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While Penn's men's basketball team is on pause for this season, the other teams in the Big 5 have had mixed seasons, as Villanova started late due to COVID-19 and Temple's newest members are jelling well together.

Credit: Chase Sutton

Penn's men's basketball has been on pause since last March with the cancellation of Ivy League sports into the winter of 2021 and is the only program out of the Big 5 currently not playing basketball. We take a look at how Penn's peers are doing this season.

St. Joseph's

While men’s basketball is Saint Joe's most popular sport, under new leadership, their team has had a very rough season so far. 

The Division 1 team has a rich legacy: they competed in 21 NCAA Tournaments and 16 NIT Tournaments and 29 of their players have been drafted into the NBA. However, the Hawks face a challenging schedule this season, including competing against three nationally-ranked teams — Kansas, Villanova, and Tennessee — for the first time since 1997. 

The team's coach Billy Lange, who was hired in 2019, has not been able to live up to expectations. The squad is 0-8 among the Atlantic Conference right now and 1-13 overall. The Hawks' only victory was a close 67-64 win against Albany. 

However, guard Ryan Daly, who has been out with a hand injury, is expected to start playing in the upcoming games. Daly started the opening five games of the season and perhaps his return to the game will help turn the tides in Saint Joe’s favor. 

La Salle

La Salle has had an unprecedented start to the season, including breaking Dayton’s winning streak, postponing a game against St. Louis due to a positive COVID-19 test, and winning 89-52 over Fordham. 

The season has been mixed, as the Explorers clinched key victories, including an 84-78 win over Richmond, a pre-season favorite. La Salle’s best victory of the season, over Fordham, was largely due to the performances of starting freshmen Jhamir Brickus and Anwar Gill. Together, the two orchestrated 15 of La Salle’s 24 assists. 

The season has also been one of personal growth for the players. Junior forward Jared Kimbrough scored a career-high of 24 points, leading the Explorers to a 90-83 victory against rival Saint Joseph’s University.

However, the Explorers also suffered some disappointments, including a 75-42 loss against George Mason. Their current 7-9 overall record and 4-5 conference record leave them with catch-up work to do for the rest of the season. This will be made even more difficult by the recent departure of sophomore Ayinde Hikim.   

Temple

The 2020-2021 season has been head coach Aaron McKie’s second season with the Owls, and already he is facing the challenge of a newly shuffled roster. With the departure of several key players, the Owls have been keeping afloat with the help of solid performances from several new faces. 

Their game against Cincinnati scheduled for Jan. 19 was postponed due to positive cases in the Bearcats’ team. 

Redshirt-freshman guard Damian Dunn is the leading scorer for the Owls, currently averaging 14 points per game and aligning himself in a role of decisive leadership. Fellow freshman guard Jeremiah Williams leads the team with 4.5 assists per game and has been keeping both sides of the court in order.

Another newcomer, graduate guard Brendan Barry, has strengthened the Owls’ offense with his accurate shots, shooting 48.7% from behind the three-point line.

Their latest game against USF has been postponed; it was originally scheduled for Jan. 27. The Owls head into their next game on Jan. 31 with a 4-4 record.

Villanova

On Jan. 19, Villanova played its first basketball game after a 27-day pause due to COVID-19. After several staff and players tested positive for the virus, the team was quarantined inside hotels through the new year. 

Their COVID-19 interruption resulted in a three-game losing streak. In addition, the Wildcats' game against UConn scheduled for Jan. 28 has been postponed, with an adjusted schedule yet to be determined.

Villanova has been strong despite the interruption to its season. Currently standing at the top of the Big East table on an eight-game win streak after a loss to Virginia Tech last November. The Wildcats' rotations have been strong offensively due to strong stats from guards Collin Gillespie who is averaging 15.9 points per game, and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl averaging 14.8 points per game.

Villanova has the chance to prove itself as a top seed in the NCAA tournament in the next few months as it is not far behind current top names in the competition.

The Wildcats are on a 10 - 1 record and are due to face Seton Hall on Jan. 30.

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