The college basketball season in Philadelphia is right around the corner. Actually, some Big 5 teams will be in action this weekend. ESPN college basketball analysts Dick Vitale and Jay Bilas offered their views on Drexel and Saint Joseph’s basketball teams this week. Drexel and Saint Joseph’s are favored to win the Colonial Athletic Association and the Atlantic 10 Conference championships, respectively.
“When you look at Drexel, Bruiser (Flint, head coach) has done a heck of a job down there,” Vitale said. “Those kids play hard, they play with passion, feeling, and they’ve got a nice nucleus coming back. You talk about St. Joe’s, it’s going to be dynamite this year. They’re in a tough conference. That conference doesn’t get any publicity. There’s probably nine good teams, with the addition of Butler now and VCU in that conference takes them to another level.”
“The one thing I love about the Big 5 is the emotion, the passion, the level there. It’s obviously not the level that it was years ago, but it still makes for some interesting, exciting competition, and I think that’s healthy for the game, I really do.”
Bilas envisions a big year for the city teams. Like Vitale, he’s very impressed with the Dragons and the Hawks.
“I think it’s going to be a great year in the Big 5,” Bilas said. “Villanova will be better, and I think there will be more experience. They’ve got some good newcomers coming in. I think that we might wind up saying at the end of this that Saint Joseph’s is the best team because they’ve got some really good experience coming back. I’m a big fan of their guards. Carl Jones is a scoring guard, a senior and then Langston Galloway is probably one of the five or 10 best shooters in the country.”
St. Joe’s had a solid turnaround last season after a disappointing 2010-11 campaign when they lost 22 games. The Hawks registered a 20-14 mark and an NIT berth last season. Under head coach Phil Martelli, the Hawks were one of nine teams to win 20 games a year after losing 20 the previous season.
Bilas really likes the team’s depth and complementary pieces.
“CJ Aiken is a really good shot blocker, the (Ronald) Roberts kid, I know he was more of a reserve last year, kind of a sixth-man type, but he’s a guy doesn’t matter whether he starts or not. That’s a really good team that’s paid their dues together and they’re not going to take anything for granted.”
Bilas said Drexel is probably the best team in the CAA and is the preseason favorite along with Delaware.
“Drexel will probably play with even a little bit more of a chip on its shoulder, not that Bruiser doesn’t have it on both shoulders for that team. But not having gotten into the tournament after winning 27 games last year, they made the most compelling case of any team that didn’t get in that they should have gotten in, and I’m a big fan of Frantz Massenat (Drexel point guard). He’s a Jersey kid and a really terrific player.”