Five of the City Six men’s basketball teams will begin conference play this week, with Penn not starting until the first week of January. With the conference schedules upon us, here is a look at how each team has fared in nonconference games.
Nonconference record: 6-7.
Best win: 84-80 over Houston in the Paradise Jam (relocated from the Virgin Islands to Lynchburg, Va., because of hurricane damage). Houston won 10 of its first 12 games, with the other loss coming to LSU. This Cougars team is expected to challenge for an NCAA berth while competing in Temple’s league, the American Athletic Conference.
Worst loss: 65-53 at NJIT. The Highlanders are not a bad team, with a 7-6 record, but Drexel simply didn’t play well, shooting 3 for 21 from beyond the arc.
Outlook: Drexel, which won nine games last season, isn’t expected to compete for the Colonial Athletic Association title, but second-year coach Zach Spiker has done a good job keeping this team competitive despite several key injuries.
Nonconference record: 7-4
Best win: 67-60 victory over Clemson for the championship of the Charleston Classic. Clemson (11-1) hasn’t lost to anybody else. The Owls also had impressive wins vs. Old Dominion and Auburn in this tournament that opened their season.
Worst loss: 71-67 defeat vs. George Washington at the Capital One Arena. GW, now 6-6, shot 60 percent from the floor in the game.
Outlook: The Owls have been too inconsistent, looking great in wins over South Carolina and Wisconsin and not so great in a loss at La Salle and in their most recent defeat, 84-66 at Georgia. Temple will likely have to upset one of the AAC heavyweights, Cincinnati or Wichita State, to create a more impressive NCAA resume.
Nonconference record: 12-0
Best win: 88-72 over Gonzaga at Madison Square Garden. The Zags of this season haven’t played as well as some of their recent teams, but still are expected to be an NCAA tournament team. Mikal Bridges scored a career-high 28 points against the Zags, who were ranked No. 12 at the time.
Outlook: The No. 1-ranked Wildcats have won the past four Big East regular-season titles and remain the prohibitive favorite to make it five in a row.
Nonconference record: 5-6.
Best win: 71-58 win over Princeton behind 23 points from freshman sharpshooter Taylor Funk.
Worst loss: 98-87 to Toledo. While Toledo is a respectable 7-5, this was St. Joseph’s season opener, and, in addition to falling to the Rockets, the Hawks lost standout guard Lamarr “Fresh” Kimble with a season-ending foot injury.
Outlook: St. Joseph’s was picked to finish third in the Atlantic 10, but that was before injuries hit for the second straight year. In addition to Kimble, sophomore forward Charlie Brown Jr. has yet to play after fracturing his left wrist during the preseason. With Brown, this should be a competitive A-10 team, although opponents will focus more of their defensive effort on the 6-foot-9 Funk, who is hitting 45 percent of his three-point shots.
Nonconference record: 6-7.
Best win: 87-83 over visiting Temple. La Salle overcame an 11-point deficit midway through the second half to win behind a game-high 29 points from guard Pookie Powell.
Worst loss: 72-70 to visiting Drexel. This is no slight to the Dragons, but they were banged up and didn’t have, among others, leading scorer Tramaine Isabell, who was sidelined by a foot injury.
Outlook: The Explorers are capable of playing well against strong teams. Witness the fact no Philadelphia team played Villanova as tough as the Explorers did in a 77-68 loss to the Wildcats on Dec. 10. La Salle will need leading scorer B.J. Johnson back at full strength. He missed the Explorers’ 88-81 loss at Bucknell with an ankle injury and is listed as day to day. At this point, the Explorers haven’t been consistent enough to be considered a threat in the A-10.
Nonconference record: 8-4
Best win: 78-70 at Dayton. Even though Dayton is 6-6, the Flyers have played a difficult schedule and figure to be a factor in the A-10. The Quakers hit 13 of 22 three-point attempts and placed four players in double figures, led by junior guard Antonio Woods with 17 points.
Worst loss: 80-72 at Fairfield in the season opener. The Quakers have improved vastly since that game.
Outlook: Last season, Penn earned a spot in the first Ivy League tournament. This season, the Quakers have the ability to seriously contend for the title, especially after such a strong nonleague showing.