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.
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.
The (Not Free-Throw) Line
Four hours to tip and Temple is a three-point favorite.
Have Fun Tonight You Crazy Kids