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Fran Dunphy’s Temple squad will have to deal with the departures of former offensive cogs Khalif Wyatt and Scootie Randall this season.

La Salle: Fresh off a surprising Sweet 16 run in last year’s NCAA tournament, La Salle looks to build on that momentum to inch closer to an Elite 8 berth this year. Leading the charge is senior guard Tyreek Duran who has been named to his third straight Bob Cousy Award watch list, an annual award for the nation’s top point guard. Predicted to finish third in the A-10 Conference, this Philadelphia squad will definitely be contenders when the A-10 tournament rolls around. At the end of last season, the Explorers were ranked No. 24 by the USA Today Coaches Poll and return nine of their top 10 scorers from last season. Look for this guard-heavy lineup to continue to rely on its speed and athleticism to make up for their lack of size on the frontcourt. Their meteoric rise has not gone unnoticed as they have been slated for a program record 14 nationally televised games this year.

Villanova: Coming off a second round exodus from last year’s NCAA tournament at the hands of the UNC Tar Heels, the Villanova Wildcats hope to open this year on a much stronger note than last year when they were handily beaten by Columbia.

With Dylan Ennis out with a fractured hand, the Wildcats will be looking to last year’s freshman sensation and Bob Cousy Award candidate Ryan Arcidiacono to provide leadership early on. With the departure of Mouphatou Yarou, Villanova will look for their young forwards to fill in and help fight for rebounds down low. Playing in the new Big East Conference, ‘Nova’s lack of size could prove to be a glaring hole in its game plan moving forward. The ‘Cats are predicted to finish fourth in the Big East behind the Golden Eagles of Marquette, the Georgetown Hoyas, and the Creighton Blue Jays. Competing in a basketball conference stacked with teams capable of deep tournament runs will ultimately help the Wildcats mature and prepare for a deeper tournament run than last year.

Temple: After a near upset of the Hoosiers in last year’s NCAA tournament, the Owls will try to build on their momentum. Playing in the newly formed American Athletic Conference, Philadelphia’s winningest college basketball team looks to reload after losing three of their starters from last season.

With the departure of Khalif Wyatt and Scootie Randall, the Owls will need more reliable scoring options if they want to succeed in the AAC. With only one senior on the squad, Dalton Pepper, the lack of leadership on the squad could set Temple up for a large fall this year. Temple is predicted to finish fifth in the conference behind defending National Champion Louisville, the UConn Huskies, the Memphis Tigers, and the Cincinnati Bearcats. If the offense fails to come around this year however, they could fall even lower this year. In a squad low on experience, Juniors Will Cummings and Anthony Lee will look to shoulder the bulk of the offensive burden this year. Temple has become vulnerable in the Big 5 this year, and if they don’t find a fix soon, they could find themselves on the outside looking in when the tournament rolls around.

St. Joseph’s The Hawks’ atrocious forced turnover rate from a season ago – ranking just 325th in the nation – will have to improve if they are to do better than another first-round NIT exit this season.

Returning in the Hawks’ backcourt will be Chris Wilson and Langston Galloway, who each return 20 points per game from last year. Third-team All-A10 selection Ronald Roberts, Jr. will return at forward to help St. Joe’s clean the boards, having averaged a conference-leading 8.3 rebounds per contest in 2012-13. As has been the case the past few seasons, the bench remains a question mark, consisting of a cast of very unproven characters.

Drexel: Drexel’s lack of shooting last year doomed the Dragons to a sub-.500 finish last season. Picked to finish second in the CAA behind a resurgent Towson squad, the Dragons will look to find their shooting touch back if they want to contend for a CAA title this season.

Leading the charge back to the tournament is sixth-year guard Chris Fouch who looks to bring his three-point shooting acumen back to a squad that desperately needs it. Injuries plagued the team last year so the durability of this Dragon team will be tested frequently throughout the year. Facing a tough schedule of nine teams that made the tournament last year, Drexel will have their work cut out for them if they hope to break the .500 barrier this year. With a returning squad of sharpshooters, Drexel looks to rebound and contend for an NCAA tournament berth as well as a CAA Championship. The resurgent Dragons have put the Big 5 on notice that they aren’t the same team as last year – they’re better than ever.

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