So the past week, a bunch of locals left town for the holidays and made impressions. La Salle went undefeated in Florida. Penn won two out of three in California. Temple, maybe most impressively, won two out of three, with the near-miss against Maryland maybe the most impressive of all.
The action shifts back home, led by Villanova about to find out if it can regain its Big 5 dominance, hosting Penn on Wednesday off Lancaster Avenue.
Let’s get to City 6 observations, Vol. 4.
You always look to see if players who can get loose with the ball eventually tighten up as seniors -- in other words, play like seniors. Well, so far, Temple’s Quinton Rose has done just that. Last season, Rose had at least three turnovers in 14 games. Through seven games this season, just once (four turnovers vs. Maryland). Against Texas A&M and Davidson, Rose had a combined 13 assists to 1 turnover. Everybody knows Rose possesses here … and now I’m over here quickness. A tighter overall game means a whole lot for Temple’s offensive production, since this isn’t the greatest shooting team in hoops history. Rose earned his way to both AAC and Big 5 player of the week honors.
The Penn Quakers knew they were losing an awful lot of defensive toughness graduating last season, with Antonio Woods and Jake Silpe providing outside defensive resistance. Where would the grit come from this season, with Max Rothschild and Jackson Donahue also gone?
Newcomer Lucas Monroe already has made it clear he’s ready to take on all sorts of assignments. The freshman from Abington High plays an efficient offensive game, and is comfortable with the ball in his hands, but his ability to guard all sorts of positions, forwards and guards, seems especially crucial this season. Five offensive boards in his last 30 minutes is an indicator of how active Monroe can be.
There was a seriousness about Jay Wright after the La Salle game that suggested while the season is still early, Villanova’s coach isn’t in the mood to tolerate mistakes by his guys, which maybe suggested Wright thinks this season’s group is coming along. When you forget freshmen are freshmen and some of the sophomores hadn’t played that much last season, that’s actually a good thing.
Another thought: All those forwards are proving themselves in different ways. It’s a good thing for Villanova that Brandon Slater, for instance, is proving himself worthy of minutes with his play at both ends. By the end of the season, expect defensive performance to play a huge role in minutes allotted at the Finneran Pavilion.
Or road disadvantages … The Dragons are 4-0 at the DAC, 0-4 away from it. No neutral-court games in the mix.
La Salle freshman Brandon Stone is 6-foot-11 and a bit gangly. Are there minutes for him? Yes, since those were quick hands Stone showed in his minutes at Villanova, and an ability to get his body in and out of traffic. A quick glimpse, in other words, of how Stone put up 17 points in 18 minutes against Wright State down in Florida. He’s not yet a main piece to this Explorers puzzle, but you get why he’s getting his time.
We were going to call this trivia time, but this isn’t trivial stuff at all. How many City 6 players have had at least three offensive rebounds for five straight games? Let’s see … La Salle’s Ed Croswell, and, that’s it. Drexel’s James Butler, as you might expect, is closest, with multiple offensive boards in every one of his games.
According to KenPom.com, Croswell is ranked 16th in the country in offensive rebounding percentage, the only City 6 player in the top 100. Butler is 196th, counting players who have played at least 40 percent of their team’s minutes.
Taylor Funk is out with an injured hand at St. Joseph’s, which is a massive blow for the Hawks. Funk seemed to have a good feel for how to play a two-man game with Ryan Daly and was contributing in all sorts of ways this season. Bottom line: This year’s Hawks just don’t have the depth to easily deal with injuries to key performers.
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Justin Moore at Villanova and Jordan Dingle at Penn are making their cases for Big 5 rookie of the year, all strong cases.
But we have a dark-horse candidate:
Penn radio and TV analyst Vince Curran’s Santa Claus beard. A fine new addition to the Palestra scene.