City 6 observations, Vol. 14.

Quakers playing for their lives

For Penn, every point obviously counts since it looks as if the Quakers, 3-5 in the Ivy League, maybe have to get to 7-7 to get into the Ivy playoffs, and even that might produce only a tie for fourth. So far, Penn is 1-2 in overtime games in Ivy play. There just are no open layups in league play.

Yes, it’s weird that a team can go 4-0 in Big 5 play and still not have that many wins in the Ivies after eight games. It says something about the Ivies this season. (And the Big 5. But more about how Penn was hitting on all cylinders in December and not as much lately.)

Purists might hate the Ivy format, now in its third season. I’m completely in favor of a format that produces actual excitement all over the league virtually every weekend all season. Having a four-team playoff instead of letting all eight teams into the postseason was a smart move. The rest of the country is mostly playing for seeding and pride. Not the Ivies. Most are playing for their lives.

For those Ivy Leaguers who argue that producing one true champion is more important … yes, that was the tradition, but you’ve produced one NCAA Sweet 16 team in four decades, so get over yourselves. I do think the regular-season champ deserves reward and the current system doesn’t provide quite enough. There’s no easy fix for that, such as giving the top seed the home court, or a three-team tournament, with a bye for the regular-season champ. Both would solve that problem but create more issues.

If it so happens that Yale wins the 2019 regular-season title in the season, the Ivy tournament is in New Haven and Rasheed Wallace might approve. (Ball Don’t Lie, etc. Yalies aren’t familiar with that term? Google it.)

Unexpected turnover of events

No, nobody expected to see Villanova letting go of a 19-point lead to St. John’s. That hasn’t been the Wildcats’ M.O. at all this season. Even the big lead isn’t the usual. More like 10 minutes to go, game up for grabs, Villanova takes it.

Villanova has outperformed expectations — the smarter expectations anyway — by taking more than its share of late-game up-for-grabbers. Creighton up three, just less than three minutes left, Villanova takes it in overtime. Providence up two, 10 minutes to go, Villanova takes it. Tied with Georgetown, 7 ½ to go, Villanova takes it.

The point? Villanova has its limitations but also enough mental toughness that one big late-game clunker does not change the arc of the season. If you thought this could be a Final Four team, you were crazy, unless you meant a Loyola-like Final Four team. (Which any team that makes the NCAAs hitting on all cylinders has to think it has a shot to be.) If you think Villanova can’t win a couple of games in the tournament, you’re equally off.

One hoop-savvy emailer Monday: “The formula to beat this team is out there.”

It’s been out there, since the opener. Work to get Eric Paschall and Phil Booth off their games. Not easy to do since they are seasoned players, but no mystery. That Villanova even had a double-digit lead on a day when Paschall, Booth and Collin Gillespie combined to make 2 of 20 three-pointers is startling.

Big East regular-season game of the season will be next week, Marquette at Villanova. That’s no mystery, either.

Eric Paschall (right) of Villanova lunging to deflect the ball away from David Duke of Providence on Feb. 13.
CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Eric Paschall (right) of Villanova lunging to deflect the ball away from David Duke of Providence on Feb. 13.

Random Temple NCAA thought

The Temple Owls, square on the NCAA bubble, would be better off having VCU win the Atlantic 10 automatic bid than Davidson, since Temple beat Davidson and lost to VCU. Could competition for an at-large spot really come down to a head-to-head? Not likely, but if it does, Temple wouldn’t want to be on the wrong side of it.

Another factor in La Salle’s improvement

La Salle’s Ashley Howard mentioned recently that shortening his rotation was part of his learning curve as a new head coach. He’s got 11 players who have seen at least 20 minutes in multiple games, but there’s no way to do that every game.

While Jack Clark remains out with a “lower body” injury, the rest of the lineup decisions lately have been coaching decisions, as Howard has kept the rotation to eight or nine players.

If you had Drexel …

... third in City 6 offensive efficiency (behind Villanova and Temple, according to numbers calculated by Ken Pomeroy), give yourself a hand. The bad news for the Dragons is on the other side of the ball, where they are well behind the other locals in defensive efficiency, 330th among 353 teams.

Going out in style

Saint Joseph's guard Chris Clover driving to the basket against Penn guard Bryce Washington on Jan. 26.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Saint Joseph's guard Chris Clover driving to the basket against Penn guard Bryce Washington on Jan. 26.

Maybe Chris Clover hasn’t had quite the career he thought he’d have on Hawk Hill after being the Catholic League MVP at St. Joseph’s Prep, but give Clover a hand for finishing his career with energy even during a tough season for the Hawks.

Clover had 17 points, 10 rebounds and 2 steals for St. Joe’s on Friday at Davidson. It wasn’t enough, but Davidson won’t mind Clover moving on, since he’d also hit 4 of 5 threes, crucial ones, when the Hawks beat Davidson earlier this season at Hagan Arena.