Philly City Six Pack- Parity in Philly College Hoops?

By Chris Smith
Philadelphia Bureau Chief

Is this season of parity in college basketball fun to watch?  Is the liberal use of the word parity to describe the college basketball landscape this year just covering up for the fact that there is not a dominant, dominating team?  Is the quality of basketball down this season?  Is it less fun to watch?

These are the questions I’ve been going over in my head as we progress to the final weeks of the college basketball season.  I do see some parity but I think that the Big 10 is by far the strongest conference.  Those teams can all play well against each other, I think that Michigan, Indiana, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin and a few others would beat the best of the other conferences at this time.  I don’t think that the quality of basketball is down nor is it any less fun to watch.  I’ve loved watching the upsets this season and the lack of a definitive number one team makes the season MORE exciting to me.  But watching Indiana play a few times over the past few weeks mades me think that a true #1 team was asserting itself for postseason tournament play, but then they lost to an unranked Gophers team last night in one of the most exciting games I've seen all year (the block on Oladipo's 3 at the end!!).

Looking at the Philly college ball landscape, I see 2 teams in the city that would be in the tournament if it started today.  LaSalle and Temple would be 11 or 12 seeds.  Villanova is very close.  Big East teams with 10 wins in the conference make the tourney 94% of the time, but if ever there was a team that fit the mold of that 6% that didn't, I fear that it would be this year's Villanova team.  Villanova currently has nine with 2 games left to play.  Unfortunately the two remaining games on their schedule are against nationally ranked opponents.  There's a change at the top of my Philly City Six rankings this week.

Temple Owls (19-8, 8-5 A10, RPI 39)

Maybe Temple's getting hot at the right time, they looked like a completely different team in their two wins over the past week.  The win over LaSalle pushed them to the top of the City rankings.  The game ended up being an 8 point victory by Temple but it didn't fell that close.  The Owls blew the game wide open at the end of the 1st half with an 18-0 run.  The important thing in this win for the Owls was the balanced scoring.  When the Owls were struggling a couple weeks ago, most of the scoring was coming from Khalif Wyatt with only minimal contribution from his teammates.  In the win over LaSalle, Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson led the Owls with 23 points and also grabbed 18 boards.  Scootie Randall added 15 points and Wyatt contirubuted 17 points.  This is the balanced scoring attack that they will need to compete in the A10 tourney and beyond.  They followed up the LaSalle win with a nice win at Charlotte.  Next they'll go outside the conference for a matchup against Detroit and they'll play Rhode Island this weekend at home.

LaSalle Explorers (19-7, 9-4 A10, RPI 36)

After LaSalle was dominated by Temple, they came back out and barely won over URI on the road.  They should be in good shape for a NCAA bid, they have Duquesne and George Washington in the next few days.  They wrap the season up at St. Louis and that has proved to be a tough place to play for visiting A10 teams.  St. Louis is currently ranked 18 in the country and they sit squarely on top of the A10.  A win there would help their NCAA seeding - they've actually beaten both of the other teams ahead of them in the A10 standings.

Villanova Wildcats (18-11, 9-7 Big East, RPI 55)

As bad as the upset loss to Seton Hall was (and it was awful), it surprisingly doesn't mean the end of Villanova's tourney hopes.  Seton Hall had lost 9 straight and have only won 3 games in the Big East.  As stated earlier, historically teams with 10 wins in conference in the Big East make the tourney.  Nova has the back to back wins on their resume against Syracuse and Louisville - two teams that were ranked in the top 5 at the time of Nova's wins, but they have been so uneven for the reat of the season.  They have 2 losses to Providence, this bad loss to Seton Hall and a bad loss earlier in the season to Columbia.  If they had taken care of business in conference against a few of the lesser teams, they'd already have their bid but now it comes down to winning at least one of their final 2 games.  They play at Pitt this weekend, that's a tough gym to win in.  They then play against the Hoyas next week at home.  The Hoyas are playing so well that they may be set for a #1 seed.

St. Joseph's Hawks (15-10, 6-6 A10, RPI 84)

The Hawks are on the outside looking in at this point.  With all of the talent and athleticism that they have, it's possible that they could go on a run at the right time here and win out and perform well in the A10 tournament.  But it's not likely.  They will have to start their run on the road at St. Louis tonight.  The Billikens are the best team in the A10 this season and it will be an uphill battle.  Instead, many Hawks fans are likely wondering what went wrong this season.  Lots of talent on the roster but it didn't translate to wins, likely one of the reason that Phil Martelli has entered to court to an increasing chorus of boos in recent games.
Drexel Dragons (11-17, 7-9 CAA, RPI 205)
The Dragons had a tough, probably season defining week after the win over Hofstra.  They lost in double overtime at Delaware and followed it up with a one point loss at Towson.  These are two of the top teams in the CAA and Drexel has played all of their toughest opponents very closely this season.  But in the end, they've been losses and Dragons fans also have to be wondering what went wrong after such a great season last year.  They will wrap the season up against Old Dominion and UNC-Wilmington, two games they should win.
Penn Quakers (7-19, 4-5 Ivy, RPI 284)
Penn's playing out the string here, they had a nice win at Cornell in the past week but they are essentially out of consideration for the Ivy League championship.  It's been a tough and strange season for the Quakers.  From the drug related suspensions around Christmas time to the gruesome stabbing death of Matthew White, one of the program's all time greats, it seems like the Quakers have dealt with off court issues all season.  While they've been focusing on off court business, Harvard has put together a very good program and they've dominated the Ivy League.  Penn has fallen from that first tier to a middle or lower tier Ivy program.

Big Five Big Man on Campus

Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson averaged 15 points and 11 boards during the week, but his Big Five honors come as a result of his career highs against LaSalle.  He scored 23 points, grabbed 18 boards and dished 5 assists in the game.

Philly City Six Pack of the Week

Went back to an old faithful on a weekend trip to Baltimore County, Magic Hat #9.  It was one of the first microbres that I liked and it's one of the best brewery tours that you can ever go on - might be because it's in Burlington, Vt.  It's still good after all of these years, maybe a bit too sweet for my current tastes.

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