27 two-pointers in the second half Sunday against Quinnipiac to get the "W" and stay above .500 at 6-5. (We’ll maintain it’s really .500 since we don’t feel like counting a 77-point win over Division III Bryn Athyn, but .500 is still noteworthy.) Next up are the deeper waters offered by Connecticut and Temple. We’d certainly count an upset in either one of those as a “W.”
Shoutout to a pro
ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla was the analyst for the Penn-Villanova game, and if you think Fraschilla might have a rooting interest because his son Matt is a grad assistant on Jay Wright’s staff, then you don’t know the man.
Fraschilla was on target seeing the possibility that Penn might get the better of Tuesday’s game. He also isn’t afraid to offer insight based on his son’s position. Fran told a story before the game that he repeated on the air, how his son called after midnight after Villanova had beaten Kansas in the NCAA semifinals. Fran offered his congrats. What was his son doing? Looking up potential graduate transfers. Since Omari Spellman and DiVincenzo were playing so well, the Villanova braintrust suddenly knew the possibility was very real that they’d be leaving for the NBA.
That gives us a little window into how they’re not leaving much to chance at Villanova — again after midnight, at the Final Four — and how Albany grad transfer Joe Cremo ended up on the Main Line even before DiVincenzo kept his name in the NBA draft.
Not City 6, but …
If you’ve read this far, you’re the kind of person who should get to a Roman Catholic High game to see freshman big man Jalen Duren. Roman got past Imhotep Charter on Sunday in a big-time matchup between the best teams this state has to offer. The talent and intensity overflowed, but the big freshman is the one drawing comparisons to the late Eddie Griffin and even Rasheed Wallace. (We’re not making the Rasheed comparisons just yet, but it tells you what kind of territory this is.)