Predictably, some City Six teams doing better than others

Simmons
Simmons
Posted: December 12, 2013

BEFORE THE season began, I faithfully printed out the prediction pages for the City Six teams from Ken Pomeroy's terrific website (kenpom.com). Now that we are almost a third of the way through the regular season for some teams, let's have a look at how the six were perceived then and how they are looked at now. Predictions are adjusted during the season based on performance.

Villanova was projected to finish 19-10 and 10-8 in the Big East. The Wildcats were also predicted to be 7-0 at this point. The site did not pick tournament games beyond the opener. 'Nova now is 9-0 with wins over Kansas and Iowa in the Bahamas, games that were not included in the original prediction. With much more evidence beyond last season's numbers, the updated 'Nova prediction is 26-5 and 13-5. That is top-three, NCAA-seed worthy and seems about right to me. Love watching this team play.

La Salle was predicted to finish 18-10 and 10-6 in the Atlantic 10. The Explorers were also predicted to be 6-1 at this point. Has not gone according to plan with two losses after the opener in the Virgin Islands and 5-4 overall. The updated prediction is 15-15 and 7-9. That is based on how much La Salle's defense has slipped and how poor its shooting has been. I still lean more to the original prediction, but the Explorers have to do it on the court. They have no nonconference résumé at the moment so Sunday's game at Villanova is bigger than big for La Salle.

Temple's final record was projected to be 13-15 and 7-11 in the American. And that was with the Owls predicted to be 6-0 at this point, again without the final two games in Charleston, S.C. They are actually 4-4. I like a lot of what I see with this team, but it is inexperienced in big moments, have some obvious defensive flaws and the AAC, with two games each against Louisville, Connecticut, Memphis and Cincinnati is going to be unforgiving. The Owls are playing their typical brutal schedule. They have played teams with combined records of 39-21 and have teams with records of 74-35 still to play. The updated prediction is 14-16 and 7-11.

Saint Joseph's was projected to be 1-5 at this stage, but is actually 4-4 with two wins in Orlando. Overall, the Hawks were predicted to be 16-12, 8-8 A-10. Now, it is 16-14, 7-9. SJU is simply not athletic enough at the guard spots. Not sure what to think of the blowout home loss to Villanova. I think it was more about Villanova than St. Joe's, but I could be wrong. Obviously, the three seniors have something to prove, but if this team is going to beat projections, it will likely be because freshman small forward DeAndre' Bembry blows up.

The Drexel record was supposed to be 17-9, 11-5 in the CAA. And that was with Damion Lee. The Dragons have been so impressive that, even without Lee, they are 6-2 (4-1 projection without three NIT Season Tip-Off games) and projected to finish 22-7, 12-4. I can definitely see that. Their halfcourt stuff looks as smooth as it did 2 years ago and their defense is back to Drexel standards. With the CAA Tournament in Baltimore and the powerhouse Virginia schools all gone, I give Drexel a big chance to get to its first NCAA under Bruiser Flint.

Penn's prediction was 11-17, 6-8 Ivy. I really thought this team would be better and it may yet, but not so far. Penn was projected to be 3-5 at this stage, but it is actually 2-6 and predicted to finish 10-18, 5-9. The turnovers are an ongoing problem and the top of the Ivy, with Harvard (9-1), Princeton (6-1) and Brown (6-2) looks even stronger than expected. There is definitely talent on this roster. It just has not yet translated into wins.

The Train's time

The College Basketball Hall of Fame's founding class was inducted in 2006. This Hall for men's players became necessary because the Naismith Hall has been ignoring the great men's college players in recent decades.

The Hall in Kansas City was a terrific idea. Each year, it has been adding new members. It is already overdue, but next year it needs to add Lionel Simmons.

The L-Train scored the last of his 3,217 points at La Salle in 1990 and nobody has come close since then. Only two Division I players have ever scored more. By the way, the Explorers won 100 games in his four seasons and he never missed a game.

Two nights before La Salle played Wichita State in the Sweet 16 last March, I had dinner with the L-Train and La Salle assistant Horace "Pappy" Owens at LA Live, right next to the Staples Center. Lots of great stories, wonderful memories and a reminder just what a transcendent player Lionel Simmons was and always will be.

The locals

The local high schools had an especially strong senior class last season. It's early to make any definitive judgments beyond the fact that Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was every bit as good as he looked at Chester High. Playing nearly 23 minutes per game for No. 1 Arizona, he averages 8.8 points and 4.7 rebounds while shooting 57.8 percent.

I watched Rysheed Jordan (Vaux High) outplay both Harrison twins at Reebok two summers ago. He is now at St. John's, which has an unusual mix of players, with passing not the first thought of most. Jordan plays 16.6 minutes per game and averages 4.9 points while shooting 25.6 percent. He is way better than those numbers. He does have 20 assists, second most on the team.

Steven Vasturia (Notre Dame) and Miles Overton (Wake Forest) played together at St. Joseph's Prep. Neither is getting a lot of run yet. ND has a senior backcourt (Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant). Vasturia is averaging 1.4 points in 8.4 minutes while Overton is averaging 3.0 points in 9.6 minutes. They will now play against each other in the ACC.

This and that

* After the weekend, there were 15 unbeaten teams remaining. Interestingly, four were in the Big East last season. Syracuse and Pittsburgh now play in the ACC, UConn in the AAC. Villanova is the only unbeaten in the new Big East.

The others are Massachusetts, Iowa State, Boise State, Wichita State, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Arizona, Saint Mary’s, Missouri, Oregon and Toledo.

* It is very early, but UMass point guard Chaz Williams is going to be firmly in the discussion for A-10 Player of the Year. In his team’s 105-96 win over BYU, Williams had 32 points and 15 assists. There is no faster player in the country and his team is playing like its point guard. UMass is averaging nearly 75 possessions per game.

* Oklahoma State is so good because it has so many ways to score. Three players have double-digit 20-point games in their careers — Le'Bryan Nash (14), Marcus Smart (13) and Markel Brown (12).

* St. John’s made 17 consecutive shots against Fordham on Saturday in its 104-58 win at Madison Square Garden. The Red Storm did not miss for more than 12 minutes. While that was going on, the Rams’ Jon Severe, who had been the leading freshman scorer in the country (22.3 points), was shooting 1-for-21. The Rams actually are better, but they did not react too well to the bigger stage. One of these years, Fordham is going to be a factor. One of these years.

* Congratulations to junior Mike Marvin (Penn State Abington, Hatboro-Horsham), who just scored his 1,000th college point in his 53rd game. He is averaging 27 points and 12 rebounds this season.

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