By AARON BRACY
I really love college basketball, especially in Philadelphia. But I bet you knew that already.
Saturday’s thrilling 83-79 Creighton win over St. Joe’s was just the latest example of what makes the sport so enthralling.
The passion. The energy. The tradition. The pageantry. I could go on – and on.
“That was a terrific college basketball game, one of the better ones I’ve been a part of,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said.
Hagan Arena was rocking from tip to the final whistle. The players left everything they had on the floor. There were amazing performances from both sides and a game-winning shot by Blue Jays star Doug McDermott no one there will forget – though Hawks faithful will try.
As a sports enthusiast, I enjoy watching and playing most any sport. But there’s just something about watching Philadelphia college basketball that takes it to another level for me.
-Scout’s take: With 17 credentials issued to NBA scouts, including Sixers GM Sam Hinkie, there was quite a buzz in Hagan on Saturday night. The NBA people were there primarily for McDermott, but St. Joe’s Ronald Roberts also is on scouts’ radar.
Prior to the game, I asked a scout I’ve known for quite a while what he thought of Roberts, and his eyes lit up. Roberts’ athleticism and explosiveness make the Hawks forward attractive at the next level, and rebounding likely will be his ticket to a reserve role in the NBA.
The scouts had to love Roberts’ offensive board with 27.5 seconds left that preceded his go-ahead free throws. That was a man’s rebound. I’d guess they also liked the way he fronted McDermott in the post. A career 6.3 per game rebounder, Roberts finished with four against the Blue Jays. I’d guess scouts would like to see an improvement there to really consider Roberts bona fide second-round material.
As for McDermott, the scouts are trying to figure out where he’d play in the NBA. The knock is that he’s not athletic enough for the small forward/wing position and not big enough or adept enough to finish on the block for the power forward.
Whatever, there’s a certain immeasurable quality, though, that scouts had to love when McDermott drilled a 20-foot and-one with 4.9 seconds left to lift the Blue Jays.
-Nova story: Villanova beats Mount St. Mary’s and Towson by a combined 65 points. A very good Towson team 78-44 on Sunday. I thought the Cats would be good once Dylan Ennis returns from hand injury. Apparently, they aren’t waiting.
-La Salle story: La Salle squeaked past a pair of patsies this week, beating Quinnipiac and Siena by a combined seven points. Contrary to what some may think, the Explorers aren’t succumbing to the pressure of expectations nor are they awash in their press clippings from last season.
Two words: Ramon Galloway. Galloway is a special, special player that brought La Salle out of the doldrums through a lot of talent and a ton of will. His absence will be felt greatly. Not to say the Explorers still can’t achieve their goals, but falling short isn’t because they can’t handle pressure, or anything like that. They are missing the key cog from the two-year run of success.
-Penn story: I thought Penn would give Penn State a game. Maybe the Nittany Lions are better than I thought. Or maybe the Quakers aren’t as good as I thought.
-Drexel story: Great to see Chris Fouch light up Illinois State for 26 points on Tuesday to help the Dragons even their record. Even better to hear the sixth-year senior, who has undergone two major knee injuries, giving thanks for the opportunity to play again – and play well.
“It feels great,” Fouch told Rob Brooks on Drexel’s postgame radio show. “I love being out with these guys and for coach. It felt real good to be doing that again.”
With Fouch, the Dragons look like the Dragons again. Expect Drexel to get past Elon Monday night, setting up a likely matchup with Rutgers on Tuesday night with a trip to Madison Square Garden on the line. Right now, I like the Dragons to get to MSG.
-Temple story: As disheartening as it is for Owls fans to see losses to a pair of mid-majors in the same week, it is part of the growing pains with a young, but talented team. Temple is going to have to grow quickly though, or this could be a long season on North Broad Street. I don’t see that happening. There’s too much talent in the starting rotation. They’ll need a good performance against a 2-0 Clemson team Thursday night in the opening game of the Charleston Classic to keep this thing from snowballing.
-St. Joe’s story: For the Hawks, it probably would’ve been better not to have an 11-day layoff after the bitter taste of defeat Saturday night. But the schedule is the schedule. Phil Martelli loves this group and for good reason. Somehow, St. Joe’s is going to have to develop some reliable depth though. That was a little-pointed to factor in the Hawks’ loss to Creighton.
-Tap-ins: I’m not a huge fan of lots of whistles, but I do like the new foul rules that are allowing for a more offensive game. Still, how Langston Galloway’s second-half drive to the basket Saturday night can be considered a block just seems unfair. … Anyone else impressed with the new Palestra? … Why can’t all six Philadelphia schools get their games broadcast on the radio? Does anyone else really care to listen to Penn State basketball in Philadelphia rather than La Salle or Drexel?
Aaron Bracy’s Weekly City 6 rankings for Nov. 18 (record in parentheses):
1. Villanova (3-0): Cats hold top spot with a pair of blowout victories last week. Villanova will get its final warm-up for the Bahamas on Friday night at home against Delaware.
2. La Salle (2-1): Explorers keep a tenuous hold on second spot thanks to Tyreek Duren’s late-game surge in a comeback win over Siena on Saturday. That would’ve been a bad loss. La Salle has chance for mild statement win at Penn State on Tuesday. Guard matchup will be fun.
3. St. Joe’s (2-1): Hawks nearly took over top spot before Doug McDermott broke their hearts. St. Joe’s will have 11 days to ponder what could have been before tipping in Orlando against LSU on Thanksgiving night.
4. Drexel (1-1): Bruiser Flint’s squad jumps up a spot after evening its record on Tuesday at Illinois State. The Dragons could do wonders for their season with a pair of victories over Elon and most likely Rutgers on Monday and Tuesday night, respectively, in the Preseason NIT. That would earn them a ticket to MSG, always a special ticket.
5. Temple (1-2): There was nowhere to go but down for Temple after a pair of losses to mid-majors Kent State and (a very good) Towson last week. Owls will need to hold their heads high, as they prep for a very good field in the Charleston Classic beginning Thursday against Clemson.
6. Penn (1-2): Quakers take the bottom rung again this week after not giving Penn State much of a game on Saturday. Still, I like what Jerome Allen has here. Good friend of the Quakers Fran McCaffery won’t be providing any mercy, though, when Penn travels to Iowa on Friday night.
-Aaron Bracy is the Philahoops.com founder and columnist. His City 6 rankings column appears on Mondays. Share your thoughts with Aaron at [email protected], @Aaron_Bracy on Twitter and/or in the comments section below.
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