A preseason look at City 6 hoops teams

Wright
Wright
Posted: September 27, 2013

COLLEGE BASKETBALL practice starts this weekend. Yes, this weekend.

Under a new rule, teams can start 42 days prior to their first game, instead of the closest Friday to Oct. 15. Villanova and Drexel can start today, exactly 42 days prior to their first games. The other four city schools can start as soon as tomorrow. Teams can have 30 practices over the 42 days.

"I live for the logistics of this, what makes sense," Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli said.

Each coach will try to figure out the best use of the time over the next 7 weeks. SJU, for instance, is going to be off Wednesdays and Sundays while doing skill work on Tuesdays.

"Coaches have been banging the drum for a long time saying I'm a teacher," Martelli said. "Well, guess what, now you're a teacher."

This gives coaches what they have wanted, more time to spend coaching and, yes, "teaching" the sport before the games begin.

Just to refresh memories, there will be some changes in the city this season. Temple is no longer in the Atlantic 10 with La Salle and SJU. The Owls, who never got a chance to play a basketball game in the old Big East, are now in the American Athletic Conference with Connecticut, Cincinnati, Memphis and, for one season, Louisville and Rutgers. Villanova is still in the Big East, but not that Big East. No Syracuse, Pittsburgh, UConn, Cincinnati, Notre Dame, South Florida, Louisville or Rutgers. Butler, Creighton and Xavier are in the new 10-team Big East.

Here is a team-by-team look as practice begins, in order of how they did last season:

La Salle

It was a 9-day March joy ride from Dayton to Kansas City to Los Angeles that no La Salle or city college hoops fan will soon forget. But it did not happen by accident.

The foundation had been laid when Tyreek Duren and Sam Mills started at 20th and Olney in 2010. The now-senior guards kept getting better. Coach John Giannini and his staff kept adding very good players. The style of play was pleasing to watch. The chemistry was terrific. They got one of the final NCAA invites and took full advantage.

Ramon Galloway - scorer, shooter, passer, defender - is a big loss. But everybody else is back. Tyrone Garland will start in the three-guard lineup. Big men Jerrell Wright and Steve Zack are still underclassmen with a lot of upside. The roster is deep. And now they have belief. This is going to be a very good team again.

Temple

Fran Dunphy's team keeps losing very good players every year and keeps getting back to the NCAA Tournament. This is going to be a bit trickier.

The Owls made a huge recruiting run at Vaux star Rysheed Jordan, but he went with St. John's. He was a difference-maker.

Now, without one of the great difference-makers in recent Big 5 history, Khalif Wyatt, and four of the top five scorers in what looks like a pretty difficult league this season, Temple has a few more questions than usual. The Owls have really won with offense the last two seasons. Who is going to score and will they be able to score enough?

Anthony Lee is a very big man with serious promise. Point guard Will Cummings got better as the season went on. Other players, who will be asked to play major minutes, were bit players last season. How they and the new players do will tell the story.

Villanova

After a one-season interruption to a long run of NCAA involvement, Jay Wright's team beat all expectations and was right back in the NCAAs last season.

Mouph Yarou is the only rotation player not back, so there is no reason to think the core of Jay Vaughn Pinkston, Ryan Arcidiacono, James Bell, Darrun Hilliard, Tony Chennault and Daniel Ochefu won't be a major factor in the new Big East.

The Wildcats won with their terrific interior defense and ability to get to the free-throw line last season. If they can find a way to defend the three-point line, they will win even more in a league that is not going to be anywhere as unforgiving as the old Big East.

Saint Joseph's

Fortunately, Phil Martelli's team is healthier than his coaching staff. Assistant Geoff Arnold is out after undergoing prostate-cancer surgery. Assistant Mark Brass is out for 2 weeks after an appendectomy and hernia surgery. Director of basketball operations Rob Sullivan is getting married tomorrow and off on a 2-week honeymoon.

The good news is that the senior core of Ronald Roberts, Langston Galloway and Halil Kanacevic is back for a final run. Unlike last season, the Hawks won't be picked at the top of the A-10, but if they can force more turnovers, which would lead to a more efficient offense, they certainly can be a serious factor in the league.

Drexel

The Dragons went from 29 wins to 13 in a season when absolutely nothing went right after they lost their first two games in overtime. In fact, they played four OT games and lost them all. It was that kind of season.

Drexel's offensive efficiency slid dramatically, especially near the basket where Samme Givens was sorely missed. The biggest surprise was the falloff in the Dragons' defense. It was mediocre when it had always been among the top 50 in recent seasons under Bruiser Flint.

The best news is that shooter Chris Fouch is back after getting a medical redshirt. Put Fouch on the court with Frantz Massenat and Damion Lee and you have a terrific perimeter capable of combing for 45 points every game.

Penn

Jerome Allen's team was one of the youngest in America last season. It was definitely getting better as the season went on. In six of his seven games, then-freshman guard Tony Hicks scored 29, 19, 23, 24, 16 and 22. Center Fran Dougherty, who scored 93 points in an early four-game stretch, missed 18 games with illness and injury. Point guard Miles Cartwright is a very good player with great experience. Henry Brooks and Darien Nelson-Henry help make the Quakers quite big along the frontline.

Penn turned it over far too much last season, which led to a very inefficient offense. That should get better with a more settled rotation. It is going to be very difficult to win the Ivy because Harvard is going to be so good, but Penn is definitely going to do better than nine wins.

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