Fastbreak Friday: Villanova, St. Joe's look to stay unbeaten


Fastbreak Friday: Villanova, St. Joe's look to stay unbeaten

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. 3 Villanova (3-0) vs. Wake Forest (3-0), Today 1:30 p.m.

SK: Villanova takes on Wake Forest in the semifinals of the Charleston Classic on Friday afternoon. The Wildcats are seeking their fourth straight in-season tournament title after wins in the Battle for Atlantis in 2013, the Legends Classic in 2014 and the Preseason NIT last season.

Villanova was sluggish in Thursday's 11-point win over Western Michigan in the first round of the tournament. That can be excused given the 11:30 a.m. start time and the Wildcats' quick turnaround following Monday's hard-fought win at No. 15 Purdue. But Jay Wright likely isn't making those excuses for his team — he'll want to see a better effort on both ends of the floor against Wake Forest.

The Deamon Deacons hung 103 points on UTEP on Thursday and are averaging better than 92 points on the season. Danny Manning's team likes to push the tempo, something Villanova will welcome. 

Look for another big game out of Wildcats senior guard Josh Hart, who has looked very much deserving of the first team preseason All-American honor he received earlier this month. Hart is averaging 17 points and 5.0 rebounds and shooting an even 50 percent from the field.

Sophomore Eric Paschall has been effective off the bench for Villanova, chipping in a team-high 17 points in Thursday's win over Western Michigan. The Wildcats will need a similar effort from Paschall and fellow super-sub Mikal Bridges against Wake Forest.

Villanova 85, Wake Forest 76

Loyola-Chicago (3-0) vs. Saint Joseph’s (2-0), Today 12:30 p.m.

AF: The Hawks are in the sunny Virgin Islands for the Paradise Jam. It’s a four-game tournament beginning Friday against Loyola of Chicago. St. Joe’s has come out of the gates with back-to-back wins to open the season. Not just that, Phil Martelli’s team is shooting 50 percent from the field. Yes, I know it’s a small sample size, but it’s a good start nonetheless. And speaking of, Lamarr Kimble and Shavar Newkirk are pacing the Hawks, averaging a combined 40 points a game. Hard to lose many games when you are posting numbers like those. 

I don’t know that Loyola is going to give the Hawks too much of a test in the opener of this tournament, but if St. Joe’s beats Loyola, they’d face the winner of Ole Miss-Oral Roberts. On the other side of the bracket, there are teams like N.C. State, Washington and Creighton. So there is some competition in this tournament.             

If you asked Martelli at the beginning of the season about his team, his answer (and I believe an honest one) was that he didn’t know. He lost some major scoring power as well as stability on the court with leadership and experience with the departures of DeAndre’ Bembry and Isaiah Miles. But Martelli may have found two players to pick up the scoring slack in Newkirk and Kimble. Kimble is a local product out of Neumann-Goretti high school in South Philly and was named to the A-10’s all rookie team last year. His early development is key for the Hawks to repeat the success they enjoyed last season.
While Loyola-Chicago is also undefeated, it has faced much lesser competition. The Ramblers are averaging 98.5 points a game through their first three, all at home, and hit the 100-point mark in their second win of the season. They also just beat Eureka 97-59. Eureka. If there was a name for a team that is everyone’s tune-up for the season, Eureka would be it, right?

Fun fact: both are Jesuit universities. The one from Philly wins this one.

Saint Joseph’s 78, Loyola-Chicago 67

Texas Southern (3-0) at La Salle (1-1), Saturday 3 p.m.

SK: Hard not to think of Aaric Murray when you first glance at this matchup. The talented and mercurial Murray played for both La Salle and Texas Southern during a college career that took him to three separate schools and led to him eventually playing overseas professionally.

Murray is out of sight and out of mind for Explorers fans, who have watched their team get off to a 1-1 start this season. A bitter overtime loss to Big 5 rival Temple on opening night was followed by a workmanlike win over Delaware. Saturday presents a chance for La Salle to climb over the .500 mark and I expect them to take advantage of it.

The Explorers' transfers have been as advertised through the first two games of the season. B.J. Johnson, Pookie Powell and Demetrius Henry have combined to average better than 40 points, each making his presence felt on both ends of the floor. Combine that trio with senior guard Jordan Price's scoring and La Salle has too much firepower for Texas Southern.

La Salle 79, Texas Southern 72

Penn (1-0) at Miami (2-0), Saturday 4 p.m.

SK: This is a tall order for Penn — on the road against a Miami team that advanced to the Sweet 16 last season. The Hurricanes lost quite a bit of scoring from last year's team but are still plenty talented. Junior guard Ja'Quan Newton leads the way, averaging 14.5 points and 4.5 assists through the season's first two games.

Newton's name is a familiar one to local basketball fans. He was a four-year star at Neumann-Goretti High School before deciding to (pardon the expression) take his talents to South Beach. Newton is part of a new pipeline that has emerged from Southeastern Pennsylvania to Miami — the Hurricanes just received a commitment from 5-star guard Lonnie Walker of Reading High School.

But back to the business at hand for Penn. Freshman big man A.J. Brodeur sure looked like a difference-maker in the Quakers' season-opening win at Robert Morris. Expect Brodeur to have another big impact performance against Miami, but it won't be quite enough as Penn drops it's first game of the season.

Miami 77, Penn 68

Hartford (1-2) at Drexel (0-2), Today 7 p.m.

AF: Drexel will be happy to see the friendly confines of the DAC this weekend when it welcomes Hartford. The Dragons are winless in their opening two games of the season, both on the road. Zach Spiker’s team has come out of the gates a bit flat in scoring, but it is early.  

Miles Overton went pretty cold in the loss to Rutgers, shooting just 2 for 14 for five points. More distressing to Spiker is probably the 38 percent overall shooting from his team, as well as the 13 turnovers to 14 assists. Neither of those are a recipe for a win. Luckily, Hartford is coming to town. The Hawks have just one win in their first three games and just lost by 16 to Rider. 

The player for the Dragons to watch out for on Hartford’s roster though is definitely Jalen Ross. The senior, in his second year for the Hawks after transferring in from Eastern Michigan, has scored in double figures for 17 straight games. He’s also posted 20-plus points two games in a row. Hartford’s issue has been defense. That’s not usually a problem for the Dragons, but they’ve allowed 78 and 87 points, respectively in their first two. Drexel has yet to reach 70 on the scoreboard. So this one likely will be a low scoring affair. But I think Drexel rewards their home fans with a win.

Drexel 70, Hartford 67

Manhattan (0-2) at Temple (1-2), Sunday 2 p.m.

AF: The Owls are reeling right now after opening the season with an exciting overtime win over La Salle. This week has seen back-to-back losses for Fran Dunphy’s crew starting Monday with the 57-52 defeat at the hands of New Hampshire. Perhaps that could have been overlooked as a blip on the radar if Temple hadn’t followed it up with another loss. This one on the road, so there is some solace in that I suppose. But leading by two points with under a minute to go usually bodes well for a win. Granted UMass got a bit lucky on its three-pointer to put the Minutemen ahead, but the Owls really dropped the ball on their final play to try and tie the game.

Next up, the Owls will try to get that bad taste out of their mouths with a win over Manhattan. The Jaspers come to the Liacouras Center winless on the young season, but they have a pretty tough schedule to open the season. That is typical of Steve Masiello, a disciple of Rick Pitino who’s a coach that enjoys tough non-conference opponents. Of course, Fran Dunphy has certainly been known to run a tough slate out of the gates for his team too.
But right now, the Owls are having a tough time getting out of their own way. They are led by Obi Enechionyia, the junior forward, who is averaging 22 points a game. But Temple is shooting just 39 percent from the field in their first three games, and a woeful 59 percent from the free throw line. Both of those numbers have to improve. Plus the usually stingy defense Dunphy preaches was not up to snuff in the loss to UMass, allowing the Minutemen to shoot almost 50 percent from the field.

A chance to get back on track this weekend and salvage a win before next week starts. Manhatten has a game on Friday night, hosting Hofstra, so fatigue from that could work in the Owls favor.

Temple 71, Manhattan 68

Prediction Records:

Amy Fadool: 1-1

Sean Kane: 1-2

Villanova, Penn with polar opposite NCAA Tournament draws

Villanova, Penn with polar opposite NCAA Tournament draws

No surprises on the Main Line and well, the Quakers have quite the hill to climb to advance.

Villanova on Sunday night was awarded the 1-seed in the East Region and will face the winner of the LIU Brooklyn/Radford game Thursday in Pittsburgh. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:50 p.m. on TNT.

The Wildcats have been a top-two seed since 2014 and it's the second straight year they're a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Villanova was the No. 1 overall seed in last year's tournament.

Penn was named the 16th seed in the Midwest Region and will face the No. 1-seeded Kansas Jayhawks on Thursday at 2 p.m. on TBS in Wichita, Kansas.

Steve Donahue has the Quakers back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007 in his third season as Penn's head coach.

The Quakers are 24-8 and this will be their 24th-ever appearance in the tournament.

'Nova survived a scare from Providence on Saturday night to win its second straight Big East title and its third in the past four years.

If the Wildcats beat LIU Brooklyn/Radford, they'll face the winner of the No. 8-seeded Virginia Tech and No. 9 seed Alabama. Purdue is the No. 2 seed in the East.

Also in the East are No. 3 Texas Tech and No. 4 Wichita State.

Penn aims to end 11-year drought this weekend

USA Today Images

Penn aims to end 11-year drought this weekend

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. With the regular season ending this weekend, this will be the final Fastbreak Friday column of the season.

Temple (16-13, 8-9 AAC) at Tulsa (18-11, 11-6 AAC), Sunday at 3 p.m.
 It’s been a rough season for the Temple Owls. Yes, there was that win over ranked Wichita State in the middle of a 5-game win streak. But after the stumbles down the stretch, that seems like a distant memory. 

Of course, the bad can be washed away with an AAC tournament run, but first, the Owls need to close out on the road against Tulsa. 

Given their track record on the road, things don’t line up well for Fran Dunphy’s crew. Plus, it’s dollar dog, dollar soda and dollar popcorn night at Tulsa. That’s a delicious trifecta. 

But there is still some fight in this team. Quintin Rose and Shizz Alston have been everything the Owls have needed, and throw in Nate Pierre-Louis and you have a nice core back for next season.

Temple 71,  Tulsa 70

Pennsylvania (21-7, 11-1 Ivy) at Yale (14-14, 7-5 Ivy), Friday at 7 p.m.
Pennsylvania (21-7, 11-1 Ivy) at Brown (11-14, 4-8 Ivy), Saturday at 6 p.m.
Penn enters the final weekend of the regular season in control of its own destiny. If the Quakers beat Yale and Brown on the road they'll win their first Ivy League championship since 2007 and earn the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, which will be played at the Palestra next weekend. It all adds up to Penn having the inside track to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 11 years.

This seems like an appropriate time to salute the job done by head coach Steve Donahue. In just his third season at Penn, he has the Quakers poised to reclaim top billing in the Ivy League. He inherited a team that finished 9-19 in the 2014-2015 season and promptly began a swift rebuilding project. Penn went 11-17 in Donahue's first season, 13-14 in his second year, and now stand at 21-7 overall and 11-1 in conference play. Look for those winning ways to continue this weekend and for Donahue and company to do some celebrating.

Penn 73, Yale 66
Penn 69, Brown 60

La Salle (13-17, 7-10 A-10) at St. Joseph's (14-15, 9-8 A-10), Saturday at 2 p.m.
La Salle and St. Joe's will each try to keep the good times rolling heading into next week's A-10 Tournament. La Salle has won three of its last four games, including a convincing 18-point win over Dayton earlier this week. St. Joseph's meanwhile has a 5-1 record in its last six games and just recorded arguably one of the most stunning victories of this college basketball season.

The Hawks went on the road and beat No. 18 Rhode Island, 78-48, on Tuesday, spoiling the Rams' senior night in the process. It was the first road win over a ranked team for St. Joseph's since 1979 and it came in shockingly easy fashion. I expect the Hawks to build on that momentum this weekend and avenge a three-point loss to La Salle earlier this season.

St. Joseph's 74, La Salle 68 

Drexel (12-19, 6-12 CAA) at James Madison (10-21, 6-12 CAA), Saturday at 4 p.m. in first round of CAA Tournament
The Dragons' season has been marked with highs and lows. While it may seem like a marginal improvement — with 12 wins to their credit compared to nine last season — they did double their conference win total. 

Also, Drexel beat the top two teams in the CAA this season as well as set an NCAA Division-I record for the largest comeback ever when they erased a 34-point deficit against Delaware. 

But the Dragons did have two separate losing streaks that would cause any coach to lose sleep, one of five straight and the other of four straight losses. 

Drexel begins the quest for its first-ever CAA tournament title against JMU, then Charleston awaits on basically home turf. Go ahead and make it a baker’s dozen, Dragons. 

Drexel 76, JMU 74

Prediction Records
Sean Kane: 30-11
Amy Fadool: 22-21