Dick Jerardi: Sorting through the best of the Philly Big 5

Rosen
Rosen
Posted: February 01, 2012

NOW THAT WE ARE into February, it is time to start considering the Big 5 player of the year and potential members of the first and second teams. Some seasons, it is difficult because there are not enough good players. This is not one of those seasons.

I can make a reasonable case for 14 players for the two teams. By the end of the season (including all of the postseason), there could be more.

After the first month of the season, Penn's Zack Rosen had a big lead for the Geasey Award as Big 5 player of the year. Rosen's shooting was off-the-charts good early and he is the best passer in the city. Rosen began to draw so much defensive attention that his shooting was bound to suffer a bit. Still, he leads the Big 5 in scoring (18.8 points) while shooting 47.7 percent overall, 42.9 from three and 88.1 from the foul line, along with 6.2 assists per game. He was brilliant in Monday's win over Princeton. That he is a natural leader on a team with less overall talent than the other four also counts.

Temple's Ramone Moore will never dazzle with stats. Even with that, he is the leading scorer (17.4 points) in the Atlantic 10. The best word for Moore's game is "smooth." And he is absolutely a big-moments player. He can create his own shot or move without the ball to find a good shot. You really can't appreciate his game unless you are in the gym. He just knows how to play and it has been a joy to watch his game evolve through the years.

Villanova's Maalik Wayns would not have been in P/Y conversation a few weeks ago, but, after scoring 111 points in four recent games, he has absolutely forced himself into it, now that he is averaging 18.4 points. He is the hardest player to keep out of the lane because he is so good with the ball. Now that he has started to make long shots, he has made himself just about impossible to guard.

I am not sure they will ultimately be there for player of the year (although they might), but the Galloways are definitely in first-team conversation. Langston (Saint Joseph's) averages 15.9 points while shooting 51.5 overall and 48.8 from three. Ramon (La Salle) averages 15.5 points, shoots 50.7 percent overall and 48.1 percent from the arc. Also, Ramon is a relentless defender who often guards the other team's best perimeter player

Temple's Khalif Wyatt has to be in play for first team as well. He has so many ways to score while averaging 16.0 points. No player in the city is any more enjoyable to watch because he has all the tricks.

All St. Joe's C.J. Aiken has done is block a ridiculous 91 shots and average double figures.

La Salle point guard Tyreek Duren might be the most relaxed player in the city. If he has shown any concern on the court, I have not seen it. That he may be the most indispensable player for one of the nation's most surprising teams definitely matters.

That is eight players and I haven't mentioned some others that could work their way into the first-team mix and are definitely in play for second team, such as Penn's Tyler Bernardini, La Salle's Earl Pettis and Sam Mills, SJU's Carl Jones and Ronald Roberts and Temple's Juan Fernandez.

Now, if the powers-that-be were ever magnanimous enough to include Drexel in a City Six team, big man Samme Givens, point guard Frantz Massenat and freshman wing guard Damion Lee would all get deserved votes for the teams this season.

It has been a long time since we have had this many good teams and, thus, this many good players. Add up the records of the six teams and you get 82-46. La Salle, Temple, Drexel and Penn all appear to be in play for their regular-season league championships. Which is why the competition to determine the best of the best players is so extraordinary.

DUNPHY KNOWS HIS TEAM

If you weren't long ago convinced Temple's Fran Dunphy is one of America's greatest coaches, this season explains it once again. The man finds the strength of his team and has his team play right to it.

With legendary defender Lavoy Allen off to the 76ers, big man Micheal Eric out for weeks and big guard Scootie Randall opting for a redshirt, Dunphy had a dilemma. He solved it by completely changing his undersized team's style of play.

With Allen, Temple's defense was its strength so the Owls controlled the pace to have fewer possessions, knowing its defense was almost always going to be the best one on the floor.

The previous four seasons, Temple ranked 254, 332, 260 and 237 in pace-of-play, averaging between 61 and 65 possessions per game. This year, emphasizing offense and playing faster through its terrific guards, the Owls average 68 possessions, good for 111th. The Owls are 24th in offensive efficiency (111.7 points per 100 possessions), easily their best mark under Dunphy.

By the way, the last four John Chaney seasons, the Owls were 321, 316, 314 and 300 in pace-of-play. But you already knew that.

BRACKET BUSTER

Drexel got a solid opponent in Cleveland State for its Saturday, Feb. 18 game on ESPNU at 11 a.m. That it is on the road is very good news for the Dragons, as the selection committee likes to see road wins against quality opponents late in the season. Now Drexel just has to beat a team that is 18-4 and leads the Horizon League, Butler's conference.

THIS AND THAT

* It is never one thing when the record is not what was hoped, but, if you want to point to one thing with Villanova, it is defense, a real constant during the extended NCAA run. Since 2005, here are the defensive efficiency rankings - 4, 17, 18, 34, 15, 62 and 55. This season, it is 126.

It is never one thing when you win, either, but consider these numbers for Drexel's offensive efficiency since 2008 - 332, 231, 208 and 234. This season, it is 98.

Anybody with eyes knows La Salle's defense is much better. Well, last season, the Explorers were 240 in defensive efficiency. This season, they are 60.

St. Joe's defense is also better, but not quite that dramatic. Last season, the Hawks were 259 in defense. This season, they are 100.

Penn's defense has gotten better in each of Jerome Allen's two-plus seasons. The Quakers were 327 in 2009-10, 185 last season and 169 this season.

* Temple's Aaron Brown is quietly having a wonderful season off the bench. Beyond his scoring (7.9 points in just 17.8 minutes), he is No. 2 in the country in turnover rate. He has played 356 minutes with just six turnovers. John Chaney must love him.

* Penn's Zack Rosen has played 94.3 percent of all possible minutes, sixth nationally.

* The first teams I covered in this town were the early Speedy Morris teams at La Salle that won 100 games over his first four seasons. If Speedy's St. Joseph's Prep team beats Roman Catholic on Friday, that will be win No. 900 - from his days at Roman through Penn Charter, the La Salle women, La Salle men and, now, the Prep. It is one of the unique resum├ęs in basketball history. And, if you throw in all those CYO wins, the Speedball has to be in four figures already.

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