As we approach Thanksgiving, the college basketball season is brewing with excitement. The season is barely a month old and there are a few trends that I see already in the Big 5.
-St. Joseph's will be a tough game for any opponent, especially on Hawk Hill. Creighton came into Philly with Player of the Year candidate Doug McDermott and escaped with an 83-79 win. St. Joe's double teamed McDermott for much of the night and the Hawks front court was a force on the offensive and defensive boards.
-Villanova will be guard heavy. No real surprise here. Despite having JayVaughn Pinkston, a preseason All Big East pick at forward, the Cats will live and die by the outside shot and full court pressure defense. The Cats have used the press extensively in every game this year.
-LaSalle's Tyreek Duren will be Atlantic 10 Player of the Year. Duren is averaging 17.5 points per game and was named the first Big 5 player of the week this season.
On to this week's ranking:
#5 Penn Quakers (1-3)
Penn had a tough week with two Big 10 opponents on their schedule. The Quakers lost to Penn State at home 83-71, and then were blown out by Iowa on the road, 86-55. Penn's upcoming schedule includes Niagra and Wagner at home. Penn travels to Lafayette, then visits Villanova at the Pavilion on 12/4. I look for the Quakers to get on the winning track with some home wins over the next two weeks.
#4 Temple Owls (2-3)
The Owls are participating in the Charleston Classic. Temple lost to Clemson 72-58, but rebounded with a win against Georgia 83-81. This was a good win against a quality opponent for Fran Dunphy's young squad. The Owls face UAB in Charleston, then face St. Joseph's at home on 12/4 and Texas at Wells Fargo Center on 12/7. Look for Temple to continue success in Charleston , but may have a tough week back in Philly.
#3 LaSalle Explorers (3-2)
LaSalle beat Siena 78-74 with Tyreek Duren scoring 20 points on 7 for 13 shooting from the field. The Explorers then lost to Penn State on the road, 79-72. LaSalle is down at the Paradise Jam in St. Thomas. The Explorers beat Morgan State 78-59, and will now be tested against Providence. LaSalle hosts Hartford and plays Stony Brook at Madison Square Garden after the holiday, and should get some wins there.
#2 St. Joseph's Hawks (3-1)
The Hawks have the lightest schedule in November and early December. By lightest, I am only considering the number of games. The Hawks gave Creighton a scare in Philly, losing 83-79, St. Jose's travels to LSU on Thanksgiving, then visits Temple on 12/4 and travels to Villanova on 12/7 for a week of Big 5 contests. Look for the Hawks to continue to surprise and get 2 wins in these 3 games.
#1 Villanova Wildcats (4-0)
Villanova continued their home cooking with wins over Towson, 78-44 and Delaware 84-80. The Cats trapping defense caused 24 turnovers by Towson and shooting guard James Bell scored a game high 20 points. Friday night, Villanova shoots 5 for 25 from 3 point range but survives against Delaware. Villanova heads to the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas and will face USC on Thanksgiving. The Wildcats come home to a full Big 5 slate of games with Penn at home on 12/4 and then travel to Hawk Hill on 12/7 to battle St. Joseph's. The number 1 spot on the poll may be up for grabs.
Enjoy the games. Have a Happy and safe Thanksgiving. Look for a new poll in December.