Tough Season for Philadelphia Area College Basketball

Tough Season for Philadelphia Area College Basketball
Whether it is fair or not, a successful college basketball season for many schools is determined by whether they earn a spot in the NCAA tournament.

Some of the expected powers such as Villanova have a higher bar. The Wildcats are expected to be in the tournament each year. The fact that they were national champs in 2016 and 2018, shows that just reaching the tournament isn’t enough for the Wildcats fans.

The other Division I team in Philadelphia would all judge success by reaching the tournament and this season there are questions whether any team other than Villanova could make its way into March Madness.

Here is a look at the City Six teams. Records are through Monday.

Villanova (17-4)
Only a total collapse would keep the Wildcats out of the NCAA tournament. This week Villanova is ranked No. 10 in the Associated Press poll after losing 76-61 to Creighton in a Big East Clash. This is still a young Villanova team

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Junior point guard Collin Gillespie, a contributor on the 2018 national title team, is this year’s team leader. He is averaging 15.3 points and 4.5 assists.

This year the Big East is one of the toughest conferences in the country. Barring a total collapse, the Wildcats will in the NCAA Tournament and be a tough out.

Temple (11-10)
Things started out so well for the Owls, who won their first four games under first-year head coach Aaron McKie. Included in those early wins was a 71-61 victory at USC, which is expected to be an NCAA tournament team.

The Owls won six of their first seven games, with only a narrow loss to another expected NCAA team, Maryland.

Things since have not gone well. The Owls are just 3-6 in the American Athletic Conference. That means that Temple will likely have to win its conference tournament to earn the automatic NCAA bid.

Could Temple earn a berth but reaching the conference title game? Probably not because the Owls have dug a deep hole. Right now, Temple would likely not earn an NIT bid. So the Owls need a big final third of the season.

St. Joseph’s (4-18)
Everybody knew this would be a rough first season for first-year coach Billy Lange, the Bishop Eustace graduate. There were several defections when he took over for Phil Martelli. Lange has recruited well and has some key players including Gonzaga transfer Greg Foster. Ryan Daly, a transfer himself from Delaware has been carrying the offense, averaging 20.1 points.

While the Hawks have had a difficult season, they could be vastly improved next year.

La Salle (10-11)
La Salle’s season began the same way Temple’s did, but the Explorers began the week on a seven-game losing streak. Competing in the Atlantic-10, the Explorers only chance for an NCAA bid is to win the tournament. That isn’t going to happen, so La Salle has to hope that it can show improvement with its young team to set the tone for next year.

Isiah Deas, a 6-6 senior, is averaging a team-high 11.5 points.

Penn (10-7)
The Quakers just had a big weekend beating Harvard and Dartmouth to get back into the hunt for an Ivy League playoff berth. The top four teams earn the playoff in the Ivy League. Yale and Princeton are 4-0 and Penn, Harvard and Brown are 2-2.

AJ Brodeur, a 6-8 senior and returning first-team all-Ivy League is averaging 16.9 points and 9.1 rebounds. The Quakers, whose two Ivy losses are to Princeton, controls its own destiny and the feeling here is the they should qualify for the Ivy League tourney. Once that happens, anything is possible.

Drexel (12-11)

Drexel competes in the Colonial Athletic Association, which is a one-bid league. That means the Dragons would have to win CAA tournament to earn a berth. That said, this is a vastly improved team. The Dragons are 5-5 in the CAA. Sophomore guard Camren Wynter (15.2 ppg.) is already among the top players in the conference. Drexel can be competitive with any CAA team, but winning the tournament would be tough.


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Author: Marc Narducci; Photo by Marc Narducci

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