Philly teams on outside, looking in

Posted: February 09, 2014

Even with Selection Sunday five weeks away, there's never a bad time to check two popular mock brackets to see where our locals stand. Sadly, unless someone in the group makes a spectacular run through a conference tournament (or in Penn's case, sweep the Ivy League and hope for Harvard to fall), the only City Six team penciled in at the moment for March Madness is Villanova. The Wildcats are seeded second by Joe Lunardi of ESPN, and third by Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com. Interestingly, Lunardi has 'Nova in a second-round matchup in Buffalo against American, a rematch of an opponent in the Cats' 2009 Final Four run, and Palm matches Villanova with Stephen F. Austin in Raleigh, N.C.

Cats on the rocks

Arizona showed Thursday night it's going to struggle with 6-foot-8 starting forward Brandon Ashley out for the season because of a broken right foot. The Wildcats, who suffered their first loss last weekend against California, a game where Ashley was injured early, barely beat Oregon at home while struggling with their shooting and their rebounding. Free throws remain an issue as Arizona went 19 of 35 from the line. But the Wildcats pulled it out with the help of former Chester High star Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who took Ashley's place in the starting line and had 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Best of American

Cincinnati is threatening to run away with the regular-season crown of the American Athletic Conference, thanks in no small part to senior guard Sean Kilpatrick. The Bearcats improved to 11-0 in league play Thursday night with their 16th straight victory, a 63-58 win over Connecticut. Kilpatrick had 26 points, 12 rebounds and six assists against the Huskies; he has averaged 24 points in his last three games and 19.7 points for the season. "The mark of great players is that they rise to the occasion," UC coach Mick Cronin said in his post-game interview. "He has the ability to rise to the occasion.

Meanwhile, in Chapel Hill

People were giving up on North Carolina after the Tar Heels sputtered to an 1-4 start in ACC play. Now, however, Carolina has revived itself with a four-game winning streak entering Saturday's game at Notre Dame. After defeating three ranked teams – Michigan State, Louisville and Kentucky – and losing to the likes of Belmont, UAB and Wake Forest, the Tar Heels now are showing more consistency behind the play of James Michael McAdoo and Marcus Paige. And with home games coming up next week against archrival Duke and Pittsburgh, this turnaround couldn't come around at a better time.

The Dangerfields

Anyone worried that the Atlantic 10 doesn't get enough respect can consider the case of Massachusetts. The Minutemen were ranked 13th in the Jan. 20 Associated Press poll but three losses (all on the road) in four games not only knocked them completely out of the rankings this week, but they did not receive a single Top 25 vote. UMass coach Derek Kellogg hasn't been worried about his team's weekly standing and said he focused this week on trying "to be real positive and constructive with the guys to make sure we get things done the right way." He did well; the Minutemen defeated La Salle on Wednesday.

Delaware destroyer

Watch out for the Delaware Blue Hens, who improved to 10-0 in the CAA after rallying from a 20-point deficit at home over the last nine minutes and defeating College of Charleston behind a 42-point performance from senior guard Davon Usher. Usher, a transfer from Mississippi Valley State, scored 30 of his points in the second half Wednesday night as he posted the highest one-game total by a Blue Hen in 50 years. Delaware's Devon Saddler just became the school's all-time leading scorer, and his 17 points Wednesday gave him 2,048 career points, third among active Division I players.

Turning the tide

Army has taken its share of lumps from Navy on the football field in recent years, but the Black Knights are in control of the service academy rivalry on the basketball court. Army (12-10, 8-3 Patriot League) hosts the Midshipmen (7-15, 2-9) on Saturday and with a win, will sweep Navy for the second time in three years. The Black Knights pulled out a 60-55 victory on Jan. 11 at Annapolis. Army, a team with just one senior on its roster, is led by sophomore guard Kyle Wilson, who averages 19.2 points overall and leads the Patriot League with a 20.1 average in conference games.

Expatriat of the Week

St. John's freshman Rysheed Jordan, who starred at Vaux High School, has been a leader for the surging Red Storm. He scored a career-high 18 points to go with six assists and three steals in Tuesday night's victory at Providence, St. John's fifth win in its last six games. The 6-foot-4 Jordan is averaging 10.1 points and 3.5 assists for his team in Big East play, which continues Sunday night in Madison Square Garden with a game against 12th-ranked Creighton.

jjuliano@phillynews.com

@joejulesinq

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