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STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER La Salle's Steve Zack dunks in win over Butler.
STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER La Salle's Steve Zack dunks in win over Butler.
Posted: January 28, 2013

AROUND THE CITY

In this space a week ago, I wondered if this was going to be the first year since 1977 that no city teams made the NCAA Tournament. Last week, Villanova beat No. 5 Louisville and No. 3 Syracuse. La Salle beat No. 9 Butler and No. 19 VCU.

Never seen a week quite like it. If the NCAA selections were now, La Salle would be in for the first time since 1992. Villanova and Temple would be just in or just out.

AMAZING WEEK

When La Salle began its week, they could have looked at it in two ways - daunting or an opportunity. They took it as an opportunity.

First, Butler on the shot in the final seconds by Ramon Galloway. But the Bulldogs were playing without their leading scorer, Rotnei Clarke and it was a La Salle home game. It was not a point-spread upset as La Salle was actually a slight favorite. A really good win, for sure, but more would be necessary. They got much more.

La Salle was an 11 1/2-point underdog at VCU. The Rams scored the first 17 points of the second half. No matter. La Salle just kept playing and, by the finish, there was no doubt about the team that deserved to win. It was La Salle, 69-61.

Galloway was sensational with 31 points. Tyreek Duren was steady with 16. The Explorers (14-5, 4-2 Atlantic 10) did not fear the "Havoc" pressure. They attacked it. When it was done, La Salle had the same amount of steals (nine) as VCU (16-5, 4-2), shot it better (47.1 percent to 38.3 percent) and played better defense.

LA SALLE'S RPI

The Explorers roared all the way to No. 27 in the RPI, well inside the at-large cut line. Obviously, there are a lot of games to play, but La Salle is in its best NCAA position since Randy Woods and Jack Hurd were seniors.

Why is La Salle zooming up the RPI charts? Road wins.

The Explorers now have five true road wins. The win at VCU was huge, but a Dec. 8 win at Northeastern is also really paying off. Northeastern is 7-0 in the Colonial. And, if La Salle does make it to the NCAA, they may look back at Duren's game-winner in Boston as the shot of the season and perhaps the program's most significant since Bron Holland's game-winner against Manhattan gave them the 1992 MAAC championship.

MORE RPI

Villanova stands at No. 50, Temple No. 54 and Saint Joseph's No. 88.

Villanova had a week that should resonate the rest of the season, but the Wildcats have little non-conference resume. They just need to keep winning and could really use a significant road win, like Wednesday at Notre Dame.

Temple has that win over Syracuse (Jim Boeheim is 1-2 against the Big 5 this season and 17-0 against the rest), but not much else.

SJU has much work to do and not a lot of time to do it.

'NOVA STORY

Villanova was a 12-point underdog against Louisville and a seven-point 'dog against Syracuse. No problem.

The Wildcats ran away from the Cardinals at the finish. They caught the 'Cuse at the finish and won in OT. See Mike Kern's story (Page 68) for more details on the Syracuse game.

BAD TIMING

Temple arrived at Hinkle Fieldhouse just in time for the return of Butler star Rotnei Clark. All he did was get 24 points and nine assists in the Bulldogs' 83-71 win.

He was far from the only story for Butler (17-3, 4-1 A-10). Kellen Dunham (5-for-6 from three) was sensational. So was Khyle Marshall (9-for-11) as Butler shot 52 percent and pulled away from a 56-56 tie in the final 7 minutes.

T.J. DiLeo started at point guard for the Owls (13-6, 2-3), but left after just 3 minutes with a sprained ankle. He definitely would have helped Temple's defense, which was a step behind all game.

The Owls shot a terrific 9-for-18 from the arc and Khalif Wyatt had 22 points. But this Butler team can beat you in many ways.

FINISHES TOUCHES

When Saint Joseph's makes threes and finishes, it is still a very good team. In a game they had to win, the Hawks (11-7, 2-3 A-10) did both in a 59-49 win over Xavier (11-8, 4-2) at Hagan Arena.

SJU's guards Langston Galloway and Tay Jones were 8-for-17 from three. Xavier was 1-for-13 from the arc.

SJU had nine blocks and scored the game's final 12 points. It was not always pretty, but it was effective. SJU's Halil Kanacevic (15 points, eight rebounds, six assists, four blocks) was the best player on the floor. When he plays with passion, SJU is a different and much better team.

DRAGONS DEFENSE

Drexel (8-11, 4-3 CAA) got 49 points from its guard line, Damion Lee (20), Frantz Massenat (15) and Derrick Thomas (14), defended Georgia State (10-12, 5-4) into 27.7 percent shooting and won, 68-57, at the DAC.

The Dragons were 21 of 22 from the foul line (the teams combined to make 46 of 51 free throws), had 16 assists on 20 field goals and just nine turnovers. It was not perfect, but it was better. Georgia State had won four straight.

DJ'S TOP 15

1. Michigan (19-1): Beat Illinois, 74-60, Sunday night.

2. Florida (16-2): Is anybody playing better than the Gators? Drilled Mississippi State in Starkville, 82-47. Shot 55 percent and made 14 threes.

3. Kansas (18-1): Played 800th game at Allen and won 17th straight, beating Oklahoma, 67-54.

4. Butler (17-3): This is Brad Stevens coaching with shooters. I absolutely love to watch this team.

5. Gonzaga (19-2): Now 115-8 at McCarthey Athletic Center after 66-52 win over San Francisco.

6. Indiana (18-2): defeated Michigan State, 75-70.

7. Wichita State (19-2): Shot 51 percent and beat Bradley, 73-39. Be a very tough out in March.

8. Michigan State (17-4): The only team to beat Kansas lost to Indiana, 75-70.

9. Duke (17-2): Shot 52 percent, was 11-for-22 from the arc and had just four turnovers in 84-64 rout of Maryland. Devils are 11-0 at home, 6-0 on neutral courts and 0-2 on the road.

10. Syracuse (18-2): Late missed free throw and decision not to foul while up three in the final seconds of regulation cost Orange in 75-71 OT loss to Villanova.

11. Louisville (16-4): Could never have imagined this team losing three straight, but it's there after 53-51 loss at Georgetown.

12. Oregon (18-2): Ducks now have a two-game lead in Pac-12 after shooting 58 percent and beating Washington, 81-76.

13. Arizona (17-2): Came back from hideous loss to UCLA to pound hideous USC, 74-50. Trojans took 64 shots and made all but 46.

14. San Diego State (16-4): Held New Mexico to its lowest score of the shot-clock era in 55-34 win.

15. La Salle (14-5): Have to go way back in the archives to see the last time I had the Explorers in the Top 15. My guess is the answer is never since I was not doing the Top 15 when the L-Train was playing at 20th and Olney.

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