Top 10 Topics
1. Expatriate of the week.
Senior forward Charron Fisher, from Pennsauken, has become a dominating offensive player for Niagara. Fisher is tied for first in Division I scoring, averaging 27.0 points a game. The 6-foot-4 Roman Catholic High graduate has averaged 33.5 points and 10 rebounds in Niagara's last two games, a win over Rider and a loss at Towson. Fisher hasn't scored fewer than 22 points in a game. He also is averaging 8.6 rebounds a game and is a 77.6 percent free-throw shooter.
All this didn't come out of nowhere. Last season, the former Catholic League player of the year averaged 20.6 points and eight rebounds a game, leading the Purple Eagles to the NCAA tournament.
2. The Atlantic Ten comes alive.
The last few years, the A-10's best chance for NCAA at-large berths has been the regular-season champion's falling in the conference tournament. A big problem has been the A-10's failure to win many high-profile out-of-conference games. This season, it seems as if the A-10 is winning those kinds of games nightly. The top five A-10 teams (based on their overall records) are a combined 6-0 against the Big East and 3-1 against the Atlantic Coast Conference. The five schools - Xavier, Dayton, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Charlotte, which are a combined 39-7 overall - have beaten Indiana, Louisville, Syracuse (twice), Creighton, Cincinnati, Boston College (twice), Providence and Southern Illinois.
3. So the A-10 is close to the Big East this season?
Easy now. In this week's AP poll, the Big East has teams ranked fifth (Georgetown), 10th (Marquette), 11th (Pittsburgh), 22d (Louisville), and 23d (Villanova). Xavier, at 17th, is the A-10's lone ranked team, although Rhode Island (31st) and Dayton (32d) are picking up votes each week.
4. The Colonial Athletic Association was last season's hot league.
Not this season. The CAA doesn't have any of the 43 teams getting votes in this week's AP poll. George Mason was the preseason CAA favorite, and the Patriots deserved to be ranked early after beating Dayton and Kansas State, and giving Villanova a tough-enough time. But they've lost two of their last three, to East Carolina and at Kent State.
5. All these A-10 teams winning . . .
What does it mean for St. Joe's? It's bad news and good news for the 4-4 Hawks, who came close in their marquee early-season matchups but couldn't pick up W's against Syracuse, Gonzaga, Holy Cross or Creighton. All those other A-10 schools will be competition for at-large spots. Obviously, winning one or two of the big early games would have helped the Hawks a great deal - and beating Villanova on Feb. 4 at the Palestra still would - but if St. Joe's finishes second, third or fourth in the league, the Hawks will have some quality league wins that will be important in the eyes of the NCAA tournament selection committee. One of the A-10's biggest problems the last few years was that very few conference games mattered to the committee, since not enough games were won in November and December.
6. Speaking of the Hawks, where in the world is . . .?
Arthur "Yah" Davis, who turned 30 in October, is the leading scorer in the top division in Cyprus, averaging 18.1 points a game. Davis also had previous stops in the Dominican Republic, Portugal and Ecuador, in addition to playing domestically in the USBL and CBA.
7. Drexel's offensive struggles.
The Dragons, who host Temple today at the Palestra, lost their last three, averaging just 43.3 points while falling to George Mason, Creighton and Toledo. If opponents have kept Dragons star Frank Elegar in check, few others have stepped up. No Dragon scored more than 12 points in any of those losses, and nobody but Elegar scored more than six points at previously 1-7 Toledo, against which the Dragons made just one of 15 three-pointers and committed 22 turnovers. Even when Drexel was winning early games, coach Bruiser Flint talked about how the Dragons weren't doing it with great offensive play, but simply by holding opposing teams down.
8. Brian Grandieri and freshman forward Jack Eggleston are . . .
The only Penn players who started in the opening loss to Drexel and in Penn's last game, its victory at Monmouth. Junior Aron Cohen, sophomore Justin Reilly, and freshman Tyler Bernardini were the other starters at Monmouth and have been mainstays in Penn's solidifying rotation.
9. Record of the week.
Grinnell's David Arseneault gave out 34 assists in Saturday's 151-112 Division III victory over North Central (Minn.), smashing the previous NCAA record of 26. Grinnell, now 7-1, plays the fastest tempo in the country, but this also may be the first time a team consciously went after an assist record, keeping Arseneault on the court and feeding him the ball so he could feed everybody else.
"I really had nothing to be nervous about, because I didn't have to make any shots," said Arseneault, who had just two turnovers.
Grinnell, which has gone over 100 points in every game so far, actually shot worse than it had all season, making just 23 of 86 three-pointers. The team hoisted 129 overall shots - more than three a minute - plus 31 free throws. In addition to his 34 assists, Arseneault had 22 points, making 6 of 9 shots, including 2 of 4 three-pointers plus 8 of 11 free throws.
Another great stat: Grinnell had 45 offensive rebounds, but just 20 defensive boards. North Central got blown out despite outshooting Grinnell by 57.1 percent to 41.5 percent. How was that possible? The losing team took only 10 three-pointers and made just two, and committed 34 turnovers.
10. The real top 10.
1, North Carolina. 2, Memphis. 3, Texas. 4, Kansas. 5, UCLA. 6, Georgetown. 7, Duke. 8, Washington State. 9, Michigan State. 10. Tennessee.