Temple athletics have been in the news a lot this off season with continued rumors about the Big East expanding to include the Owls. That has yet to occur and Temple looks poised to continue their run on the top of the A-10 (look out for Xavier Owls fans). The Owls lost only one starter, Lavoy Allen who was drafted by his hometown Sixers in the second round of the summers NBA draft. However, Temple will have their leading scorer from last year Ramone Moore back, look for him to solidify himself as a 1st team all A-10 player. The Owls open their 2011-2012 campaign against Big 5 rival Penn next Monday (11/14).
Key Losses: Lavoy Allen
Key Returnees: Juan Fernandez (11.2 ppg, 3.9 apg), Kaliff Wyatt (10.1 ppg), Ramone Moore (15.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg)
Key Additions: Point Guard Will Cummings
Key games: 12/10 vs. Nova, 12/17 at Texas, 1/4 vs. Duke, 2/11 vs Xavier
The Owls have an easy start to their season, but after a home game against Nova, which I anticipate Temple winning, they travel to Texas for what I think will be their first loss of the year. After the Texas game their non-conference schedule gets even tougher with games against Duke and Maryland. Circle Feb. 11 as the game that will decide the regular season in the Atlantic 10 as Temple hosts Xavier. Overall, Temple is an underrated team to start the year, but Fran Dunphy has always been able to get more out of his players than is there.
Projected Record: 24-5
Big 5 Record: 4-0
Villanova had a terrible finish to last year culminating in their first round loss in the NCAA Tournament. They lose three starters and look for a young team to rebound from last season. Maalik Wayns is their leading returning scorer; however, he has never had to take the big shot and it will be interesting to see if he can step up and seize the moment. The young Wildcats might struggle early in Big East play, but Jay Wright should be able to get this young team to gel. Villanova opens their season against Monmouth this Friday (11/11).
Key Losses: Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes, Antonio Pena
Key Returnees: Maalik Wayns (13.8 ppg 4.5 apg), Mouphtaou Yarou (8.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg)
Key Additions: Forward Markus Kennedy, Point Guard Darrun Hilliard, Shooting Guard Achraf Yaboubou
Key Games: 12/ 6 at Missouri, 12/10 at Temple, 12/17 Holy War at St. Joe's (@ Hagan Arena, SJU)
The Wildcats have five games to get their bearings, but then the schedule gets immensely tougher. Consecutive away games against Missouri and Temple will challenge this young team. I expect Temple to win the Big 5, but Nova should run the table against the rest of the Big 5 to finish second.
Projected Record: 19-11, 3-1
Big 5: 3-1
The Explorers had a disappointing season last year because the talent was there to compete with the toughest teams on their schedule, but their inconsistent production along with an unwillingness to play defense led to a below .500 season. Media outside of the program have not put much faith in the 2011-2012 Explorers and understandably so as they only return 4 players from last years rotation. They are young and inexperienced, but they have looked more like a team in preseason. The biggest problem with last years Explorers is the fact, that simply put they did not like each other. Their chemistry seems better and look for transfer Ramon Galloway to led this team. Galloway averaged over 10 points last year for South Carolina, but received a hardship waiver and does not have to sit out this season. La Salle opens the season this Friday against Lafayette (11/11).
Key Losses: Aaric Murray (transfered to WVU), Ruban Guillandeaux, Jerrell Williams
Key Returnees: Tyreek Duren (9.8 ppg, 4.4 apg) Earl Pettis (9.1 ppg), Sam Mills (5.4 ppg)
Key Additions: Ramon Galloway (110.7 ppg with South Carolina), Jerrell Wright (Philadelphia Daily News HS POY)
Key Games: 1/15 at Villanova, 2/4 at St. Joe's (Palestra), 2/22 vs Temple
Unfortunately, La Salle has two tough games in their first four both on the road against Pittsburgh and Villanova. The La Salle vs. St. Joe's game is a toss up, I am picking the Explorers because I think they will match up well with the Hawks. That game will decide the 3rd and 4th place standings in the Big 5. Too much stock has been placed in Murray's transfer. He was lazy, a terrible teammate, and never lived up to his potential.
Projected Record: 18-15
Big 5: 2-2
The Hawks looked terrible at times last season, at one point losing nine straight. They came on strong at the end, however, making a surprising run to the A-10 Tournament semi-final before losing a close contest to Dayton. The problem with the Hawks for last last several years has always seemed to be their youth, which raises serious questions about Coach Martelli's recruiting. They do return a strong starting back court and only lose one starter from last year. Scorers Galloway and Jones lead the backcourt and can create match up problems for teams. If Martelli can get his team of mostly sophomores and juniors to build upon last years finish the Hawks can surprise some folks this year. Last year's team was better than their record indicated; however, they were not as good as their end of the season run might indicate. St. Joe's opens the season this Friday at Western Kentucky (11/11)
Key Losses: none
Key Returns: Langston Galloway (12.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg), Carl Jones (17.0 ppg), CJ Aiken (7.4 ppg, 117 total blocks)
Key Additions: Forward Papa Ndao, Point Guard Chris Wilson
Key Games: 12/17 at Nova (@ Hagan Arena, SJU), 1/28 at Temple, 2/4 vs La Salle (Palestra)
The Hawks start off with several games that they should win, that will help this young team gain some confidence. Look for them to finish in the middle of the pack in the A-10. My pick for them to finish fourth does not reflect how far this team has come, and again I think the La Salle- St. Joe's game is a toss up, but the Explorers match up well with the Hawks and always come to play with a chip on their shoulder because St. Joe's is seen as La Salle's biggest rival, but the Hawks do not feel the same (the Holy War against Villanova is their rivalry).
Projected Record: 17-12
Big 5: 1-3
It was nice that last years senior class could win one Big 5 game in their career, but look for the recent trend of Penn finishing in the cellar of the city rivalry to continue. The Quakers will once again rely on Zack Rosen to lead the team in scoring and the team will go as far as Rosen will take them in his senior campaign. Second year coach, Jerome Allen, will look to continue the programs turnaround that began last year. The Quakers finished in the top half of the Ivy League for the first time in two seasons. The Quakers do lose 2 starters off last season squad, but have a veteran back court with Rosen and 5th-year senior Tyler Bernardini (a Ivy League rarity). Other than the starting back court, Penn is a very young team and I expect it to show. Penn's season gets underway this Friday night at UMBC.
Key Losses: Jack Eggleston, Conor Turley
Key Returns: Zack Rosen (14.3 ppg, 5.4 apg), Tyler Bernardini (12.9 ppg, 3.9 apg), Miles Cartwright (11.7 ppg, 3.0 apg)
Key Additions: Forward Henry Brooks, Forward Greg Louis, Forward Keelan Cairns, Guard Simeon Esprit
Key Games: 1/10 vs La Salle, 1/21 vs St. Joe's, 2/10 vs Harvard, 3/6 at Princeton
Penn suffers from a very difficult non-conference schedule. In addition to the four city rivals Penn also squares off against Pittsburgh, UCLA, and Duke. It could be a long start to the season for the young, inexperienced Quakers.
Projected Record: 12-16
Big 5: 0-4