AROUND THE CITY
PLAYING FOR BANNER FIRST
Penn will play for an Ivy League championship tomorrow at Princeton. In the Ivy, co-champions are considered champions. If the Quakers win, they will then play Harvard on Saturday at a neutral site for the Ivy's automatic NCAA bid.
After crushing Yale at the Palestra, 68-47, Penn (19-11, 11-2 Ivy) needs a win tomorrow to tie Harvard (26-4, 12-2 Ivy). Penn coach Jerome Allen said: "It was the best 20 minutes of team defense we played all year long."
He could have been talking about either half, but was likely talking about the second half, which started with a 20-2 Penn run. The defense was suffocating.
And nobody was better than Rob Belcore, who defended Yale star Greg Mangano. Belcore gave up at least 6 inches, but made life very difficult for Mangano, who finished with just 10 points.
Why did Allen use Belcore to defend a much bigger player?
"He asked for it," Allen said.
Yale (19-9, 9-5) shot 14-for-51 (27.5 percent), Penn 54.8 percent.
LAST HOME GAME
Technically, Penn could play another game at the Palestra if it beats Princeton and loses to Harvard. A co-championship would get them at least an NIT bid.
Nobody was thinking of that on Senior Night for Belcore, Zack Rosen, Tyler Bernardini and Mike Howlett. And nobody even wants to consider it.
If this indeed was his final Palestra game, Rosen left even more memories with 20 points. The point guard, who was routinely brilliant, is now starting to attract NBA scouts to his games. Hey, Penn guys now own the 76ers. And Jeremy Lin did play in the Ivy League.
OWLS WIN TITLE OUTRIGHT
Technically, Temple won its first outright Atlantic 10 regular-season title since 1989-90, Mark Macon's junior season. In reality, Temple had the best overall record in 1997-98 and 1999-2000 when the league had divisions. Regardless of the history, Temple (24-6, 13-3 A-10) went to Fordham (10-19, 3-13) and won easily, 80-60.
Five Owls were in double figures.
Juan Fernandez, with a large contingent from Argentina at Rose Hill, had 19 points. Ramone Moore had 16. Moore and Khalif Wyatt combined for 13 assists.
Temple shot 31-for-59 (52.5 percent). This team gets great shots and makes them.
Good luck defending a team that always makes the extra pass.
Coach Fran Dunphy said his concern heading into the postseason is defense. This is not a team with many great individual defenders, but you have to think the coach will come up with the right defensive schemes to give his team a chance.
TWENTY AFTER TWENTY
It was a memorable night 20 years ago in Albany, N.Y., when La Salle last won 20 games. That night, Bron Holland's shot beat Manhattan for the Metro Atlantic title in the Explorers' final MAAC game. They have been mostly lost in the hoops wilderness since.
Perhaps, the Explorers have finally emerged. After beating St. Bonaventure, 71-61, at Tom Gola Arena, La Salle (20-11, 9-7) finally hit the magic mark again.
The Neumann-Goretti exacta of Tyreek Duren (21 points) and Earl Pettis (16) combined for more than half of La Salle's points against the hot Bonnies (17-11, 10-6). La Salle shot 52.9 percent.
La Salle was picked 13th in the A-10. So, to win 20 is something. The amazing thing is this team could easily have won 25 or more.
TWENTY FOR FIVE
If Saint Joseph's can win its opening-round A-10 Tournament game against Charlotte tomorrow and Penn can win at Princeton, it will be the first time in city history that five teams have won 20 games in the same season. Temple, Drexel and La Salle are already there.
THEN THERE IS VILLANOVA
When will this Villanova season ever end?
Perhaps tomorrow in a first-round Big East game against Rutgers at Madison Square Garden (9:30 p.m.), It will be No. 14 'Nova against No. 11 in a rematch of a game played last Thursday at Rutgers.
That was a 'Nova win, but definitely not a classic.
The Wildcats lost their home finale to Cincinnati, 72-68. Maalik Wayns had 26 points. He shot 9-for-16, including 5-for-9 from the arc. He needed help. 'Nova's bench scored two points.
Cincinnati (22-9, 12-6 Big East) is gearing up for the NCAA. Villanova (12-18, 5-13) is gearing up for some serious soul searching.
The record was not a fluke. This was not an easy team to watch. It was rarely pretty. Shooting was a serious issue.
So was shot selection and offensive rhythm. Defense was a big issue.
Well, there are no seniors, which could be good news. Or not.
AROUND THE COUNTRY
There will be no threepeat for Butler in the national championship game. The Bulldogs did get their seventh consecutive 20-win season and got better as the season went along. But they just were not good enough and went out in the Horizon semifinals at Valparaiso, 65-46.
Brad Stevens is still my favorite coach in America. Really, Butler to the national title game in consecutive seasons? Truly amazing.
FIRST OF 68
That would be Big South champion UNC-Asheville (24-9), which beat VMI, 80-64, in the championship game. Murray State (30-1) from the Ohio Valley and Atlantic Sun champ Belmont (27-7) soon followed.
Belmont knocked out Florida Gulf Coast for its fifth title in 7 years. Alas, that will be it for the A-Sun, since Belmont is leaving for the OVC where they can tangle with Murray State.
DOMINANT AT DOME
The only other Syracuse team besides this one to go unbeaten at home since the Carrier Dome opened in 1980 was the 2002-03 national champions, who went 17-0.
JERARDI'S TOP 15
1. Kentucky (30-1): Perfect 16-0 in SEC after 75-59 win over Florida yesterday.
2. Syracuse (30-1): Beat Louisville, 58-49, to go 19-0 at home. A mere 33,205 appeared for
3. Kansas (26-5): Thomas Robinson had 25 points and 14
rebounds in 73-63 home win over Texas.
4. North Carolina (27-4): Won ACC regular season with a blowout 88-70 win over Duke at Cameron. Kendall Marshall had 20 points and 10 assists. Shot 54.5 percent and killed Duke on glass, 45-28.
5. Missouri (27-4): A ridiculous 12-for-18 from the arc in the second half in 81-59 win at Texas Tech.
6. Murray State (30-1): Came from seven points down with 5 1/2 minutes left to beat Tennessee State, 54-52, for the Ohio Valley title. Tennessee State was the only team to beat Murray.
7. Duke (26-5): Faced worst-ever halftime deficit at Cameron, 48-24. And never got very close in the second half.
8. Marquette (25-6): Jae Crowder had 26 points and 14 rebounds in 83-69 win over Georgetown.
9. Temple (24-6): Won easily at Fordham, 80-60. Owls are going to be a very difficult team to defend in the NCAA.
10. Chester High (27-0): Clippers are on a 53-game winning streak heading into this weekend's state tournament. If they win out, they will have to be considered among the best high school teams in Pennsylvania history.
11. Ohio State (25-6): Last-second bucket gave Buckeyes share of Big Ten title with 72-70 win over Michigan State.
12. Michigan State (24-7): Spartans finished tied with Ohio State, Michigan in Big Ten.
13. Wichita State (27-5): Upset by Illinois State, 65-64, in the Missouri Valley semis. Last year's NIT champ still a dangerous NCAA team.
14. San Diego State (24-6): Won 98-92 in OT at TCU as Jamaal Franklin had 35 points. Steve Fisher's team lost all that size and is right back in the tournament.
15. Georgetown (22-7): Defense let the Hoyas down at Marquette, but this team has really overachieved.