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