Saint Joseph's Hosts Temple with Big 5 Title on the Line

Saint Joseph's Hosts Temple with Big 5 Title on the Line

The Temple University Owls and Saint Joseph's University Hawks have not played a game inside the SJU Fieldhouse since 2001. This will be their first meeting inside the newly refurbished Hagan Arena.

And really, is there any better way for it to happen? By night's end, either one or both of these schools will leaving with the Big 5 Championship.

Tipoff between the (18-11, 8-6) Hawks and (22-5, 11-2) #22/22 Owls is scheduled for 7 p.m. (ESPN U / 610 AM / 1210 AM)

Pre-Gamer, a brief lamentation of round-robin series without tiebreakers, open letters to each student section and make-shift hype packages after the jump…

How We Got Here (Conference Play)
The Owls are the winners of their last 11 games in a row, 10 of which have come in Atlantic 10 play. The streak is the longest by an Owls program since the 1999-2000 season, when a John Chaney Temple team led by senior Pepe Sanchez reached as high as fifth in the nation. Temple is 10-0 since the return of starting center Micheal Eric.

After an absolutely awful patch mid-season that saw SJU lose five of seven games and start just 2-3 in conference, the Hawks have rebounded nicely to 6-3 since. They had won three in a row prior to dropping a game at home to Richmond Wednesday night. At 8-6, the Hawks are one of four eight-win teams in the A-10 -- alongside Xavier, UMass and Bonnies -- vying for a first round-bye in the conference tournament. Should they not lock down an automatic pass to AC, the Hawks will more than likely be hosting a game on its own campus in round one.

How We Got Here (Round-Robin Play)
The Owls have won two of their three Big 5 victories in overtime. The first came on the first night of their season at the Palestra against Penn. The second came just three nights ago inside the Gola against the La Salle. A win would hand Temple its second solo Big 5 Title in the last three seasons. It would be their 26th city title -- the most of any program -- and just their second 4-0 sweep of the Big 5 in 24 years (though that stat is a little misleading for obvious scheduling reasons).

Saint Joseph's started off its Big 5 schedule by kicking the holy hell out of the Villanova Wildcats from inside what appeared to be (we're sorry we couldn't make it) an absolutely rocking Fieldhouse. They then badly outplayed played a La Salle team who somehow managed to take them to the wire at the Palestra just three weeks ago. Unfortunately for the Hawks, they ended up dropping a game to Penn in the middle of their 2-5 January swoon and find themselves 2-1 in round-robin play.

With a win tonight, SJU would secure a share of its first Big 5 championship since Jameer Nelson and Delonte West's perfect regular season of 2004. It would the school's 19th title.

How Is There Not a Tiebreaker?
Really, an extra game is obviously unworkable, but how is a head-to-head tiebreaker not invoked to declare a solo champ each season?

Sure, a win tonight would be special enough for SJU -- for the reasons further outlined below -- but two teams sharing a title at 3-1 is just lame. We also grant, by the way, that Temple's semi-annual playing of both La Salle and St. Joe's would make a head-to-head tiebreaker just a little disingenuous, but it wouldn't make any less sense than the system we have now when one game counts and another doesn't.

Institute a tiebreaker. That is all.

We're Going Streaking
Temple has won its last 10 straight versus Saint Joseph's. That streak is one game shy of the longest streak by either program. SJU had previously won 12 of 13 on two separate streaks of five and seven games before the current trend in Temple's favor. The Hawks have not beaten the Owls since Jan. 26, 2008 at the Apollo, when Pat Calathes nailed a three with 11 seconds remaining, forcing an off-balance something or other by Mark Tyndale that wouldn't fall, resulting 68-67 victory for the St. Joe's.

You Guys Better F@#$ing Bring It Tonight
Dear Saint Joseph's Students,

You went bat-crap crazy insane during the Holy War. You stormed the floor after beating #17/19 Creighton. You haven't played Temple at home since 2001. Temple hasn't won at the Fieldhouse since 1999. Your school deliberately cost itself a larger attendance for this game in an effort to generate the most insane and beneficial atmosphere possible. As a Temple alum -- I am obligated to hate you. As a basketball fan -- I demand you lose your collective *stuff* tonight.

Thanks,
Nick

Dear Temple Students,

You threw a funeral for the Hawk last year. You organized a whiteout against Xavier. You had projectiles not-so-gently lobbed at you at the Gola. You haven't played St. Joseph's at the Fieldhouse since 2001. You haven't won at the Fieldhouse since 1999. Their school deliberately cost itself a larger attendance for this fame in an effort to generate the most insane and beneficial atmosphere possible. You're outnumbered. Sound like you aren't.

Thanks,
Nick

The (Not Free-Throw) Line
Four hours to tip and Temple is a three-point favorite.

Have Fun Tonight You Crazy Kids

Report: Sixers' Ben Simmons will undergo surgery next week for foot injury

Report: Sixers' Ben Simmons will undergo surgery next week for foot injury

Ben Simmons will reportedly need surgery and the theory that his recent weight gain caused his injury looks to be false.

The Sixers believe Simmons suffered an "acute injury" not related to him adding over 30 pounds of muscle. The rookie will undergo surgery next week, according to ESPN's Marc Stein

Simmons played at LSU at 217 pounds and was up to 238 before the draft. On media day, he said he was up to 250.

The news of surgery is a little disappointing. As a guest on CSNPhilly's SportsNet Central, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Mark Schwartz, who is not treating Simmons, gave some insight into what a fracture to the fifth metatarsal could mean. Surgery could mean a lengthy recovery, according to Schwartz. If it is the dreaded Jones fracture, it'll be tough to know Simmons' timetable.

"The prognosis is still good, but we know that Kevin Durant had a Jones fracture and he was out for an entire season because of it not healing," Schwartz said. "But the prognosis is good, however, the question is whether it's going to require surgery or not."

Per Stein, Simmons requires surgery. Schwartz said that surgery would involve inserting a screw to repair the fracture.

With how the Sixers have handled their prospects in the past and the way they've been cautious with the likes of second-year player Jahlil Okafor, they'll likely be conservative when assessing Simmons' possible return.

Eagles bye week: Team soaring up national power rankings

Eagles bye week: Team soaring up national power rankings

After handling two inferior opponents in the Browns and Bears, the Eagles' Week 3 matchup with the Super Bowl-hopeful Steelers was viewed as a barometer to gauge just how good Carson Wentz and Co. really were.

Despite their 34-3 shellacking of the Steelers, no one came rushing to label the Eagles as the team to beat in the NFC nor as legitimate Super Bowl contenders less than a quarter of the way through the season, and understandably so. 

But as the Eagles go on their Week 4 bye, the national media has begun to buy stock in the Birds as a playoff team following their 3-0 start, a far cry from the bottom-five team many projected them to be in 2016.

Here's what they're saying about the Eagles during their bye week:

Power Rankings
Many in the national media expected the Eagles to flop in 2016, but since the start of the season the Birds have experienced a rapid rise in power rankings. 

ESPN: No. 7 

CBS Sports: No. 5 

FOX Sports: No. 5 

NFL.com: No. 6

USA Today:  No. 4

Carson Wentz for ... MVP?
Through the first three games of his NFL career Carson Wentz has been nothing short of stellar. The rookie quarterback has posted a 64.7 completion percentage, five touchdowns and a 103.8 passer rating, all while throwing zero interceptions. 

Is it safe to say Wentz is the early leader in the clubhouse for Offensive Rookie of the Year? Sure. How about for league MVP? It may sound crazy, but Jeff Dooley of The Washington Post would tab Wentz as the Most Valuable Player through three weeks for being the league’s best quarterback thus far.

"Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz is off to the best three-game start that Pro Football Focus has ever recorded from a rookie QB in 11 seasons of grading players,” Dooley wrote. “His 90.5 grade (on a 0-100 scale) is not only better than the three-game starts of each of the star rookies from 2012’s renowned QB class (Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck, Washington’s Robert Griffin III and Seattle’s Russell Wilson, all of whom led their teams to the playoffs in Year 1, and by season’s end ranked among PFF’s top 15 quarterback grades), but it is the top mark among all QBs so far for the 2016 NFL season.”

Show the defense some love too
Enough Carson Wentz talk, how about this Eagles defense?

Jim Schwartz’s unit paces the NFL in total points allowed (27), is third in total sacks (10), fourth in yards per game (274.3) and seventh in total turnovers (eight).

Under the tutelage of Schwartz this defense has come a very long way since last season, when opposing offenses torched the Eagles for an average of 26.9 points on 400-plus yards per game. 

According to Kevin Patra of NFL.com, that improved defense is so important because it’s going to keep the Eagles alive in games when Wentz is having a rough outing.

"With Fletcher Cox making an early case for consideration behind Von Miller in the Defensive Player of the Year discussion, Brandon Graham in a defense better suited to his talents and a playmaking safety duo in Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod, the Eagles defense is soaring,” Patra wrote. “Through three games it's the prefect mesh of talent and scheme. If Wentz ever stumbles this season, the Eagles' D will be there to help prop up the rookie and get through a rough outing or three."

Playoffs?
The Eagles had the longest odds (plus-600) by a wide margin to come out of the NFC East before the season began. Now, they’re the favorites (2/1) to capture the division crown as they sit alone atop the NFC East.

There's still a lot of football left to be played, including all six division games, but the Birds simply reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2013 with a rookie quarterback and first-year head coach would be an impressive feat. 

According to Peter King of Sports Illustrated the Eagles' ceiling is even higher than just a division title and a playoff berth.

"It shouldn’t be happening this fast for the Eagles, coming up from 7-9 with a rookie head coach and a rookie quarterback from North Dakota State and a defense that needed a new leader," King wrote. "But it is, and there’s nothing fluky about it. The Eagles are legitimate deep-into-January contenders right now."