Penn guard Jake Silpe deserves some type of perseverance award. After racking up two seasons' worth of DNPs — Did Not Play, 10 times this season, 13 times in 2016-17 — the junior, a Quakers regular as a freshman, has seen double-digit minutes the last two games against Temple and St. Joseph's and shown no signs of rust.
Penn coach Steve Donahue lauded Silpe for never complaining about his place on the team when he's "not playing. It's been year-round. He's worked to get better. He hasn't hung his head. He's been engaged to get his teammates better. He's encouraging. He's getting better. At this point, he brings things that help us win basketball games."
"He's got an incredible ability to get every loose ball or be involved in loose balls,'' Donahue said. "His communication is second to none. He ties everybody together. … He's our best cutter. He reads spaces."
Maybe most important, Donahue added that Silpe's shooting has gotten better. This season, the Quakers have a deep guard corps. Making a jumper or two can lead to playing time.
Temple freshman J.P. Moorman is listed at 6-foot-7. Just don't tell him that. If you look at offensive and defensive rebounding rates, Moorman tops the Owls in both. Add steal percentage to that list, too. Now maybe all those rates would be lower if Moorman were playing starters' minutes, but he has been force lately off Temple's bench.
"I think I bring a different kind of toughness,'' Moorman said on the radio after Temple beat Penn.
No argument there. One area of weakness so far: Moorman has been trying three-pointers, but not making them. He's 2 for 15 this season.
Give it to Phil Booth. The Villanova guard was playing terrific basketball, both ends of the court, when he suffered a broken bone in his hand late against Providence; he's out indefinitely. If Booth didn't have bad luck, he'd have no luck at all. (There was nothing lucky about the 20 points Booth scored in the 2016 NCAA title game, before sitting out last season with a knee injury.)
This season, Booth has Villanova's second-best overall Ken Pom offensive rating, 36th in the nation, a huge reason the Wildcats are top-ranked. You simply don't replace your second-best assist man and a 43-percent three-point shooter. Villanova is so tough because it has so many weapons. Without Booth, that could add up to a loss or two.
Freshman Collin Gillespie is back from his own broken hand. You can't expect a first-year guard to give you what a fourth-year guard was giving, but Gillespie's return is vital. He'll make shots, keep the offense moving, and allow Jay Wright to keep his other guards more rested heading for March. Remember, it was Gillespie, not Quade Green (now at Kentucky) or Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree (playing a big role as a Villanova freshman), who earned last season's Catholic League MVP award.
Not having top guard Pookie Powell could have spelled trouble for La Salle on Saturday against Massachusetts, except everybody else picked up the load, with all starters in double figures. B.J. Johnson got his 26 points, but Amar Stukes really came through with 22 points, making all six two-pointers he tried and two of three three-pointers. Good time to note that Stukes now has the highest Ken Pom offensive rating on the team, buoyed by his 87.2 free-throw percentage.
Drexel guard Tramaine Isabell earned headlines with his offensive sparks last week, scoring 40 against Elon and adding 21 against Northeastern, both Dragons wins.
Just give Austin Williams some supporting credit. The senior forward stuffed the box score in the 68-67 late comeback over Northeastern, with 13 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks. Let's assume all that was crucial, since Drexel's largest lead was three points midway through the first half.
It takes only a second to get in the box score. Or no time at all if you're Markell Lodge of St. Joseph's.
On Saturday, Lodge got in the game for the first time with 46 seconds left in the first half against Penn with teammate James Demery at the foul line. Lodge, one of the great leapers in the city, obviously was put in specifically in case Demery missed; he could get the rebound. Demery missed. Lodge got the rebound. The stat sheet still said 46 seconds left, since the clock started when it touched Lodge's hands. So officially, 0 seconds played, 1 rebound.
Lodge was subbed back out with 36 seconds left, so he played 10 seconds, and had the one rebound. Don't try that at home.
Jack Scheuer, a Big Five Hall of Famer who has watched more Big Five games than anybody else from press row — by a whole lot of games — and is the universally acknowledged No. 1 all-time Palestra scorer after leading a weekly pickup game for decades, walked into the Palestra for Saturday night's Penn-St. Joe's game.
Scheuer was asked, "Do you have a pass?"