We start with a handful of great feature stories with ties to the to the local college scene that are worth your reading.
First up, Mark Kram gets the back cover of the Daily News with a piece on the support network around stud Villanova recruit Dominic Cheek. It includes famed St. Anthony's coach Bobby Hurley, Sr., for whom Cheek plays his high school ball.
Also in the Daily News, Bernard Fernandez reports on the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association awards dinner, where Drexel's Nicole Hester was named Most Courageous Athlete. Other notable winners include West Chester wide receiver Mike Washington, named Outstanding Amateur Athlete; former Penn State star Adam Taliaferro, who won the Humanitarian award; and LSU sprinter LaTavia Thomas, who won the Penn Relays award.
Thomas, a West Catholic alumna, anchored two Championship of America-winning teams at last year's Relays: the 4x800-meter relay and the sprint medley relay.
(Don't think for a moment I've forgotten about the Relays with all the basketball going on. April will be here sooner than you think.)
In the Inquirer, Mike Jensen profiles former And1 CEO Seth Berger, a Penn alum and former JV player who's now the boys' basketball coach at Westtown School in Chester County. By Berger's own admission, his life has been pretty good: a Wharton degree, connections all over the basketball world and enough money from the sale of his company to work his new job without taking a salary.
Jensen also writes about how And1's renown has helped Berger recruit players from all over the world to Westtown.
Finally, we have the fruits of ESPN.com writer Dana O'Neil's trip to the Palestra this past Saturday: an explanation of how and why Penn and St. Joe's are sharing the Palestra this season. Much of it is familiar to us, but given ESPN.com's national audience it does a fantastic job of why the Big 5 is still relevant.
Among the highlights are references to Yo-Yo and John McAdams, as well as some great quotes from Phillies president and longtime Penn season ticket-holder David Montgomery.
Now we turn to a few things I've neglected on here over the course of the season. First, a look at the latest edition of Bracketology. It has good news and bad news for local fans.
Let's take the bad news first: Villanova is the only local team in the field, and none of the other City Six schools even make the last eight out. I'm a bit surprised that Dayton gets in while Temple does not, but if the Owls keep winning that should change soon enough.
But the good news is that if you're a Wildcats fan, this bracket has you headed for the relatively warm climes of Greensboro, N.C. as an 8-seed. It's not Miami, but it is one of those cities that really lives and breathes college basketball.
And if 'Nova beats 9-seed Ohio State, they'd get a dream matchup against top-seed Duke. You know Jay Wright would love to match wits with Coach K, and two Blue Devils have Philly-area ties: Haddonfield's Brian Zoubek and Episcopal Academy grad Gerald Henderson.
Having said that, if you watch enough ACC basketball over time, you can't help thinking that Greensboro isn't the best place to play a Tobacco Road power. But the Rose Bowl probably isn't the best place to play USC either.
The really interesting bracket lines are the games that would take place at the Wachovia Center. In one pod, top-seed Connecticut would face Todd Bozeman's Morgan State, and I wonder if Jim Calhoun will remember how badly his team played the last time it came to South Philly in March.
The winner of that game would face either Davidson or Virginia Tech. It would be cool enough just to have Stephen Curry in town, but it would really be something to see Curry face his father's alma mater.
In the other pod, we have No. 7-seed Baylor vs. No. 10-seed Notre Dame and No. 2-seed North Carolina vs. No. 15-seed Cornell. Granted, the Irish are in a serious funk right now with two straight home losses, but I still believe in Luke Harangody and the great backcourt of Tory Jackson and Kyle McAlarney. The Bears are a great story too, as they continue their resurrection from so many years spent in the basketball wilderness.
The Carolina-Cornell game would obviously be a blowout, but it would be a fun and easy trip for Big Red fans - especially compared to last season, when they played Stanford in Anaheim. You wonder whether Roy Williams and Steve Donahue would call Penn coach Glen Miller, who has faced both schools multiple times in recent years, for advice.
Granting that a Notre Dame win over Baylor would be an upset by seed, we could see a rematch of this season's Maui Invitational championship game between the Irish and the Tar Heels. We can only imagine how electric the Wachovia Center would be for a Saturday doubleheader with Connecticut-Davidson and North Carolina-Notre Dame.
And in truth, we can only imagine all of this, because we know Bracketology is nothing more than a projection. Alas.
Finally, you might remember the Crunchy Numbers statistical compilation I put together every Tuesday during the last basketball season. The Schuylkill 16 has pretty much replaced that this year, but I thought I'd bring back the ranking comparison table this week.
This table is just for the City Six schools, but it includes overall record, conference record, Big 5 record and strength of schedule, as well as each school's ranking in the Pomeroy, RPI, Basketball State and Sagarin indices.
Yes, I gave Drexel a Big 5 record, and no, it's not a political statement. I think you'll be okay.