Fastbreak Friday: Villanova hosts Virginia in ACC-Big East battle

Fastbreak Friday: Villanova hosts Virginia in ACC-Big East battle

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. Look for this column every Friday during the college basketball season.

No. 12 Virginia (16-3, 6-2 ACC) at No. 1 Villanova (19-2, 7-2 Big East), Sunday 1 p.m.

SK: This is big, even by Villanova standards. The ACC meets the Big East as 12th ranked Virginia pays a visit to No. 1 Villanova on Sunday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center. A national television audience will be treated to a showdown that will have the feel of a game typically played in late March or early April. The Wildcats are coming off their second loss of the season, a 74-72 setback at Marquette on Wednesday in which they squandered a 13-point lead with five minutes remaining. The Cavaliers meanwhile are coming off an impressive 17-point win Wednesday at No. 14 Notre Dame.

This is the back end of a home-and-home series between Villanova and Virginia. The Cavaliers beat the Wildcats, 86-75, in Charlottesville last season in a much more high-scoring game than Virginia is accustomed to playing. Tony Bennett's team prefers to grind you down on the defensive end. They currently lead the nation in scoring defense, surrendering just 53.3 points per game.

Of all the things the Villanova program has accomplished over the last four years (a national championship and three straight Big East titles included), one thing in particular stands out to me — no player on the current roster has ever lost two games in a row. That's a remarkable feat for a group of 19-22-year-old kids. I spoke with Jay Wright on Friday morning and asked him what that says about the makeup of his team. At first he joked that he has really good players but eventually credited their resiliency and ability to put a loss behind them and focus on the next game on the schedule. It's one of the mantras of the Villanova program — 'Next play'. Or in this case, next game. Move on and focus on the next challenge. Nobody has done that better than Villanova over the last four years.

The Wildcats have their work cut out for them avoiding a second straight loss on Sunday. Virginia is riding a five-game winning streak and is 9-2 in its last 11 games. Senior London Perrantes is a consummate Tony Bennett guard — a tough, physical player who leads the Cavaliers with 12.3 points and 3.7 assists per game while shooting a shade under 43 percent from three-point range.

As effective as Perrantes has been, this feels like a Josh Hart game to me. Hart scored 16 points in Wednesday's loss at Marquette, but foul trouble limited him to just 19 minutes. He played just four minutes in the first half and was on the bench with four fouls during a critical stretch late in the second half. Hart will be eager to put a frustrating night behind him, and Sunday's game is an opportunity to remind everyone why he's the frontrunner for National Player of the Year honors.

Villanova took 34 three-point shots against Marquette and made just six of them. I imagine Wright spent the last few days preaching the importance of getting to the basket, something that is Hart's specialty. Expect Hart to attack the rim from the get-go on Sunday and help Villanova avoid losing back-to-back games for the first time since March of 2013.

Villanova 65, Virginia 57

La Salle (11-7, 5-2 A10) at Saint Joseph's (9-10, 2-5 A10), Saturday 6 p.m. on CSN

AF: These two teams meet this weekend both coming off losses, both heartbreakers but for two different reasons. Let's start with the visitors.

The Explorers were riding high one week ago. Going into last weekend's game against VCU, they had won six of the previous seven games. They'd taken care of teams above them in the A-10 standings and were climbing their way up. Then La Salle traveled to Richmond to face the Rams. That did not go well. Dr. John Giannini's team lost, 90-52. The Explorers returned to Philadelphia to host Big 5 foe Penn at the Gola. In that game, the Explorers came out of the gates as flat as a team that had just been beaten by nearly 40 points the game before. They had eight of their 17 turnovers in the first half while shooting less 31 percent from the field, including 2 for 13 from three-point range before halftime. They made a game of it in the second half but it wasn't enough. Penn picked up its first Big 5 road win since January 2007.

So let's move to the host team, St. Joe's. The Hawks were cruising in their game this week against St. Bonaventure, up by as many as 18 points. But they went stone cold from the field in the game's final five minutes. That will not earn you any wins, no matter the opponent, especially on the road. The good news was that Phil Martelli saw Lamarr Kimble, James Demery and Charlie Brown all post double figures, something he needs with his leading scorer Shavar Newkirk sidelined for the season.

The Hawks lead this series with La Salle, 62-48, and have won three in a row over the Explorers dating back to the 2014-15 season. The last time La Salle won at Hagan was 2014. This is not a Big 5 game this time around, but of course it counts in the A-10 standings. Saint Joseph's got some other good news this week: Jameer Nelson the program's all-time leader in points and assists, will be inducted into the Big Five Hall of Fame this year.

But I think it's La Salle who gets the good news Saturday night with a win.

La Salle 70, St. Joe's 65

Temple (11-10, 2-6 AAC) at Houston (14-7, 5-4 AAC), Saturday 10 p.m.

SK: Temple got a much-needed win over Memphis Wednesday night, snapping a three-game losing streak and securing just its second victory in the last eight games. Sophomore guard Shizz Alston Jr. led the way for the Owls with 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting while playing the full 40 minutes. Alston has been outstanding as of late, averaging 24 points and shooting 56 percent from the field in the last three games.

Saturday night's visit to Houston is a significant challenge for Fran Dunphy's team, but it's certainly a winnable game. The Cougars are 2-4 in their last six games and just snapped a three-game losing streak themselves with a win over Tulane on Wednesday. Kelvin Sampson has re-energized the Houston program, winning 22 games a year ago following a 13-win season in 2015. Sampson has had his share of off-court issues with the NCAA over the years, but he's proven himself as one of the top coaches in the country during previous stops at Indiana and Oklahoma.

This is a matchup of desperate teams and logic tells me to go with Houston playing on its home court. But I'm riding with Temple for one simple reason — Dunphy's teams typically find their footing in late January and February. It's been a struggle for the Owls this season but they may have found a winning formula against Memphis with Alston playing a starring role. Expect a close, hard-fought battle on Saturday night in Houston. But I look for Temple to find a way to win.

Temple 68, Houston 65

Charleston (16-6, 7-2 CAA) at Drexel (8-13, 2-6 CAA), Saturday 2 p.m.

AF: Drexel comes into this one with the positive momentum of an overtime win Thursday night over Hofstra. Once again, Kurk Lee was the catalyst for the Dragons' victory. He was held scoreless in the first half but poured in all 17 points after the break. And it was Lee's three-pointer with 17 seconds to go that was the game-winner for Drexel in OT.

Another good sign for Miles Overton in this game. The transfer finished with 10 points, his 13th times scoring in double-digit scoring in his last 14 games.

The Dragons stay at home this weekend, welcoming Charleston to the DAC. The Cougars are currently second in the CAA behind juggernaut UNCW. In fact, they were keeping pace with the leaders until this week. Charleston dropped just its second conference game this week. So it's a bit of a wounded Cougars team coming in. This would've been a tough test regardless for Zach Spiker's team, since Charleston boasts three double-figure scorers. Joe Chealey leads the way with 16 on average and had 25 in an overtime loss Thursday to Towson. But that combined with a team who's fighting to stay with the CAA front-runners, and it could be too much for the Dragons.

Charleston 72, Drexel 65

Prediction Records
Sean Kane: 19-5
Amy Fadool: 15-7

Temple-UConn observations: Despite valiant effort from Marchi, Owls lose 1st homecoming game since 2008

Temple-UConn observations: Despite valiant effort from Marchi, Owls lose 1st homecoming game since 2008


That’s why football is a week-to-week game. Forget about momentum.

Temple found that out the hard way. After coming alive in a big road win over East Carolina last week, the Owls were humbled when a fourth-quarter rally fell short Saturday in a 28-24 homecoming loss to Connecticut at Lincoln Financial Field.

The Owls had one final shot at the victory with a drive in the final minute, but a Logan Marchi heave to the end zone was broken up.

The loss dropped Temple back under .500 at 3-4 (1-3 American Athletic Conference). UConn moved to 2-5 (2-2) with the victory.

• Say what you want about Temple quarterback Marchi (and you surely will after this game), but the guy is a fighter. Whether things are going his way or not, he continues to try to search for his receivers and attempt to squeeze the ball into those windows on the field. He made it two consecutive games with 300-plus yards passing as he was 33 of 54 for 356 yards with one touchdown and one interception Saturday.

• The game marked Temple’s first homecoming loss in nearly a decade. TU hadn’t suffered a homecoming defeat since a 7-3 loss to Western Michigan on Sept. 27, 2008. On that day, former Eagles DB Jaiquawn Jarrett was beaten in coverage on a double move in the third quarter for the game’s lone touchdown. Coming into Saturday, the Owls had won eight straight homecoming matchups by an average margin of 19.3 points.

• There was a rare sighting for Temple at the Linc: a rushing touchdown from a tailback. In fact, there were two. David Hood, who became the first Owls tailback to score on a run this season in last week’s rout of East Carolina, punched it in from one yard out to open the scoring in the first quarter. Ryquell Armstead weaved his way into the end zone for a 10-yard TD on the first play of the fourth quarter.

• Delvon Randall is simply a playmaker. The Owls’ leading tackler, Randall added another five stops in Saturday’s win. The junior DB also made a beautiful play along the sideline in the first quarter when he undercut an out route for an interception. It marked Randall’s third straight game with a pick. The Owls only have four interceptions this season and Randall has three of them.

• My colleague Greg Paone touched on college football’s targeting rule a couple of weeks ago (see story)We agree on pretty much all of the nuts and bolts of the rule. I’m glad it’s in place to protect players from violent and unnecessary hits. However, the more I see it called each week — and it seems like there is at least one in every game now — the more I’m starting to dislike the implementation. Temple defensive lineman Sharif Finch was ejected for targeting on Saturday when he went high on Huskies quarterback Bryant Shirreffs on a third-quarter touchdown pass. Shirreffs sold the hit by jerking his head back as he fell to the ground, but it was definitely worthy of a penalty. Was it a late hit? Yes. A bone-headed hit? Absolutely. But one worthy of Temple losing a top defensive player for the remainder of the game? I don’t think so.

• Speaking of Shirreffs, it’s easy to see why the Huskies have the best passing offense in the AAC. He didn’t show it with yardage in this tilt (just 105), but he was able to connect on three touchdowns through the air. He also added 39 yards on the ground, including a key run up the middle late in the fourth quarter.

• The Owls simply aren’t a good enough team to overcome 12 penalties for 117 yards.

• Like any other major college football game around the country, Saturday’s matchup at the Linc had scouts from NFL teams listed to attend. Of course, the Eagles were listed for several scouts in their home stadium. While the Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers were also among those expected to have representatives at the game, there was only one other team labeled for more than one scout besides the Eagles — the New York Giants. At 0-5, they can certainly use all the help they can get right now.

• Temple will look to rebound when the Owls travel to play their final non-conference opponent in Army at 12 p.m. next Saturday.

Temple eyes streak, Penn looks to dethrone Columbia, Villanova on the road

USA Today Images

Temple eyes streak, Penn looks to dethrone Columbia, Villanova on the road

Temple (3-3, 1-2 American) vs. UConn (1-4, 0-3 American)
Lincoln Financial Field, ESPNews
Noon Saturday

Last time out
Temple beat East Carolina, 34-10, last Saturday.

UConn lost to Memphis, 70-31, last Saturday.

Scouting report
Last week, quarterback Logan Marchi finally got on track with his first 300-yard game of the season against East Carolina. This week, the redshirt sophomore will face UConn, the team he initially committed to in high school under former coach Paul Pasqualoni. Marchi was then denied after a coaching change was made. The Huskies have the worst passing defense in the AAC, giving up 399.8 passing yards per game, and have allowed 19 touchdowns through the air in 2017. If Marchi can play well for a second week in a row, look for Temple’s offense to put up some points. 

Another matchup to look at is UConn’s passing attack against Temple’s defense. The Huskies’ boast the best passing offense in terms of yards in the AAC, averaging 325.8 yards per game, but have only scored nine touchdowns this year. Temple, on the other hand, allows the eighth-most passing yards in the conference (253 yards per game), but is ranked fourth in the conference in scoring defense, allowing 26 points per game. Connecticut must convert drives into touchdowns against this Owls defense if it wants to compete.

What it means
Temple’s hopes to reach the AAC championship game might not be realistic anymore but its bowl hopes are still alive. A win against UConn would put the Owls just two victories away from becoming bowl-eligible, which after their start would be good for Owl fans.

Series history
Temple holds the 12-5 series advantage over Connecticut, and is currently on a three-game win streak.

What’s next?
Temple travels to Army.

UConn hosts Tulsa. 

Penn (2-2, 0-1 Ivy) at Columbia (4-0, 1-0 Ivy)
Robert K. Kraft Field at Lawrence A. Wien Stadium
1:30 p.m. Saturday

Last time out
Penn lost at Central Connecticut State, 42-21, Saturday.

Columbia defeated Marist, 41-17, Saturday.

Scouting report
Penn’s strength is its rushing attack. They rank second in the Ivy League averaging 204 yards per game on the ground. Karekin Brooks has 543 yards rushing and five touchdowns so far this season. Getting the ground game going will be key for the Quakers this week.

Columbia defense has been strong so far this season. The Lions rank second in the Ivy League in total defense only allowing 316 yards per game and are third in the Ivy in pass defense. The Lions allow 194.8 yards per game through the air.

Series history
This is the 96th meeting between the teams. The Quakers hold a 73-21-1 advantage and have won the last 19 editions.

What’s next?
Penn hosts Yale.

Columbia is at Dartmouth.

Villanova (4-2, 2-1 CAA) at James Madison (5-0, 2-0 CAA)
Bridgeforth Stadium
6 p.m. Saturday

Last time out

Villanova defeated Maine, 31-0, Saturday.

James Madison beat Delaware, 20-10, Saturday.

Scouting report
Villanova has allowed just 1.6 yards per carry and 52 rushing yards per game this season. The Wildcats boast a strong scoring defense as well, the best in the Colonial allowing only nine points per game.

James Madison boasts the second-best rushing offense in the CAA averaging 223 yards per game and is second in scoring defense. The Dukes allow just 10 points per game to opposing offenses. Look for this game to be defensive showdown.

Series history
This is the 26th meeting between the teams. James Madison leads the series 14-11 and won 20-7 last season.

What’s next?
Villanova hosts Elon next Saturday.

James Madison travels to William & Mary next Saturday.