Fastbreak Friday: La Salle looks to upset No. 20 Northwestern

Fastbreak Friday: La Salle looks to upset No. 20 Northwestern

NBC Sports Philadelphia anchor/reporter Amy Fadool and senior producer Sean Kane get you set for all the weekend's local college basketball games with Fastbreak Friday. Look for this column every Friday during the college basketball season.

Note: Temple played Auburn at 11 a.m. on Friday in a game that started too early to include in this week's edition of Fastbreak Friday.

Lafayette (0-2) at No. 5 Villanova (2-0), Friday, 8 p.m. at PPL Center in Allentown
SK: 
Villanova makes the trip up the Northeast Extension to take on Lafayette in what is technically a home game for the Wildcats in a building located in their opponent's backyard. This will be the second meeting between these teams in a little over 12 months. Villanova beat Lafayette, 88-48, in the 2016-17 season opener last November.

Jay Wright's team is coming off a lopsided 113-77 win over Nicholls State on Tuesday. It was the program's highest point total in a game since 2003. Wright had some complaints concerning the Wildcats' defense following the game, but there wasn't much not to like about their offensive execution. Mikal Bridges, Donte DiVincenzo and Jalen Brunson combined for 60 points as Villanova shot 57 percent from the field and 43 percent from three-point territory. 

Wright is utilizing a nine-man rotation that includes four freshmen. This is a deep and athletic Villanova team, but there will be some growing pains with so many first-year players taking on critical roles. Two members of that freshman class — starting center Omari Spellman and reserve guard Collin Gillespie — have had little trouble adjusting to the college game. Gillespie has been particularly impressive, averaging eight points and three assists in just over 18 minutes per game. The 2017 Philadelphia Catholic League Player of the Year is a steady ballhandler and passer with a smooth jump shot — he made four of 11 three-point attempts in the first two games of the season. 

Lafayette opened the season with losses at George Mason and NJIT. The 0-2 start comes on the heels of last season's 9-21 finish that saw the Leopards go 5-13 in Patriot League play. Lafayette is always well-coached under former Villanova star Fran O'Hanlon, but they don't have the talent to keep up with Villanova. Look for the Wildcats to roll on Friday night before things heat up next week at the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas.  

Villanova 85, Lafayette 60

La Salle (3-0) vs. No. 20 Northwestern (2-1), Saturday, 2:30 p.m. in Hall of Fame Classic in Connecticut
AF:
 The Explorers are 3-0 on the young season but it hasn’t been an easy undefeated start. Sure, Saint Peter’s wasn’t much of a test out of the gates, however, La Salle found some difficulty after that. It took two overtimes to finally put away Penn in the first Big 5 game of the year. Then Dr. John Giannini’s team saw a 20-point halftime lead evaporate at home Thursday night, letting South Alabama back into the game and winning by just eight points. 

B.J. Johnson has been as advertised for the Explorers. The senior transfer is everything they wanted and expected him to be: a scorer, a finisher and a leader. But he can’t do it by himself. La Salle needed all of his 30 points — 22 of them in the first half — to beat South Alabama. Guard-scoring hasn’t been an issue for La Salle in the past and that’s true once again. But getting some points in the paint and low block courtesy of a big man is something Giannini is really hoping Tony Washington can provide. 

I’ll tell you who could be a difference maker not only in this weekend’s game against Northwestern, but for the Explorers this season, Saul Phiri. He played 35 quality minutes Thursday night and was rewarded with a double-double, 14 points and 10 rebounds. On a team with plenty of guards, Phiri is still finding his way as a starter, but he could be a key contributor for La Salle to have a successful season. 

Funnily enough, Northwestern and La Salle shared an opponent already in Saint Peter’s. But unlike the Explorers, the Wildcats have already posted a loss this season, falling to Creighton this week. For more on that, check out our Fastbreak Friday video above. My co-author of this column will tell you all about the Big East.

Northwestern is ranked, though probably not for much longer if they play like they have in their first three games. They needed free throws late to hold off Loyola in their opener. 

If La Salle shoots well, there’s a chance they pull off the win in Connecticut. Northwestern’s defense got a workout with a very high-scoring Creighton team, so the game plan to beat the Wildcats has been laid out. But the Explorers will need all of their gunners and their big man to score well into double digits in this one. 

Northwestern 68, La Salle 64

Princeton (0-2) at Saint Joseph's (1-1), Saturday. 7 p.m.
SK:
You can forgive St. Joe's fans for thinking they can't catch a break. After losing their starting backcourt of Shavar Newkirk and Lamarr Kimble to season-ending injuries last season, the Hawks lost their best player Charlie Brown to a preseason wrist injury in October. Brown has yet to play this season. 

Then in the season-opener against Toledo, Kimble re-injured the same foot he fractured last season. Friday morning the school announced that Kimble is out for the remainder of the season as a result of the injury (see story). It's a devastating blow for the Hawks — Kimble is a team captain and terrific floor general.

Every team deals with injuries, but the Hawks have been downright ravaged by key players going down over the last 12 months. Phil Martelli's team has little choice but to soldier on. Without Brown and Kimble, St. Joe's pulled out a gritty 86-82 overtime win at UIC to even their season record at 1-1. James Demery was outstanding in the victory, scoring 25 points to go along with five rebounds and three steals. Freshman forward Taylor Funk added 22 points and nine rebounds. Funk has wasted no time making an impact -— averaging 19 points and 7.5 rebounds.  

The hope is Brown will be ready to rejoin the lineup in the near future. Even without Kimble, the Hawks will be a very difficult team to deal with once Brown returns. 

Princeton is a respectable 0-2 with losses to Butler and BYU. The Tigers are the defending Ivy League champs after winning 23 games a year ago. This is a very solid program that has proven they can play with anyone. I'd be surprised if Saturday's game isn't decided in the final minutes. But in the end, I'm banking on the Hawks figuring out a way to win in their home opener at Hagan Arena this season. 

Saint Joseph's 71, Princeton 69

PSU Brandywine (0-1) at Pennsylvania (1-2), Saturday, 11:30 a.m.
AF: 
The Quakers picked up their first win this week, dispatching Navy at the Palestra by 21 points. But it could’ve been a winning week if they would’ve taken advantage of the opportunity to take down La Salle and earn a Big 5 win in the process. 

Watching that game against La Salle, which I did on NBC Sports Philadelphia (shameless plug), you saw a spark in the Quakers that wasn’t present in the loss to Fairfield to start the season. Ryan Betley is definitely going to be the engine that makes this Penn squad go. But nice performances from Max Rothschild and Antonio Woods showed that there is some depth on this team.. 

But it was a cold night shooting, something that has plagued the Quakers in the past. Against the Explorers, Steve Donahue’s team was a woeful 34 percent from the field and just 25 percent from beyond the arc. Despite all of that, they were still in this game, forcing double overtime thanks to forcing La Salle into 17 turnovers. 

Defense and turning those miscues into points are going to be keys for Penn to beat teams this year and get back to the Ivy League Tournament. And if we learned anything from last year, this is a late-blooming team. So maybe if they figure out their scoring troubles early, they can set themselves up nicely for March. 

And this weekend’s opponent should help the Quakers find their shooting stroke. They welcome Penn State-Brandywine to the Palestra. It actually wraps up a brief home stand for Penn. The next eight games for the Quakers are on the road, not returning home until December 27th. But they will at least head out on the road on a winning note. 

Penn 77, PSU-Brandywine 63

Drexel (1-1) vs. Houston (1-0), Friday, 2:30 p.m. at Paradise Jam in Virginia
AF:
 Unfortunately, this game is not being held in its intended location. The Virgin Islands were ravaged by hurricanes this summer, so the Paradise Jam is taking place in Lynchburg, Virginia on the campus of Liberty University. As they say, the game must go on. On a humanitarian note, all tournament gate money will be donated to the U.S. Virgin Islands to help the recovery. So if you’re cruising around Appalachian, stop by and see some good basketball while helping a great cause. 

Drexel posted its first win earlier this week, beating Arcadia at the DAC. It was great to see the Dragons find their scoring groove, posting 95 points in the win. Also good to see, Tremaine Isabell. The transfer from Missouri tallied 15 of his 22 points in the second half and that’s something Zach Spiker has to like. And it should bode well for the Dragons as they get into the heart of their season. 

And speaking of scoring, Houston is no stranger to putting up points. In the Cougars' lone win of the season, they shot a blistering 69 percent in the first half and eventually put away McNeese State by nearly 30 points. Kelvin Sampson returns his top scorer a year ago in Rob Gray, who also led the American Athletic Conference with 20.6 points a game. To paraphrase Luke Walton who spoke about Joel Embiid, he’s gonna be a problem.  

Houston 85, Drexel 70

Prediction Records
Sean Kane: 2-1
Amy Fadool: 0-2

Fastbreak Friday: No. 6 Villanova ready for big things despite key losses

Fastbreak Friday: No. 6 Villanova ready for big things despite key losses

College basketball is back and so is Fastbreak Friday. Each Friday, NBC Sports Philadelphia anchor/reporter Amy Fadool and senior producer Sean Kane get you set for all the local college hoops action over the weekend. Look for this column every Friday during the college basketball season — we'll make predictions and keep track of our records throughout.

Columbia at No. 6 Villanova, Friday 8:30 p.m.
Kane:
Villanova opens up against Columbia at the Wells Fargo Center, where the Wildcats will play 12 games this season while the Pavilion undergoes renovations. This is the first time these teams have met since 2012 when Columbia beat Villanova convincingly. It was a loss that served as a turning point for the Wildcats' season that year and eventually became the springboard for this unprecedented run of success Jay Wright's program has enjoyed.  

The Wildcats lost quite a bit of firepower from last season's team that won 32 games, Big East regular season and tournament championships, and spent a good chunk of the year as the No. 1 ranked team in the country. First-team All-American Josh Hart is now playing for the Lakers, while Kris Jenkins and Darryl Reynolds also moved on. But Wright has been through this before. During this run, he's had to replace the likes of Ryan Arcidiacono, Daniel Ochefu, Darrun Hilliard and JayVaughn Pinkston.

The faces change but the results remain — Villanova has a 129-17 record (.883 win percentage) over the last four seasons, including a ridiculous 63-9 mark in conference play. Over that span, the Wildcats have won four straight Big East regular-season titles, two Big East Tournament championships and a national championship.

There's no reason to think that high level of success won't continue this season (see season preview). Wright reloads with first-team preseason All-American Jalen Brunson leading a group that also features Mikal Bridges, Donte DiVincenzo, Phil Booth, Omari Spellman and Eric Paschall. This Wildcats team will be significantly deeper than last year when the rotation was whittled down to six or seven players at times. Villanova figures to go nine-deep this year, with a handful of starting-caliber players coming off the bench.

Booth and Spellman are the keys. If Booth can stay healthy (he played just three games last season because of a knee injury) he gives the Wildcats a dynamic scoring option on the perimeter. Spellman, meanwhile, has the potential the be the best post player Wright has coached at Villanova. His offensive skills are NBA-caliber and he spent the last year getting himself in terrific shape after he was ruled academically ineligible prior to last season.

Expect more of the same from Villanova over the course of the next five months. The Wildcats will get the ball rolling with an easy win over Columbia.

Villanova 82, Columbia 59

Saint Joseph's at Toledo, Saturday 7 p.m.
Fadool:
 The Hawks open the season with realistic expectations of a return trip to the NCAA Tournament (see season preview). It could’ve been back-to-back years for Saint Joseph’s, if not for the injury bug that plagued the team throughout the season, but especially late. 

The Hawks lost four players to season-ending injuries. So this year, it probably comes as little surprise to Hawks fans that they begin the year with another key loss to the starting lineup. As a freshman, Charlie Brown earned All-Atlantic 10 honors thanks to his nearly 13 points and five rebounds per game. He played in every game for Phil Martelli, starting all but one of the Hawks' 31 games. But Brown begins the season on the shelf after undergoing surgery in late October to repair a wrist fracture. He’s expected to miss several weeks. If the Hawks can get through the first month or so of the season relatively unscathed, they should be set up nicely for conference play at the very end of the year, leading into 2018. But that’s no small feat with games against Princeton, Villanova and Temple all coming in the next four weeks. 

The Hawks open up on the road against Toledo, a middle of the pack MAC team. The good news is that the Rockets lost three of their starters from last season. The somewhat bad news is that they are a scoring machine, especially from beyond the arc; and they only added to that with Tre’Shaun Fletcher, a transfer from Colorado. Fletcher shot an impressive 40 percent from three in Pac-12 play two seasons ago and is now eligible for Toledo after sitting out a year. 

At this week’s Coaches vs. Cancer preseason luncheon, Coach Martelli said that defense isn’t as important as people think, cracking the joke that no championship has ever been won 2-0. But the other five city coaches in attendance all countered that notion, most notably Jay Wright, who pointed out that Martelli’s teams are always some of the best defensive teams in the country. Wright talked about the number of defensive rebounds the Hawks average and how St. Joe's also is a leader when it comes to not committing fouls.

That stingy and sound defense is going to help carry the Hawks through some tough games early on without one of their star players.

Saint Joseph’s 71, Toledo 68

Pennsylvania at Fairfield, Saturday 1 p.m.
Kane:
I'm bullish on this Penn team. Bullish with a capital "B". They showed what they're capable of towards the tail end of last season when they made a surprising run to the Ivy League tournament and nearly knocked off top-seeded Princeton in the semifinals. I'll get my first prediction of the season out of the way — the Quakers will win the Ivy League this season and return to the NCAA Tournament. 

Penn will go as far as sophomore big man A.J. Brodeur takes them. I mean this as a compliment — Brodeur has no business playing in the Ivy League. He's the type of player who would more than hold his own in the Big East, ACC, Big Ten, or any other power conference. Brodeur led the team in scoring and rebounding last season as a freshman while setting a new program record for blocked shots in a season. He's poised to dominate the Ivy League as a sophomore.

Then there's Ryan Betley, who was the key to the Quakers' late-season surge a year ago. Betley missed the first month of his freshman season with a broken hand but returned to show why head coach Steve Donahue is so high on him. Betley is a fierce competitor with perimeter scoring skills to match. Factor in sharpshooter Jackson Donahue and the return of Antonio Woods, and this Penn team has the look of a 20-win team.

Look for the Quakers to start the season with a win at Fairfield on Saturday. 

Pennsylvania 71, Fairfield 60

St. Peter's at La Salle, Saturday 3 p.m.
Kane:
It's a fresh start for La Salle, a team that endured its share of ups and downs last season. The Explorers ended up with a 15-15 record and 9-9 mark in A-10 play. It was the type of mediocre season than Dr. John Giannini plans to avoid this time around. 

Giannini has the talent on his roster to finish in the top half of the league standings. B.J. Johnson, Pookie Powell and Amar Stukes are a talented and experienced trio that should be able to hold their own against anyone in the A-10. The supporting cast will ultimately tell the story of this La Salle season — who steps up to make the difference in those close games the Explorers generally tend to find themselves in. 

La Salle opens up with St. Peter's, a team that won 23 games and a CIT title last season. One of the Peacocks' key players is Nnamdi Onechionyia, the brother of Temple senior Obi Onechionyia. The Onechionyia connection aside, this is a game La Salle should win. Expect the Explorers to start the season on a winning note Saturday afternoon.

La Salle 77, St. Peter's 68

Bowling Green at Drexel, Friday 7 p.m.
Fadool:
The Dragons enter this season in Year 2 with Zach Spiker at the helm and I expect improvement. And not just because they failed to reach the double-digit win total last year with a 9-23 record. But Spiker can win. He won at his previous stop, Army, and it is not an easy task to win games at a service academy. But Spiker did and was named 2013 Patriot League Coach of the year.  

One of the things working in Spiker’s and Drexel’s favor: Kurk Lee. Last season, he broke Drexel’s freshman scoring record with 478 points while posting top- CAA numbers in points, steals and assists. Lee will be the Dragons’ leading scorer and I expect Sammy Mojica to be right behind. The senior, who’s posted quality minutes since his freshman year, rounds out a good senior core with Miles Overton and Austin Williams. 

Drexel opens at home Saturday and that’s a good thing because Spiker’s squad was not a road warrior last season, going 4-14 away from the DAC. But they welcome in a Bowling Green team who also had a tough time on the road last year, winning only three away games. 

Drexel 68, Bowling Green 61

Fastbreak Friday: No. 2 Villanova looks to lock up top seed in East Region

Fastbreak Friday: No. 2 Villanova looks to lock up top seed in East Region

CSN anchor/reporter Amy Fadool and producer Sean Kane get you set for all of the weekend's local college basketball games with Fastbreak Friday. With the regular season ending this weekend, this is the final Fastbreak Friday column of this college basketball season.

No. 2 Villanova (27-3, 14-3 Big East) at Georgetown (14-16, 5-12 Big East), Saturday, Noon
SK: Second-ranked Villanova pays a visit to Georgetown on Saturday having already wrapped up a fourth straight Big East regular season championship. But the Wildcats still have plenty to play for -- namely the No. 1 seed in the East Region of the NCAA Tournament.

A win Saturday followed by a Big East Tournament title would lock up the top seed in the East for Villanova. But a loss at any point jeopardizes things depending on how other top teams around the country fare in their conference tournaments. 

There is also the possibility that the Wildcats could play Georgetown twice in the next five days thanks to a potential Big East quarterfinal matchup looming next week at Madison Square Garden. With that in mind, Villanova won't want to give the Hoyas any confidence heading into the postseason. Add it all up and there is plenty at stake for 'Nova on Saturday afternoon.

This game could be best summarized as a tale of two coaches. On one hand, there is Jay Wright, fresh off a national championship and guiding a 27-3 team into the regular season finale. Wright has had Villanova ranked in the Top 5 all season long, and he's done it without the services of two of his projected top seven players. Junior guard Phil Booth played just three games before knee soreness sidelined him for the remainder of the season. Then there's star freshman big man Omari Spellman, who was ruled academically ineligible in late September.

Factor in a rib injury to starting forward Darryl Reynolds three weeks ago (Reynolds is expected to return Saturday after missing the last five games) and Wright has been using a six-man rotation. Yet here are the Wildcats, in prime position to become only the third repeat national champions in the last 25 years. Wright has done some terrific coaching jobs during his 16 seasons at Villanova. This year ranks near the top of the list in my book.   

On the other hand, there is Georgetown's John Thompson III, presiding over a second straight dismal season that is destined to end without a NCAA Tournament appearance. Hoyas fans aren't accustomed to missing out on the Big Dance in back-to-back years, and the collective patience for Thompson has grown thin. 

Georgetown's 2007 Final Four run is a full decade old now and the Hoyas haven't advanced out of the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament since. Georgetown was supposed to be a pillar of the new Big East when the league formed four years ago. Instead, it's been one of the worst teams in the conference the past two seasons and it seems the only thing saving Thompson's job at this point is his father's legendary status in the Georgetown program.

Villanova should finish the regular season strong at Georgetown's expense. Look for big outings from Washington, D.C. natives Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins accompanied by the typical steady play from point guard Jalen Brunson.

Villanova 80, Georgetown 70

Temple (15-15, 6-11 AAC) at South Florida (7-20, 1-15 AAC), Sunday 2 p.m.
AF: Temple had a bit of recent bad luck but is looking to end the season on a high note, facing the worst team in the American Athletic Conference. Before getting a win last week over Tulane, the Owls dropped two heartbreakers to Central Florida and UConn by a combined three points. 

That's how things have been for Temple this season. Call it snakebitten or just the way the cookie crumbles, it's not been an easy season for Fran Dunphy. But there is sunshine in the clouds, Tampa sunshine. Temple will travel to Tampa this weekend to face South Florida. The Bulls have only one conference win, and they lost by nine to the Owls last month. 

To add insult to injury, on the trip home from a loss to Houston last week, South Florida accidentally left two of its players behind at the airport. The guys had fallen asleep and no one realized they weren't on board until the flight was taking off. How's that for a metaphor of the Bulls' season? The players caught the next flight. And at least it wasn't a holiday like Christmas when they missed their flight. My co-author of this column knows all about that. But it's still not a great look for a struggling team. 

Shizz Alston continues to impress in his freshman season on North Broad. He's certainly seemed to be relishing the role of scorer as well as leader on the court. Look for big things from him next season. 

Temple will get a much-needed win this weekend before heading to Hartford for the conference tournament next week. 

No heartbreak here, only sunshine and a W for Temple. 

Temple 78, USF 68

Fordham (13-17, 7-10 A-10) at La Salle (14-14, 8-9 A-10), Saturday 2 p.m.
SK: It's a matchup of two middling A-10 teams to close out the regular season at Tom Gola Arena on Saturday. La Salle and Fordham occupy ninth and 10th place respectively in the conference standings.

It will be Senior Day for Jordan Price and the rest of the Explorers' seniors. Price sure could use a strong performance to wrap up the regular season -- he's averaging just 5.7 points and shooting 26.9 percent from the field in the last three games.

As a whole, La Salle has sputtered down the stretch. The Explorers are 3-9 in their last 12 games, a span of futility that began with an embarrassing 38-point loss at VCU and most recently featured a 15-point loss at lowly Saint Louis. There is some good news entering Saturday's matchup -- La Salle won by 15 at Fordham a month ago. 

The recent history between these two teams combined with the Senior Day festivities at Gola Arena has me leaning towards the Explorers. Loyal readers of this column know that La Salle has let me down several times this season, but I'm riding one last time with Price and company. The Explorers finish the regular season on a high note before heading west to Pittsburgh for the conference tournament next week.

La Salle 74, Fordham 68

Dartmouth (6-19, 3-9 Ivy League) at Pennsylvania (12-13, 5-7 Ivy Legaue), Friday 7 p.m.

Harvard (18-7, 10-2 Ivy League) at Pennsylvania (12-13, 5-7 Ivy Legaue), Saturday 7 p.m.
AF: It's a big weekend for Penn. The Quakers are vying for the fourth seed, the final spot in the first-ever Ivy League tournament. Of course, they made it tougher on themselves last weekend with the loss to Columbia, a team they are tied with since both are 5-7 in the conference. 

The good news first. Penn is at home this weekend while Columbia is on the road and has to play at Yale. But there is some not-so-good news. Penn has to face Harvard, the second best team in the Ivy. Ideally, Penn needs two wins this final weekend, however, there are plenty of scenarios where the Quakers can get in, going down to a third and fourth tiebreaker that relies on the team's ranking in things like the RPI, Sagarin and KenPom ratings.

Yes, that's how complicated this could become for the fourth seed to be named to the Ivy League tournament. Bottom line, Penn needs to win, especially against Harvard. Of course, the Quakers have to beat last-place Dartmouth, and they need Columbia to lose either to Yale or to also-last-place Brown. Because if Penn beats Dartmouth but loses to Harvard, all Columbia would need is one of the two wins. The Lions split with Harvard this season, and Penn would have been swept by the Crimson and that would be that. 

I don't mean to dismiss the Dartmouth game because the Big Green beat Penn by three points a month ago. But I think this will come down to Saturday's game for the Quakers.

So let's focus on the Harvard matchup. The Crimson only have two losses in Ivy League play, one I just mentioned to Columbia and the other to Princeton. Two conference losses by a combined four points. Harvard faced Princeton a month ago and lost on a last-second shot. The Crimson are hoping for a sweep on their end and having Princeton get swept for a chance at the top spot, but that's another whole scenario. Harvard has won six in a row, winning by an average of nearly 12 points in that span. Tommy Amaker's crew is also scoring more than 80 points a game in those six wins. On the flip side, Steve Donahue's team has won five of its last six games, the lone loss at Columbia. In their last six games, the Quakers are scoring nearly 76 points and in their wins were by an average of about 11.5 points. So this is setting up to be quite the game. 

I'm an optimist. I like a good story. And I am picking the Quakers. From starting 0-6 in the conference to fourth place and a spot in the first-ever Ivy League tournament at the Palestra.

Penn 75, Harvard 73

Penn 72, Dartmouth 68

Saint Joseph's (10-19, 3-14 A-10) at Duquesne (10-20, 3-14 A-10), Saturday 2 p.m.
SK: St. Joe's limps into the regular season finale riding a nine-game losing streak. Following Wednesday's 19-point home loss to Rhode Island, Phil Martelli issued a massive indictment of his team's effort. "That was participation, that wasn't competition," Martelli told reporters. 

To be fair, the Hawks have been ravaged by injuries, including a season-ending torn ACL for leading scorer Shavar Newkirk and a fractured foot for starting point guard and second-leading scorer Lamarr Kimble. Newkirk and Kimble are the two best players on the St. Joe's roster and it's unrealistic to expect the Hawks to win consistently without them.

But it's clear that Martelli isn't happy with his team's effort, injuries or no injuries. The Hawks have a chance to get back in their head coach's good graces Saturday against the only team below them in the A-10 standings. Like St. Joe's, Duquesne is 3-14 in conference play and has lost 12 of its last 13 games. 

Both teams will be out to get some much-needed momentum heading into next week's A-10 Tournament. Something tells me the Hawks will answer the bell in this matchup. They're in desperate need of a win and have had their competitive spirit questioned by none other than their coach. Expect strong efforts from Charlie Brown and James Demery in a narrow St. Joe's victory. 

St. Joseph's 63, Duquesne 60    

Drexel (9-22, 3-15 CAA) at James Madison (9-22, 7-11 CAA), Friday 8:30 p.m. -- First round of CAA Tournament
AF: Drexel had a tough first season under Zach Spiker. The Dragons did win nine games in the regular season, three more than last year. But they finished with an identical 3-15 conference record. Still, there were bright spots, namely two freshmen in Kurk Lee and Kari Jonsson. 

Lee is only two points away from setting the Drexel record for points as a freshman. He also is fourth in the CAA with nearly 5 assists per game. 

Jonsson, the freshman from Iceland, made an incredible 63 three-pointers this year. And that's with missing the last three games. The experience these freshmen received will pay dividends for Spiker in seasons to come. 

Next up for Drexel, the first round of the CAA tournament. They'll face JMU, with the Dukes having swept the Dragons this season. Like Drexel, JMU only has nine wins, but it has double the number of conference wins. JMU also just beat the Dragons on their senior day. So while there will be a revenge factor in mind, as well as trying to salvage something positive for next season, I just don't think Drexel has enough left in the tank. The good news is that Jonsson should play in this one, and he can be a difference maker.  

JMU 77, Drexel 70

Prediction records
Sean Kane: 28-11
Amy Fadool: 23-15