As the season progresses and teams start to delve into their respective conference schedules, one thing remains clear for each City 6 team: no one is perfect. Each team has an Achilles heel that has come back to haunt them at least once this season, if not for the entire year. So what does each team have to overcome? And can they do it quick enough to either continue a winning streak or salvage a season?
Drexel Dragons (6-11, 2-3 CAA)
After last year’s NCAA tournament snub, the Dragons were looking to make a bigger splash and prove that they were here to stay. The winning ways didn’t quite translate from last season to now, as Drexel is still looking for its first winning streak of the year.
Last year (and in years before), Drexel was one of the best teams defending two-point shots. According to basketball statistician Ken Pomeroy, Drexel was ranked in the top 35 for the past four seasons in terms of opposing two-point field goal percentage, including the ninth-best last year when they allowed just 41.7 percent of two-point shots to fall.
This year, however, is a different story. The Dragons are on the opposite half of teams defending two-point shots, allowing 50.1 percent. That mark has them ranked 258th in that category, a large departure from previous years.
While there are many factors as to why the defensive percentage has increased, one that sticks out is the absence of Samme Givens, the only Dragon that graduated after last year’s 23-9 campaign.
Without Givens (and the absence of guard Chris Fouch due to a season-ending injury), the Dragons have fallen off, in terms of both defending shots and overall record. If Drexel can cut down on that interior defense, they still have a chance to win the 2013 CAA title they were picked to win before the season began.
La Salle Explorers (12-5, 2-2 A-10)
The Explorers have what is arguably the best backcourt in the city with Sam Mills, Tyreek Duren and Ramon Galloway (and with Ty Garland coming off the bench) all contributing significantly for La Salle.
A lot of the times, the play of their backcourt masks the shortcomings in the frontcourt, mainly on the glass. forward Jerrell Wright and center Steve Zack both average a respective 6.5 rebounds and 6.4 rebounds per game, but the Explorers as a whole have ended games on the wrong end of the rebounding margin.
La Salle is only grabbing 33.2 rebounds per game, which is 257th best in Division I. As of January 17th, according to the NCAA’s statistics, the Explorers have a -2.3 rebounding margin, good enough for the 255th-best mark in the nation.
The guard-oriented Explorers don’t have much room for big men in their rotation. Wright and Zack see most of the minutes at the four and five position, while Rohan Brown has seen the most minutes off the bench to spell one of the frontcourt players. But Brown has the lowest rebound total of Explorers that see more than eight minutes of action per game with 1.9 boards.
While their rebounding numbers haven’t been great in terms of season average, they have been improving of late. In their most recent losses against Xavier and Charlotte, the Explorers matched the Musketeers with 35 boards while out-rebounding the 49ers by 10.
With a tough two-game stretch against Butler and VCU this week, the La Salle frontcourt will surely be tested. But, with an improvement in rebounding and the continued contribution from the guards, the Explorers will look to take at least one win against two of the top teams in the Atlantic 10.
Penn Quakers (3-14, 0-1 Ivy)
It doesn’t take an expert to see what has plagued the Quakers this year: turnovers, turnovers and more turnovers.
Penn is averaging 17.4 turnovers per game, a mark better than only 11 other teams in the nation. That means the Quakers are turning it over on 26.8 percent of their possessions, which is 332nd in the nation.
It’s no surprise that the turnovers have correlated with the Quakers’ record this year. 15 first-half turnovers doomed them against La Salle. Playing against Butler was a daunting task in itself for Penn, but they seemed to have caught them on an off night, letting the Quakers hang around. But 19 turnovers (and the inability to stop the Bulldogs from grabbing offensive rebounds) stopped Penn from shocking the world at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Even in their three victories this year (against UMBC, Binghamton and NJIT), they haven’t been able to cut down on turnovers. In the season opener against the Retrievers, Penn turned the ball over 21 times, but overcame a 13-point deficit (after leading by double-digits) to pull out a win. The Quakers were closer to their season average against the Bearcats, turning the ball over 17 times in a game Penn was able to keep their opponent at arms length. And in their most recent victory against the Highlanders, Penn committed an appalling 26 turnovers.
Allen has a young team that features three true freshmen (guards Tony Hicks and Jamal Lewis and center Darien Nelson-Henry) that are seeing an increased amount of time on the court. But Allen refuses to blame the team’s issues on its youth, saying repeatedly throughout the season that the team cannot rely on that “cheap crutch”.
It certainly won’t be easy moving forward to cut down on what’s been the biggest issue the Quakers have faced this season, but with so much youth on the team the potential for vast improvement certainly exists.
St. Joseph’s Hawks (10-6, 1-2 A-10)
The starting five (and guard Chris Wilson) have produced well for the Hawks this year. But, beyond those six, the next man up still remains a question mark.
With this roster, it’s clear Hawks coach Phil Martelli likes to keep his rotation tight. Six players average more than 30 minutes per game and take up 197.5 minutes of the 200 available within a game.
But, with forward Halil Kanacevic missing six games so far this year due to injury, a two-game suspension and a death in the family, Wilson has had to jump up to the starting lineup. The absence of the big man has left St. Joe’s looking for production off the bench and, so far, not many have stepped up.
In their overtime loss to VCU, the St. Joe’s starters were clearly gassed in the extra period as the Rams’ patented Havoc defense finally caught up to them. In the loss, only three players saw time off the bench, with only one, forward Daryus Quarles, making a significant impact
Quarles, who was poised for a breakout season, is only averaging 2.5 points per game in 9.8 minutes. With Kanacevic’s absence, Quarles has seen more time on the court and has done well in the expanded role. Against VCU, the junior saw 18 minutes and scored nine points, but turned the ball over three times.
Fellow forward Papa Ndao, the bench player with the third most minutes, only sees the court for 7.8 minutes per game and only scores 1.9 points. Against the Rams, Ndao played nine minutes and hit one three-pointer, but committed two turnovers in the process.
Guard Evan Maschmeyer, who wasn’t cleared to play until December 31st due to a fractured right hand, saw his only minutes in the past two games against VCU and Penn. It’s safe to say that he’s still getting back into the rhythm of the game, but he has yet to score a point in the thirteen minutes of action he has seen.
When you’re as fortunate as St. Joe’s to have starters like they do, it’s easy to see why they get the minutes they’re getting. But, as showcased against teams that play at a high pace, fresh legs off the bench are always helpful when the starters either need a break or can’t seem to get it right on a particular night. Once Kanacevic returns, Wilson will return the bench–but beyond the guard, they need someone else to play well on a regular basis.
Temple Owls (12-5, 2-2 A-10)
The Owls could certainly make a case for the most intriguing, yet most frustrating team in the nation. Following a win at Syracuse and a close loss at Kansas, Temple had trouble putting away George Washington and gave St. Bonaventure their first victory at the Liacouras Center, ending a 30-0 run against the Bonnies at home.
In past years, the Owls’ field goal percentage has been in the high-to-mid 40’s, but it has taken a dramatic tumble; this year’s bunch is shooting 41 percent from the field on the year, 273rd-best in the nation. In terms of Pomeroy’s “effective field goal percentage”, which takes into account the added benefit of made three-point shots, Temple sits at 46.6 percent, which would be their lowest eFG% since 2006 (45.8).
The shooting slump of forward Scootie Randall, as well as some of the head-scratching shots that guard Khalif Wyatt shoots, is certainly one of the reasons for the decrease in the percentage. Randall, currently shooting 35.1 percent from the field, has had numerous sub-.300 games, including going 1-of-7 (14.3 percent) against Saint Louis and Kansas, as well as shooting 3-of-16 (18.8 percent) and 1-of-12 from deep (9.3 percent) against Canisius.
Wyatt, following a season where he earned 2nd-team All-Atlantic 10, has seen his shooting percentage drop significantly. As the A-10’s sixth man of the year as a sophomore, the guard shot 46.8 percent from the floor; as a junior, he made 47.9 percent. This year, however, that number has plummeted to an unimpressive 39.8 percent, coupled with a 28 percent three-point shooting percentage that doesn’t help either.
Shooting woes can be fixed, but Randall, Wyatt and the rest of the Owls need to figure it out fast. After a visit from Penn, Temple travels to Hinkle Fieldhouse to take on the No. 13 Butler Bulldogs, a team that allows 41.3 percent shooting from opponents.
Villanova Wildcats (11-7, 2-3 Big East)
Youth has been a key factor in both the Wildcats’ shortcomings and success, as Villanova has relied heavily on the play of guard Ryan Arcidiacono and, more recently, forward Daniel Ochefu.
But the two highly-touted and highly-talented freshmen, after some growing pains, have found their footing on the collegiate level and look like the players Villanova thought they were getting when the two signed their letters of intent.
What plagues the Wildcats now (along with being in the midst of a ridiculously rough six-game stretch) is their poor shooting percentage. In losses to then-No.7 Syracuse and Pitt, Villanova shot just over 30 percent (31.5 and 31.8, respectively) while putting up more than 44 and 54 shots.
As of now, the Wildcats are shooting at a 40.6 percent clip on the season, which is 291st best in the country. Arcidiacono and fellow guard Tony Chennault have the worst shooting percentages for the Wildcats, shooting at a respective 34 and 31.1 percent from the field. Combined, the two guards take an average of 12.9 shots per game.
Trying to turn their field goal percentage around will be tough for the next three games, which include games against No. 1 Louisville, a rematch with No. 6 Syracuse and a trip to South Bend to play No. 20 Notre Dame. Both Syracuse (4th with 35.4 percent) and Louisville (47th with 39.6 percent) rank in the top 50 in opposing field goal percentage on the year, while Notre Dame is ranked 62nd, allowing 39.6 percent from the field