Temple Plays Faux-Host to No. 53 Duke at Wells Fargo Tonight

Temple Plays Faux-Host to No. 53 Duke at Wells Fargo Tonight

As part of their pseudo-home-and-home agreement with the Duke University Blue Devils (12-1), the Temple Owls (9-3) will meet the fifth (or third) best team in country tonight at the Wells Fargo Center.

Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. (ESPN 2 / 1210 AM).

Injuries have played a big role in the Owls' season, but Temple will not look any more short-handed than when it takes the floor against Duke. With Mason Plumlee, Miles Plumlee and Ryan Kelly all checking into the game at 6-10 or more, Temple simply cannot match that height with only 6-9 freshman Anthony Lee and 6-6 junior Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson.

To make matters worse, Temple had its serious difficulties giving up dribble-penetration into the lane in its last outing, a 66-63 win over the Delaware Blue Hens. And while the Owls may have been able to overcome their struggles at both ends against lesser opponents like Delaware and Buffalo in games that went down to the wire, dealing with Austin Rivers, Seth Curry and all that height are altogether different obstacles.

For Temple to hang in this game, it will not only need to improve its perimeter defense, but also dramatically improve its jump shooting. Starting guards Juan Fernandez, Ramone Moore and Khalif Wyatt have gone a combined 29 for 92 (31.5%) over their last two games, while the team as a whole has shot well under 40%.

What has helped the Owls over that stretch is their fantastic work on the glass, nabbing more than 15 offensive rebounds in each of their last two games. But against the height of Duke, unless long rebounds start becoming super-long rebounds, the Owls may not have enough to speed to overcome the sheer size of the Duke frontcourt. Either way, the Temple guards will need to crash the glass hard and hopefully use their limited size to their advantage in generating extra possessions.

As for the glass at the other end, Temple is going to need to push the ball off every single defensive rebound. With the way they have struggled in the half court and the obstacles Duke will present inside, Temple has to do its real damage in transition—the Khalif Wyatt pull-up three, for example.

Sadly for the Owls, it is doubtful that Mike Kryzyzewski will make the same mistake Jay Wright did earlier this season in going small in an to attempt to better match up on defense. Duke is a big program and its bigs under the basket are its biggest strength against a team like Temple. Consequently, the Owls only recourse will be to fight like hell and use every bit of their speed and depth at the guard position to play a drastically different style than their opponent.

The first five to ten minutes are going to especially key for Temple in terms of setting the tone. They cannot afford to the play the basketball they have over their last two outings if they are going to have any shot at even staying with Duke, let alone beating them. If the guards can find their missing jumpers and Temple can use its small size to its advantage both in transition and crashing the offensive boards, than the undersized and undermanned Owls can give the Dukies a game. On the hand, if they start as slow and out of sync on offense as they have of recent, this one could be over early.

------------------Notes--------------------

Temple is not Afraid (is not Afraid)
Inspirational quotes from Juan Fernandez and Khalif Wyatt on tonight's game courtesy of Keith Pompey's ever-brilliant work on the Owls Inq. blog at Philly.com:

--  “I don’t think we are ever going to approach a game by saying let us lose by less points,” Temple point guard Juan Fernandez said. “No team should approach a game like that, especially not us. That’s not how we’ve done it in the past few years. And that’s not our mentality.

“We are practicing to beat Duke. And it will be a statement if we win.”

-- “We don’t do moral victories around here,” Temple guard Khalif Wyatt said. “We are trying to win. And we are going in thinking we can win and knowing we can win.

“We are confident. Coach [Fran Dunphy] is confident. And we are just going to prepare like we prepare for every game.”

Future Owls in Attendance?
Pompey is also reporting that recruits Rysheed Jordan (Vaux) and Jeremiah ("LUUUMP") Worthem (Math, Civics & Sciences) will be in attendance for tonight's game. Temple, Villanova and Maryland are all figured to by frontrunners for the 6-6 Jordan, while Temple has already offered (the also 6-6) Worthem a scholarship.

Home Sweet [Wells Fargo Center]
I was going to go off on this myself—and did touch on it toward the bottom of this post just a little bit yesterday—but John Lamb over at the OwlsBlog really nailed it with his thoughts on Temple signing up for more of a home-and-neutral than a true home-and-home.

That said, maybe the Owls should be grateful. I've become quite partial to that Liacouras Center unbeaten streak Temple has put together since its last loss at home to then-No. 1 Kansas in January 2010. No reason to waste that baby on the Blue Devils (code for "unlike Juan, Khalif and Marshall, I am afraid").

Taking on Duke with and without Lavoy Allen
Before this even begins, I am not, nor should anyone at this stage, even think about comparing a first-year Anthony Lee to a fourth-year Lavoy Allen.

With that out of the way, and with injuries to Scootie Randall and Michael Eric once more plaguing the Owls, this is the exact same Temple lineup that took on the Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor last season, save, of course, for the Lee-Allen swap and the addition of freshman Will Cummings off the bench.

Again, this is not a Lee vs. Allen comparison because that would be wholly pointless. It is, however, a call to recognize just how invaluable Lavoy Allen was to this basketball team as the only man in the middle for those Temple supporters and Lavoy detractors who complained of the 6-9 power forward's soft play over the last two months of last season.

You're right, they would have stood a much better chance in double overtime against San Diego State had he fouled out with four to play in regulation (code for "you're wrong").

The Plumvi in a Pistachio Ad

Playing Blue Devil's Advocate:

When this post first went live, I actually had a few anti-Duke videos posted at the bottom and a picture of a t-shirt (now seen
to the right) which reads "Friends Don't Let Friends Root for Duke." I even took a cheap shot at them yesterday, posting a wholly unnecessary video of Jon Scheyer walking on three separate occasions just for laughs.

Frankly, it's as fun for some of us to root against Duke as it is for plenty of you to root for Duke (without any reasonable affiliation on either side). The Blue Devils are nothing short of the New York Yankees of college basketball, a comparison not without its limitations, but with some very real similarities built in once you tease it out.

But regardless of what you think about Blue Sox Nation (spineless bunch of frontrunners) or even the way in which the university recruits, Krzyzewski's methods are becoming harder to argue against in the current age of college athletics. I realize there are some legitimate grievances about just who Duke is and is not interested in when it comes awarding scholarships, and I am plenty sympathetic to those who may have felt or even currently feel slighted by the program.

That said, as far as the absolute top of the coaching world goes in today's game, Coach K's program at Duke could be nothing further than those team's put together by someone like John Calipari. The kids come in, play hard and, in many cases, graduate without a barrage of NCAA infractions. One-and-dones are the new reality in college basketball and its come time to accept that, which K ultimately has. He also appears, at least for now, to have accepted it without harming his program.

I add this section not because I'm really a Duke supporter, but because I realized how hypocritical it was to post an image of that t-shirt when I fully allow my very closest friend to root for Duke as he so pleases. Then again, he's also a Calipari fan. So, I guess these things don't have to make sense.

Relevant History
All-Time Series: Duke leads 18-9
Coach K vs. Temple: 11-1
Dunphy (at Temple) vs. Duke: 0-3
Streak: Duke has won last nine straight
Last Meeting: Duke won 78-61 at Cameron Indoor Stadium on February 23, 2011. Kyle Singler led all scorers with 28, while Temple's Lavoy Allen posted a 17 and 13 double-double.
Last Meeting at Wells Fargo: Duke won 74-64 on January 9, 2008. Dionte Christmas led all scorers with 23, while Mark Tyndale had 20.

We'll see you post-game.

NFL Notes: Dolphins' Dion Jordan reinstated by NFL after sitting out 2015

NFL Notes: Dolphins' Dion Jordan reinstated by NFL after sitting out 2015

DAVIE, Fla. -- Miami Dolphins defensive end Dion Jordan has been reinstated by the NFL after sitting out last season for his latest violation of the league's substance abuse policy.

Jordan applied to the league in May for reinstatement, and he was cleared to return Friday as the Dolphins held their first training camp practice.

The overall No. 3 selection in the 2013 draft out of Oregon, Jordan has contributed little so far in his career. He's coming back from his second suspension under the NFL substance abuse policy.

Jordan has played in only 26 games with one start, totaling 46 tackles and three sacks. The Miami group that drafted Jordan is gone, and he returns to a new coaching staff led by head coach Adam Gase.

JAGUARS: Lee sidelined with hamstring injury
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Oft-injured receiver Marqise Lee stayed healthy for one day in training camp.

The Jacksonville Jaguars held Lee out of practice Friday with a left hamstring injury, the latest setback for a third-year pro who can't seem to stay on the field.

Lee has missed significant time with ankle, hamstring and knee injuries. He practiced so little last summer that offensive coordinator Greg Olson said Lee was "like the albino tiger at the zoo. If you get there and you're lucky enough to get him to come out of the cave and see him, it's a good day."

Lee embraced the nickname, but had hoped to make it part of his past and not a pattern. Now, he's back on the sideline.

Running back T.J. Yeldon (right ankle) also was held out.

SAINTS: Nicks joins camp roster
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Former New York Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks has joined the New Orleans Saints at training camp.

Nicks, who practiced with New Orleans for the first time on Friday, is taking a spot on the 90-man preseason roster that opened up when the Saints placed Vincent Brown on injured reserve.

The 28-year-old Nicks, who posted 1,000-yard seasons in 2010 and 2011, has been far less productive since and likely will need to demonstrate the promise of a significant resurgence to make the regular season roster.

Last season, he played in only six games with the Giants, catching seven passes for 54 yards and no touchdowns.

Now he'll try to carve out a role on a New Orleans receiver corps led by Brandin Cooks, Willie Snead, Brandon Coleman and rookie Michael Thomas.

DOLPHINS: Team confident stadium renovations will be completed on time
DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins say their $500 million stadium renovation will be completed as scheduled and in time for the team's final exhibition game Sept. 1.

Work continues 24 hours a day on upgrades that include a canopy. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said Friday the stadium will be ready for the preseason finale against the Tennessee Titans.

The Dolphins say the Miami Hurricanes will open their season at the stadium as scheduled Sept. 3 against Florida A&M.

Ross says the Dolphins' 2015 and 2016 seasons left an eight-month window for the renovation, which normally would have taken about 12 months.

He says there's no backup plan for a Dolphins game site if the stadium isn't ready on time.

Jason Peters: 'So long as I'm healthy, I'm going to be a dominant force'

Jason Peters: 'So long as I'm healthy, I'm going to be a dominant force'

Jason Peters long has been the foundation of the Eagles' offense, so much so its success seems to be tied to his play. At least, it's probably no coincidence the club's last two losing seasons -- 2012 and 2015 -- corresponded with injuries to the left tackle.

To the extent quad and back injuries hurt Peters' performance last year, or how much of his decline can be traced to the fact that he turned 34 in January, nobody can say for sure. Either way, there's plenty of skepticism as to whether he's still reliable, much less if he can return to his All-Pro form.

For what it's worth, Peters doesn't sound like he shares those concerns. He arrived at training camp feeling rejuvenated and believes he has some good years left.

"I feel like I have gas in the tank," said Peters following Thursday's first full-team practice. "Before I got hurt, I wasn't even getting beat. At the same time, we were 1 on 1 on every play. Those guys get paid too, so you're gonna win some, you're gonna lose some."

Peters described himself as being at 75 percent for much of last season, adding that he doesn't need any extra motivation or feel as though he has anything to prove.

"No, I'm in Philly," said Peters. "Y'all get on me every year. I've been here since '09, and I've had a chip on my shoulder ever since I [came into the league] in '04, so I just come to play. The fans deserve championships and division titles, so that's what I'm striving for."

The eight-time Pro Bowler used the Eagles' Week 17 finale against the New York Giants -- a game in which he kept veteran defensive end Robert Ayers (now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) at bay -- as evidence he can still play.

"I show them every year," Peters says of his critics. "I got banged up last year, and then we finished with a win against the Giants. If you put the tape on, Ayers was trying to beat me. He was a free agent and he's a good rusher.

"So as long as I'm healthy, I'm going to be a dominant force."

Strong words, but Peters has reasons to feel confident beyond recovering from injuries.

Last season, he showed up for camp at a reduced weight, a decision offensive linemen often make in an effort to prolong their careers. While it's worked for others, Peters now believes it wasn't the right move for him.

"I tapered down last year and I felt like it took away from some of my game a little bit. This year I put on about 10 to 12 (pounds) and I feel real good. I feel stronger and I'm ready to go," said Peters, adding that he's back back to his preferred playing weight of 345.

But perhaps the aspect Peters is most optimistic for in 2016 is the head coaching change to Doug Pederson and how that equates to a return to a familiar offensive system and approach.

Peters is incredibly versatile and could've played in any scheme, at least he could in his prime. Based on some of the other comments he made however, clearly he did not find Chip Kelly's methods to be ideal (see story). More specifically, he made no secret of his affinity for Pederson's mentor and long-time Eagles head coach Andy Reid.

"Just getting back into this, the ground and pound, the old Andy Reid offense, I'm excited," said Peters.

"I can adjust to any offense, you've seen that," Peters continued. "From (offensive line coaches) Howard Mudd to (Jeff Stoutland) to (Juan Castillo), they all teach different schemes and different techniques, and it really doesn't matter. I'm happy to have the Andy Reid era back, which is Doug, and I'm ready to go."

Pederson also plans to rest Peters during the season in an effort to keep the aging left tackle ready for gameday, which he admits "caught up to" him last season.

Despite his confidence level remaining high, Peters is realistic too and understands he can't play in the NFL forever. While he wouldn't go so far as to put an expiration date on his career, he knows at this point that any season could be his last.

"I'm year to year," Peters admitted. "I don't want to put a number on it. You can watch me out here, watch some of the younger guys, and you can be the judge."

Maybe that's why 2015 under Kelly was an especially tough year.

"It was frustrating," admitted Peters. "An older guy like me, I'm just trying to get that ring, and to keep losing like that, it was hurtful."

Beyond getting healthy, most of all Peters just sounds happy to put the drama of the past year behind him. And despite all of the concerns over what he has left, there's little doubt he still gives the Eagles to win on Sundays when he's in the lineup.

Eagles camp Day 5 observations: Rough day for the quarterbacks

Eagles camp Day 5 observations: Rough day for the quarterbacks

The Eagles were forced to practice inside the bubble for the second straight day, even though the rain subsided shortly after it began.

Still, with how sloppy the quarterbacks were indoors, it’s probably a good thing the team wasn’t outside. It might have been even worse.

This was the first real full-team practice of camp, but tomorrow morning will mark the first day in pads, followed by Sunday’s open practice at the Linc.

Here are some observations from Friday:

• Brandon Brooks (hamstring) and Ryan Mathews (ankle) were still out. In their places, Stefen Wisniewski and Darren Sproles took most of the first-team reps. Head coach Doug Pederson said Brooks and Mathews are day to day and he expects to have them back next week.

• The quarterbacks looked bad in 11-on-11s. All of them. Overthrows, underthrows, balls behind receivers – this morning’s practice really had it all. They all struggled.  

• Sam Bradford overthrew his receivers several times and opened up 11-on-11s with an underthrown ball that was picked off. He also threw the ball behind a few players.  

• Chase Daniel had one bad overthrow to Chris Givens that forced him out of bounds in 11-on-11s just about a minute after Bradford did the same thing to him. After the second one, Givens turned around and was visibly frustrated by the throws.

• Carson Wentz continues to struggle finding timing with some of the third-string receivers. No, many of these guys won’t make the team, but after a week of throwing to these guys, you’d figure they’d be on the same page a little more.

• One impressive play Wentz did make, though, came when he was forced up in the pocket. Clearly the most athletic quarterback on the roster, Wentz moved up and found tight end M.J. McFarland on the run. It was a big play because we know Wentz can take off and run, but here he had the presence of mind to keep his eyes downfield.

• It seemed like Jordan Matthews, Chris Givens and Nelson Agholor were the three receivers who were on the field most with the first team. But Josh Huff and Rueben Randle did get some first-team snaps. Agholor had a pretty good day and made a great diving catch during the individual portion of practice. And Huff got some work in the slot.  

• It wasn’t just the receivers who rotated with the first team on Friday. On defense, while Leodis McKelvin, Ron Brooks and Nolan Carroll got most of the reps with the ones, Eric Rowe and Jalen Mills got a couple too.

• And Rowe made the best of it. His “hiccups” this spring were well documented (see story), but on the first play of 11-on-11s, he made a nice leaping interception on an underthrown ball from Bradford. Earlier this week, he said he thinks he corrected his problems and is looking forward to proving himself when the pads come on.  

• The offense spent some time working on end-arounds. Matthews got one, Huff got another. They also played around with some fake end-arounds. Maybe they’ll never use them in a game, but they exist as a reminder that this playbook is significantly more in-depth than Chip Kelly’s.

• Many fans I’ve heard from just expect Cody Parkey to easily win the kicker job over Caleb Sturgis. Well, that’s not happening so far. I thought, at least in the practices we saw, Sturgis was much better than Parkey this spring. That has now continued into camp. Sturgis was perfect on Friday, while Parkey missed two makeable field goals. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Sturgis beats him out.

• On one play in 11-on-11s, it looked like Nigel Bradham screwed up his assignment, which left Zach Ertz wide open in the middle of the field. Ertz tripped over his feet, but it had the potential to be a touchdown play. Afterward, Malcolm Jenkins went over the play with Bradham on the field. That tells you how smart Jenkins is. Bradham has played in this defense before, but Jenkins is the one there to help him go over the play. Jenkins is a Pro Bowl caliber player, but means more to the team than his individual play.

• The orange linebacker donuts were back today. This time, they were paired with a giant ball. I don’t tire of watching these drills. I can’t think of any relevant reason to do so, but I’d like to see the linebackers dive through the donut one time.