1. Temple Owls (20-5)
Temple has won 9 straight games and has already reached the 20 win mark. In my opinion, the Owls got shafted by the polls this week. They are playing as good of basketball as anyone in the country and already have two quality wins against ACC opponents (Duke and Maryland). Last night the Owls had an impressive come from behind victory up in Olean, New York against St. Bonaventure 76-70. Owls' leading scorer, Ramone Moore was scoreless at halftime before exploding for 19 in the second. Fran Dunphy's squad now control their own destiny in the Atlantic 10.
2. Drexel Dragons (22-5)
Drexel survived a scare from William and Mary on Tuesday night 63-61, despite the Tribe's place in the bottom third of the Colonial standings. I think the William & Mary game could have been a trap for the Dragons, as it would have been very easy for the players and fans to be looking ahead to Saturday's important 'BracketBuster' match up against Cleveland State. Unfortunately for the Dragons, and all their fans who would love to stick it to the Big 5 schools, Temple keeps winning. Temple's stronger RPI, strength of schedule, and conference keep the Owls on top even if Drexel has won 14 in a row.
3. Saint Joseph's Hawks (17-10)
Last night St. Joe's easily handled A-10 cellar dweller Rhode Island 80-69. Now the Hawks find themselves as winners of 4 out of their last 5 games, including wins over La Salle and UMass. The Hawks still are not in the conversation for the NCAA tournament, but if they can win at least 3 of their last 4 and make some noise in the Atlantic City then St. Joe's could very well find themselves on the bubble. The Hawks final two games are at home against Philly's top dog, Temple, and a trip to snowy upstate New York to face the Bonnies--neither of which will be easy wins.
4. La Salle Explorers (17-9)
Going into Saturday's game against UMass the Explorers will have had a full week off. Their A-10 'bye' could not have come at a better time. Losers of their last 3 games, all of which were close, La Salle needed the week to rest and re-find their defensive intensity that was a consistent factor in their impressive early season. If Ramon Galloway lets the game slow down and come to him (thus ending his recent struggles) the Explorers will be just fine. The fan base that just two weeks ago was dreaming of an NCAA tournament bid, now more realistically have to hope for an NIT invite. For a team that hasn't seen the post season since 1992, I know they will take it.
5. Villanova Wildcats (11-14)
For all of you Wildcat fans out there who were hoping Nova would find themselves moving up in the rankings due to La Salle's recent struggles will be disappointed. Nova has lost 4 out of their last 5, and have been swept in the season series against South Florida. The upcoming schedule does not get any easier for the Wildcats (vs. Notre Dame, vs. UConn, at Georgetown, at Rutgers, and vs. Cincinnati). I do not think its a stretch to suggest that Villanova could lose out and finish the season 11-19. To prevent that from happening, Nova needs a healthy Maalik Wayns, but even so I don't know if he will be able to stop the bleeding. Wildcat fans welcome to the life of a La Salle fan--there's always next year.
6. Penn Quakers (13-11)
Last week it seemed like all hope for Penn's Ivy chances were gone. They had lost to Yale and almost certainly need to beat Harvard twice to have any chance of the title. They failed to beat Harvard. It seemed the Ivy race was over; however, the very next night Harvard lost on the road against Princeton. Suddenly, Penn had hope. The Quakers still have a lot of work to do, and need to win out including a win at Harvard for a shot at the title. You can be sure however, that senior Zack Rosen will do everything in his power to ensure he and his classmates graduate with at least one Ivy League Championship.
Some Other Notes:
--If we here at Whiz Wit were to create a power ranking for the combined mascot, team colors, and location of the A-10 schools St. Bonaventure has my vote for last place. The combination of brown and white alone would scare me away. Add in the fact that you'd be a 'Bonnie' and have to live in the middle of no-where, upstate New York. No thanks, if you think of a "better" trifecta let me know.
--If anyone suggests if Murray State loses on Saturday against St. Mary's that the Racers shouldn't make the NCAA tournament, I think your crazy. A two loss year does not take away from the entire body of work. Yes, yes they did not really beat anybody of note, but St. Joe's of 2004 beat only one ranked opponent and their loss in the A-10 tournament did not unseat them as a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Before any St. Joe's fans get in a tiff, I'm not suggesting the Hawks did not deserve a top seed--just think of the parallels.
--Today is the last day to vote for your favorite Big 5 player over at Philahoops. I'm partial to the L-Train, but everyone has their favorite.
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