Six predictions for the City Six

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Six predictions for the City Six

Hey look, college basketball returns tonight! And after a lean season in which only Villanova was a player on the national stage, Philly hoops looks poised to make a comeback in 2017-18.

Here are six predictions for the City Six:

Jalen Brunson will be one of the best players in the nation

It’s hard to get a good read on Villanova — a team that, despite losing star players like Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins, are still expected to be a national title contender.

A lot has to go right for ’Nova to remain a 30-win squad but one thing that won’t be much of a question mark is Jalen Brunson.

A talented guard who Jay Wright called a “natural-born leader,” Brunson seems more than ready to run the team and have a huge season. And don’t be surprised if he’s a finalist for the Wooden Award, just as Hart was a season ago.

Three Big 5 teams will make the NCAA Tournament
Even if Villanova doesn’t continue its streak of Big East titles, the Wildcats will almost certainly make the NCAA Tournament for the 14th time in 15 years. A more pressing question is if anyone in the city will join them after ’Nova was the only team to make the 2017 Dance.

I think that if St. Joe’s can stay healthy, the Hawks have a good shot to get there and maybe even win the Atlantic 10, too. And what are the odds that Fran Dunphy misses the NCAA tourney for a second straight season, considering the last time that happened was in 1997 and 1998?

Look for both the Hawks and Temple to hear their names called on Selection Sunday after staying around the bubble all season. And if one of them doesn’t qualify, there’s always a chance that Penn wins the four-team Ivy League Tournament at the Palestra to book its ticket.

Villanova’s Big 5 streak will end
One of the more impressive feats in the city is Villanova’s 18-game Big 5 winning streak — which I predict will end this season.

Yes, Villanova will be favored in all of its Big 5 games. But without the chance to play in the Pavilion this season due to renovations of the Wildcats' on-campus home and having to play both St. Joe’s and Temple on the road in their biggest rivalry games, a Wildcats team without any seniors may get tripped up.

And if that happens, it could be a season-defining win for the Hawks and/or Owls.

B.J. Johnson will win the city’s scoring crown
Shortly after the 2016-17 season, La Salle’s B.J. Johnson declared for the NBA Draft but did not hire an agent. That last part proved to be quite a good thing for La Salle fans as Johnson opted to return for his senior season.

And the Syracuse transfer is poised for a big one after averaging 17.6 points per game in his first season at his dad’s alma mater last year.

With high-scoring swingman Jordan Price now gone, Johnson should do even more damage on the offensive end this season and perhaps average more than 20 points per game. It’s hard to imagine any player in the city scoring more than that unless St. Joe’s guard Shavar Newkirk completely recovers from a torn ACL or Brunson pumps up his scoring average.

The bigger issue for La Salle, as always, will be chemistry and defense as the Explorers aim to be a serious player in the A-10.

Omari Spellman will be the city’s breakout star
Not going out on too much of a limb with this one but Spellman will be the best newcomer in the city.

The Villanova forward has all the tools with Jay Wright saying he’s never coached a “big guy that good that early in his career.” He’ll likely start right away and get ample opportunity to shine down low with ’Nova possibly employing a four-guard lineup. And, perhaps most valuably, sitting out last season allowed him to learn the game and get used to college basketball.

If Spellman does have competition in this category, it might just be from freshman teammate Collin Gillespie, a sharpshooting guard out of Archbishop Wood.

AJ Brodeur and Kurk Lee will be among the city’s best players
Over in University City, Steve Donahue and Zach Spiker are still trying to rebuild the Penn and Drexel programs. And they each have two (very different) sophomore players to build around in Kurk Lee, a speedy, diminutive guard at Drexel, and AJ Brodeur, a skilled post player at Penn.

Brodeur was a huge bright spot for Penn last season, leading them to two signature non-conference wins by dropping 35 on La Salle and managing to score a few very nice baskets down low on UCF’s 7-foot-6 center Tacko Fall. And Lee averaged 15 points per game while shooting 40 percent from three-point range and electrifying the DAC crowds by weaving through bigger bodies in the lane and burying some acrobatic shots.

The best part: each have three seasons left.

Watch Eagles roast Jay Ajayi after 71-yard run for getting caught


Watch Eagles roast Jay Ajayi after 71-yard run for getting caught

It's not everyday you see an Eagles player take the ball and run for 71 yards. So Philadelphia fans understandably went bonkers when Jay Ajayi did just that in the Birds' win over the Cowboys on Sunday.

It's also not that frequent that you see a dude get chased down from behind on such a play.

Sadly, the latter happened to Ajayi and his teammates let him hear it on the sidelines after. The fantastic Inside the NFL gave us an up-close look at the roasting.

You almost feel bad for Ajayi, like Kenjon Barner is laying it on a little too thick.

"You slow as $#@!," one player tells him.

"They're gonna lower my speed on Madden," Ajayi says.

Chip Kelly is going back where he belongs

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Chip Kelly is going back where he belongs

After spending the year out of football, former Eagles coach Chip Kelly is returning to the sideline — and might be aligning with ex-Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman in the process.

According to reports, Kelly is expected to accept a head coaching job at one of two college football programs. The decision is down to Florida and UCLA, and he is rumored to have already turned away other high-profile programs such as Nebraska and Tennessee.

UCLA may be Kelly's most likely landing spot at this point, with alumnus Aikman putting on a "full-court press," says ESPN's Mark Schlabach, and Florida supposedly wanting an answer ASAP.

Wherever Kelly winds up going, that should end his unsuccessful foray into the NFL once and for all. Consider this an obituary of sorts.

The move will cement Kelly as a "college coach," if his pro tenure hadn't accomplished that already. After guiding the Eagles to the playoffs and being named Coach of the Year in his first season, he missed the postseason the next two years and was fired. Kelly got the hook again after one miserable season with the 49ers, bottoming out with a 2-14 record.

There are no shortage of excuses for why Kelly flamed out in the NFL. Lack of talent — specifically under center — was certainly a factor, though his failed stint as the chief talent evaluator in his final season with the Eagles certainly contributed to that.

The simple truth is not everything that works in college translates at the next level, and Kelly never adjusted.

Kelly only turns 54 this week, so a return to the professional ranks years down the road isn't completely out of the question. After his last two trainwreck seasons in the league, it's difficult to imagine what an organization would still see.

Employing schemes that aren't suited to the team's personnel, calling the same 10 to 15 plays every game, eliminating the quarterback's ability to call an audible or even something as small as never using a snap count may work at university. Those concepts are fundamentally opposed to what has been successful in the NFL.

Honestly, it's kind of too bad. The Eagles could use that easy W on the schedule periodically.

Perhaps the Eagles should just be grateful to have survived Kelly's radical changes without overhauling the entire roster again, and somehow coming out better off for everything. After releasing DeSean Jackson, trading away LeSean McCoy, trading for Sam Bradford, and spending huge sums of money on the likes of DeMarco Murray and Byron Maxwell -- to name a few, and all in the span of a year -- the franchise easily could've wound up in the tank.

There's no denying Kelly looked like a genius while at Oregon, racking up 46-7 record and three top-five finishes in four seasons as head coach. Yet like so many college coaches before him, and many bound to come after, he was never destined for sustained success in the NFL.