AROUND THE CITY

Drop in class

Playing not far from Monmouth Park, Penn experienced a serious drop in class from Tuesday when it played No. 1 North Carolina at the Palestra. This time, it was the not-No. 1 Monmouth Hawks.

The Quakers (3-7) shot 50 percent and won, 69-61. Brian Grandieri (21 points, 9-for-12 from the field) remains the very definition of solid. The freshmen are getting better with each game. Monmouth (2-6) is obviously closer to what Penn will see in the Ivy League than UNC. And how much better those freshmen are by the Ivy season will determine whether Penn can make a run at another Ivy title.

La Salle loses in Baltimore

No doubt La Salle's Darnell Harris was hoping for a big game against Morgan State in a return to his hometown. He got one with 25 points, but his team did not, losing, 93-87, in a game that really was not that close. La Salle trailed by 87-67 with 1 minute, 37 seconds left.

The Explorers (3-4) were actually ahead by eight points in the first half, but trailed by eight at the half and were never a factor after that against Morgan (5-4).

La Salle clearly scheduled down this season in hopes of getting a better record. It is not happening, even against a schedule rated 288th by collegerpi.com. The Explorers are 3-0 against the Northeast Conference and 0-4 against the Mid-Eastern, America East and Patriot.

This is not a good sign as the Atlantic 10 clearly has improved and conference wins are going to be very precious.

Drexel can't score

The Dragons (5-4) were cruising right along after winning their bracket of the Philly Hoop Group Classic. Now they have run right into a wall after losing at Toledo, 57-44. In three straight losses, they have scored 38, 48 and 44.

In those games, Drexel has 64 turnovers and 51 field goals. Against the Rockets (2-7), the Dragons were 18-for-48 from the field, 1-for-15 from the arc and committed 22 turnovers. Other than that, they played quite well.

ACROSS THE COUNTRY

The A-10 may be back

There was preseason talk about the A-10 making a comeback this season. So far, so good. Dayton, Xavier and Rhode Island are a combined 24-3 with some very good wins.

Louisville coach Rick Pitino was going for win No. 500 against Dayton at Freedom Hall. The Flyers won, 70-65, as the terrific Brian Roberts had 28 points.

Rhode Island became the second A-10 team to win at Syracuse, 91-89. Massachusetts won at the Dome earlier and Saint Joseph's did everything but win there in the preseason NIT. URI was 12-for-18 from the arc against the Orange.

Xavier is the only team to beat Indiana, which has been ranked all season.

Duquesne clearly is better. Charlotte and UMass are dangerous. Fordham is decent. St. Joe's and Temple are better than last season. It is not the glory days of the 1990s for the A-10, but it is far from the wasteland of the last few years either.

Line of the weekend

Kansas guard Mario Chalmers had 12 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and seven steals against De Paul.

Toughest schedule

Got to be Davidson (3-5), which has lost to UCLA, Duke and North Carolina. The Wilcats also lost to Western Michigan and Charlotte, possible hangovers from those tough games.

Can't beat Wright

Butler can beat everybody else, but has lost three of four to Wright State. Last season the Bulldogs lost the Horizon League championship game to Wright after splitting during the regular season. Saturday, Butler shot just 32 percent and lost, 43-42. The teams combined to shoot 11 free throws.

Whatever, Butler (8-1) still is incredible. Really, what are the chances of a school with its profile winning the preseason NIT and Great Alaska Shootout in consecutive seasons? Probably 1,000-1, but they've cashed that ticket.

How bad is Kentucky?

Indiana was playing without its starting backcourt, star freshman Eric Gordon (lower back) and Armon Bassett (suspended) and still blasted UK in Bloomington, 70-51.

Kelvin Sampson is now 21-0 at Assembly Hall. Wonder if we can get a three-way call going to talk about it with Kelvin and Bob Knight.

Just keep firing

North Texas and visiting Hartford combined to go 31-for-60 from the arc in the Mean Green's 105-97 win.

Almost made it

Sam Houston State (8-0) was the last team out of my Top 15. The Bearkats won, 61-53, at Saint Louis (6-5), where Rick Majerus is so far not working any miracles. Earlier, the 'Kats beat Texas Tech, which gives Knight and Sampson something else to talk about.

The Bearkats, the pride of the Southland Conference, have not been off to such a good start since that 28-0 run in 1973 when they were in the NAIA. And that is the kind of information you can only get in the Wrap.

And then there were 15

In addition to the nine unbeatens in my Top 15 and Sam Houston State, five more teams remain without a loss: Clemson, Miami, Vanderbilt, Mississippi and Texas-Arlington.

Which brings up a few questions . . . Is Clemson always unbeaten at this point and does it ever matter in the end? And how good is the Southland with Sam Houston and Texas-Arlington (8-0)? Be warned now: Nobody is going to want to play the Southland winner in March. *

DICK JERARDI'S TOP 15

1. Texas (8-0): Is it possible to be better without Kevin Durant? Apparently. Longhorns crushed Rice, 80-54, and have won every game but one, at UCLA, by at least 15 points, including a 19-point rout of Tennessee.

2. Kansas (9-0): Blasted DePaul, 84-66, before 100th consecutive sellout at Allen Fieldhouse.

3. Memphis (7-0): Can win ugly or pretty.

4. North Carolina (8-0): Can score with anybody. Still wonder about the defense.

5. UCLA (8-1): Trailed Davidson, 32-14, before rallying to win, 75-63, in John Wooden Classic in Anaheim.

6. Georgetown (7-0): Routed Jacksonville yesterday, 87-55. Dolphins needed Artis Gilmore and Pembroke Burrows.

7. Washington State (9-0): Won at Gonzaga last week, beat Portland State, 72-60, last night.

8. Duke (9-0): The Blue Devils are back in a big way, blasting everybody again; blew away Michigan, 95-67.

9. Pittsburgh (9-0): Looked like it was beaten when Washington's Justin Dentmon went end-to-end in 4 seconds to drop in a short jumper. After a long review, it was determined the shot was after the buzzer and the Panthers survived in Seattle, 75-74.

10. Texas A&M (8-1): Shot 67 percent and had 17 dunks in 109-73 win over Texas State. That's almost as many dunks as Orlando's Dwight Howard gets in a normal game.

11. Saint Mary's (7-0): Gonzaga has some serious company in the West Coast Conference. Gaels beat San Diego State, 69-64 in the Wooden Classic opener. Only team to beat Oregon.

12. Oregon (7-1): Ducks still have shooters all over the court and beat Utah, 75-64.

13. Michigan State (8-1): Spotted BYU a 10-point halftime lead in Salt Lake City before storming back to shoot 67 percent in the second half and win, 68-61.

14. Marquette (6-1): Ended Wisconsin's 28-game home winning streak with 81-76 win at the Kohl Center.

15. West Virginia (7-1): Leads the country in scoring margin and field-goal defense. Shot 55.9 percent in 92-68 win over improved Duquesne.

Send e-mail to jerardd@phillynews.com