Christmas break, a good time to take a look at the state of the College teams I follow, namely the Big 5 and Drexel. What have they achieved so far and what can be expected.
St Joe´s: The loss to Holy Cross seemed a little unnecessary and I thought they would be closer to both Alabama and Creighton. Combine that with the fact that a win over Indiana certainly isn´t as good as it looks and they´ve been rather disappointing. However lately there have been signs of improvement and the next game against Siena could be pivotal for the whole season. The two games after that they should win and early league play doesn´t look too daunting so hopefully they can gain some confidence before they face the bigger guns of the conference. Ahmad Nivins is the key player averaging a double-double and two blocks per game. He´s been shooting 68,3% from the floor so far. They have been relying very heavily on their starting five and hopefully the bench can start contributing as well. A place in the NCAA tournament is possible but they really cannot afford many more losses. A place in the NIT is more probable.
Villanova: Only one loss so far but the schedule hasn´t been too difficult. They have some nice wins against Rhode Island, St Joe´s and La Salle but that tell us they would fare well in the Atlantic 10. Now we want to see if they can compete in the Big East. Before that however they will try to wrap up the Big 5 with a win against Temple on Monday. Casiem Drummond has transferred but he has contributed very little, in part thanks to injuries, and the Wildcats has a deep roster so that is not so worrying. As always life in the Big East is not easy, especially this year but I think they have a good chance of repeating last years place in the sweet sixteen. They certainly aren´t a worse team than last year. Wildcats always seem to be a bit underrated and I think maybe teams like Marquette and Louisville are just a tad overrated.
Penn: The game on Monday at Central Florida will be the first for the team in three weeks! It must feel like they start the season all over again. And maybe that would be a good thing, the Quakers have only one win so far. However they have been playing some decent teams and they don´t have many experienced players so it´s not that big a surprise. Apart from Kevin Egee and Harrison Gaines they´re mostly sophomores and I actually think that come Ivy league play they will be able to compete there. It will be hard to get by Cornell and maybe Harvard but it´s not like they´re out of it. They will not win many before league play however and will have to use the rest of the non-league schedule to gel as a team. The future looks brighter than most think though with promising players like Tyler Bernardini and Zach Rosen.
Drexel: Blowout losses against Georgetown and Memphis. Coach Flint suspended for one game. Only two wins. There hasn´t been many positive signs so far on a Drexel season that started out so well with a win on national tv against the neigbours from across the street. The problem has been the shooting. The Dragons average only 33,1% from the floor and that can´t continue. Looking at league rivals the second worst team is Hofstra at 39,1% with every other team above 40%. Imagine what their record would be if their shooting had been just a bit better in all those close losses they suffered in december. The way it looks there will be no postseason play for Drexel this season but hopefully they will pick things up once league play starts in earnest.
La Salle: A bit of an enigma this team. They´re playing UConn close and they have lots of trouble beating Bucknell. However if they can get some consistency they will be a very good team. They might just land in the NCAA tournament though it will take a phenomenal run in the A10 to get there. Rodney Green and Kimmani Barrett are the best scorers on the team, however they like to spread it out with six players averaging 7 or more points per game. Mississippi state transfer Vernon Goodridge hasn´t been bad but will get even better when he learns to adjust to the Explorers style of play. He is a very good shot blocker, he already has 22 blocks in 10 games.
Temple: What a great win against Tennessee! And with those losses to Buffalo and Miami of Ohio they might need it to get into the NCAA Tournament. Or they could just repeat the A10-tournament win from last year of course. Clearly the goal has to be a place in the Tournament but it won´t be easy to get there and they can´t afford any more losses against supposedly inferior teams. It will be interesting to see how Juan Manuel Fernandez will fit with the team when becoming eligible next game at Villanova. The talk so far has been about Dionte Christmas of course(20,8ppg) but Lavoy Allen is nearly averaging a double-double, Sergio Olmos has been shooting really well and so on. They have a few players who can step up and be gamewinners and that´s a good sign. And they still have the chance of winning the Big 5!