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The best of Philly college basketball this decade ... hmm, where do we start? | Mike Jensen

Yes, we’re cheating by making an all-Villanova team and all-everyone else team.

Jalen Brunson (center) of Villanova is our City 6 player of the decade.
Jalen Brunson (center) of Villanova is our City 6 player of the decade.Read moreCharles Fox / File Photograph

Let’s start some trouble. The decade is ending (register your “decade closes at end of 2020” complaints elsewhere.) Let’s attempt to put together some all-City 6 all-decade teams. And, yes, we’re cheating ... making an all-Villanova team and all-everyone else team. Even at that, trouble ahead.

Why an all-Villanova team? In case you were sleeping for the last decade, a couple of NCAA titles earns you some separation. Let’s get started: City 6 Observations, Vol. 7.


We’ll get the big stuff out of the way. Jalen Brunson is the City 6 player of the decade. The Sporting News named Brunson the NCAA player of the decade. Consensus national player of the year as a senior, only two-time starter on the Villanova NCAA title teams. Heartbeat of the 2018 champions. One of the smarter college players of all-time.

Let’s say this, though … Brunson barely edges out Josh Hart. Look at it this way: In 2017, Hart was the top Villanova player, a consensus first-team all-American. In 2016, Hart had a bigger impact on Villanova’s title success than Brunson did that season as a freshman. As a defensive stopper, you’d take Hart. So their two seasons together, it was Hart over Brunson.

Still, Brunson. National player of the year in a title year trumps all.

The third no-brainer is Ryan Arcidiacono, whose impact was felt from his first games as a freshman to the last play of his Villanova career. He’s fourth all-time on Villanova’s career assist list, and none of the three players ahead of him scored as many points as Arcidiacono did.

Now, let the arguments begin. No hard and fast rules on length of service, but the longer players were around, the greater the impact of their contributions. Mikal Bridges had enormous impact on both NCAA title teams, as sixth man in 2016 and as a top two-way contributor in 2018. He’s in. The last spot on the first team, after going back and forth, goes to Daniel Ochefu, because his two-way contributions were so crucial to delivering Villanova the ′16 title. We’ll argue he was overall MVP of that NCAA tournament.

Second team: Phil Booth, Donte DiVincenzo, Eric Paschall, Darrun Hilliard, and JayVaughn Pinkston.

And the rest of the City 6

Now, this gets brutal, but we’re up to the task. Start with the only non-Villanova team that reached the Sweet 16 this decade. Guards Tyreek Duren and Ramon Galloway are great beginners for the discussion. Temple’s Khalif Wyatt is an automatic. Is two years of Lavoy Allen enough to make this list? Given his importance, let’s say yes, definitely. Penn’s AJ Brodeur, another no-brainer, after leading Penn’s recent resurgence. At St. Joe’s, start with Langston Galloway and DeAndre’ Bembry. Drexel’s Damion Lee, can’t forget him.

So that’s eight players already, and we haven’t gotten to Penn’s Zack Rosen; or Temple guards Ramone Moore, Will Cummings, or Shizz Alston; or Isaiah Miles or Halil Kanacevic or Ronald Roberts on Hawk Hill; or Jerrell Wright from La Salle. Don’t forget Samme Givens or Chris Fouch at Drexel. Especially don’t forget Frantz Massenat at Drexel.

Yeah, we’re in deep trouble. That’s four teams worth of players. Here we go:

First team: Wyatt, Galloway, Bembry, Allen, Brodeur. (Which Galloway? Both of them! Langston and Ramon, bless them, give us an extra pick.)

Second team: Duren, Rosen, Massenat, Alston, Lee.

Play of the decade?

OK, you’ve got this one. Kris Jenkins owns the all-time greatest shot in Final Four history. The all-time greatest shot in Villanova history, City 6 history, Big 5 history. Which means Arcidiacono owns the greatest pass … and Ochefu owns the greatest floor-sweep just before the play.

No. 2? Also obvious. Even if Tyrone Garland hadn’t dubbed his winning drive the Southwest Philly Floater on a national TV postgame interview, the play stands up for getting La Salle to the 2013 NCAA Sweet 16.

Biggest play on a local court?

All sorts of candidates, but we’re going with Darnell Foreman’s three-pointer against Harvard just before halftime in the 2018 Ivy League final, the last of his 19 first-half points, all needed for the Quakers to get back to the NCAA tournament.

Biggest scandal?

Penn won that honor, too, when former Quakers head coach Jerome Allen was found guilty of taking money to get someone into school when that player never ended up playing for Penn.

Best interview?

Lots of candidates, but for this decade, we’re going with Villanova’s Darryl Reynolds. He could mix perspective, insight and humor.

Biggest NCAA omission?

Drexel, 2012. We still have zero idea how a team that lost one game after Dec. 3 before a three-point loss to Virginia Commonwealth in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament final, in VCU’s hometown, got omitted. That was a Sweet 16 kind of team that just needed its shot. Big-time fail by the NCAA selection committee.

Best conference realignment move?

As it turned out, the new Big East didn’t exactly hold Villanova back. A bunch of basketball schools that belong together are together, still ending up at Madison Square Garden in March.

Best team?

We already wrote this one last week. Villanova 2018 takes it over Villanova 2016. No other candidates need apply. Villanova had a better last decade than any City 6 school in any decade. Fitting perhaps that the Wildcats closed it out (almost, with a Dec. 30 date with Xavier the actual last game) by beating top-ranked Kansas. For the decade, with the one game to go, Villanova has 268 wins, so almost 27 wins a year. Temple was second with 222 wins.

Coach of the decade?

A week to go is not quite enough for anybody to catch Jay Wright, who created a legacy that continues into the next decade, and would get this designation nationally, too.