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Andy Katz, Correspondent | November 17, 2017

Andy Katz: Big Five change? UCF injuries, UCLA adversity and more

  Anthony Cowan is bringing the kind of effort Mark Turgeon expects from his second-year guard.'s Andy Katz is down in Lynchburg, Va., for the 2017 Paradise Jam, where he's bringing the latest news from the teams competing, as well as a few extra nuggets from around the college basketball world.

1. Drexel coach Zach Spiker said this is not his idea on how to change the Big Five in Philadelphia, but if it comes to fruition he will support it 100 percent. I love it. The Big Five has a long history and tradition in one of the greatest basketball-loving cities in the country. Going to the Palestra to watch a game between one of the five schools should be a must on the docket of things to do in the sport. But the rivalries have been a strain on Villanova’s schedule and are a constant issue.

So, the idea that Spiker said is floating around would be to have all six schools (yes, including Drexel) in a season-opening weekend event to create crazed interest in the sport. The matchups among Villanova, Temple, Saint Joseph’s, La Salle, Penn and Drexel would be done via the previous season’s final RPI. If you were to pull this off in one weekend at the Palestra then it would take the burden off of Nova to wedge in the four rivalry games throughout the course of the season. It would also create a much-needed buzz. 

Now, yes, Saint Joseph’s and La Salle are in the same league in the A-10. So? If they ended up playing in a non-conference game in addition to the in-conference matchup, that’s fine. As the sport looks for different ways to make a splash this is one option that could help.

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2. UCF was supposed to be a real challenger for a top three finish in the AAC and it still might be but injuries are taking a toll. Guard B.J. Taylor is out with a broken foot for a month. Aubrey Dawkins, Johnny Dawkins’ son, is done for the season due to a should injury. And Tacko Fall is out with a sore hip. The Knights literally limp into Saturday’s game against William & Mary at 2-0 but uncertain about the health of the roster with larger games looming like Nebraska, Missouri and at Alabama.

“I’ve learned that our team is resilient,’’ UCF coach Johnny Dawkins told “We’ve had different guys step up. The energy and enthusiasm has been good. BJ is out 4-6 weeks and Tacko is close to returning and it may be for the next game (Saturday).’’

3. Maryland always seems to have that lead guard who can carry the Terps, right? Well, add Anthony Cowan to that list. He scored 25 points and grabbed 10 boards in the win earlier this week over Butler in the Gavitt Tipoff Games in College Park. He plays hard, knows where he wants to go with the basketball and has elevated his game. That’s exactly what Maryland will need this season.

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“He has always been an assertive player,’’ Maryland coach Mark Turgeon told “He feels more comfortable this year and he’s playing with confidence.’’ Cowan will have more tests coming up with games against Bucknell Saturday, St. Bonaventure and at Syracuse in the coming weeks.

4. UCLA is off to a chaotic 2-0 start with three players indefinitely suspended for shop lifting on the trip to China and then a wild 106-101 overtime win over Central Arkansas. But the one constant has been freshman Kris Wilkes. He’s averaging 19 points and 8 boards in 31 minutes in the two games.

“He’s extremely talented," UCLA coach Steve Alford told “He can score in a variety of ways. Defensively there are a lot of areas to improve." The Bruins are thin on depth, but having a star like Wilkes (great history) will help offset the depleted roster numbers.

5. The headlines of the Hurricanes that devastated the Caribbean have passed as new crisis emerge in the news. But not for someone like Liberty’s Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz. The Flames' lead guard is from Ponce, Puerto Rico. His parents Jorge and Kitty were in Lynchburg for the Paradise Jam. They haven’t had power for 48 days, having to use a friend’s place for any internet, phone and basic service access.

MORE: Your complete guide for college basketball's early season tournaments and events

Getting to Virginia was a chore, as it’s extremely difficult to get on a plane out of San Juan. Ponce is far south of the capital city and was as hard hit as other places on the Island. Pacheco-Ortiz said he went a week without hearing from his parents after the Hurricane hit. Liberty University reacted to the news and sent a group down to Ponce to help, specifically due to it being his hometown.

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