Temple-'Nova Preview: Get Your Roll outs Ready

Temple-'Nova Preview: Get Your Roll outs Ready

Big 5 game. Big East controversy. Big student roll outs. This has the potential to special.

The Temple Owls are set to host the Villanova Wildcats from inside the Apollo on Broad. Tip-off is scheduled for 5 p.m. Saturday evening (ESPN 2 / 1210 AM).

My hype meter is off the charts. Let's blow this thing out.

[Temple-'Nova notes after the jump]

We're Looking at You, Yarou
Mouphtaou Yarou has the size and strength to swing this entire game. If you've been following our college coverage so far this year, then you are no doubt aware of Temple's injury issues and lack of height. Consequently, it will be up to the 6-9, 205-pound red-shirt freshman Anthony Lee to deal with the 6-10, 255-pound Yarou.

Outside of Lee, the next tallest Temple Owl legitimately "in" the rotation is the super-long, though nonetheless only 6-6, Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson.

If Villanova coach Jay Wright isn't running his offense straight through Yarou and directly at Lee, there will be absolutely no defense for the Wildcats if they fail to get the job done. That said, John Lamb of OwlsBlog.com raises an interesting point about the wildly inconsistent Yarou, "No Owl can match up with Yarou’s beefy 250-pound body, but the same could be said for Missouri (whose tallest active player is 6-9) and they did just fine" when Yarou finished with only 11 points in 33 minutes.

Villanova in Transition
…leaves a lot to be desired. Baiting Lee into foul trouble will force Temple make an already undersized five-man set even shorter. Though, it's tough to tell if it's really in Villanova's best interest to see Temple go small.

To borrow from Brian Ewart of VUhoops.com, "Villanova has been repeatedly burned in transition [in 2011], where players tend to take just a second too long to find their defensive assignment."

This is where Temple's Juan Fernandez could absolutely torch the 'Nova defense. Though Juan has his shortcomings, there's no denying his vision in the open floor. Combine his rapid creativity and reinvigorated jump shot with high-percentage three-point shooters in Aaron Brown and Khalif Wyatt and a difficult cover for any team in Ramon Moore, and Villanova will have its hands full in stopping the Owls.

Setting the Pace and Shooting from behind the Arc
Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek have struggled mightily from three this season, posting shooting percentages of 32.5% and 27.3%, respectively. As a team, Villanova is shooting just 35% from three.

The Owls, on the other hand, are up only four percentage points at 39% as a group, but are getting a big boost from the sudden emergence of sophomore Aaron Brown.

If Wayns and Cheek aren't hitting early, it would be in their best interests to work their way to the basket and try to get to the line, potentially putting an already undermanned Temple in foul trouble.

Where 'Nova seems better off looking to hammer the ball into the post and penetrate the lane, Temple might do well to cash in on its recent success both in transition and from behind the line. In that sense, Temple will be doing everything it can to up the pace, while 'Nova could and, probably, should look to slow things down.

Salty Student Section
With streamers outlawed, Big 5 student sections have had to embrace more fully the tradition of creating large roll out banners to taunt the opposition. Unless, of course, the game is being played at the Pavilion. Thankfully, Saturday's won't be.

Though the coaches and players will focus on the basketball and that aspect of the Temple-'Nova rivalry, it will be hard for fans to look at this game and not see more.

Expect the Temple students to have plenty to say regarding the Villanova administration and the Owls' place in the recent Big East realignment fiasco. As for the 'Nova students, I'm not sure what to expect. After all, they didn't even show up to the building in 2009.

Speaking of History
Temple has won twenty-three straight games at home, losing only to top-ranked Kansas in 2009 in their last three seasons at the Liacouras Center. Just three weeks before that blowout, the Owls knocked off then #3 Villanova on the back of a career-high 33 points from Fernandez.

Last year, Villanova held its own home court in the definition of a Big 5 classic, finishing on top 78-74 thanks to a 21 point breakout performance from Maalik Wayns.

Who will be THE GUY tomorrow?

Your relevant All-Time Statistics
Series: Villanova leads 44-41
At Temple: Temple leads 14-8
At Liacouras Center: Temple leads 3-2
Dunphy vs. Villanova: 4-13
Wright vs. Temple: 8-3

And, Finally, for You Degenerate Gamblers
The line opened surprisingly large with Temple favored by as many 9 points. Though, within the last 36 hours, that spread has shrunk to as little as 4 1/2 (see Bodog), which is far more reflective of what it should have been all along.

As always on this front, proceed as you will (and I don't want any more e-mails asking for specific advice on wagers. Well, I mean, I want them; I'm just not sure I'm allowed to respond. Or want to…I don't know (see above)).

And we'll see you post-game.

Flyers returning from World Cup enjoyed playoff-like atmosphere

Flyers returning from World Cup enjoyed playoff-like atmosphere

VOORHEES, N.J. – It’s as if the season began right where it left off for the handful of Flyers players that participated in the World Cup of Hockey. 

Five months removed from their first round series with Washington, the group that played in the international tournament says it was nearly identical to the tempo they saw in the NHL playoffs.

“Our division was really tight so right from the get-go you couldn’t afford to lose a game,” said Sean Couturier, who suited up for North America. “It definitely felt like playoffs, and it definitely didn’t feel like September.”

Couturier was joined by his World Cup teammate Shayne Gostisbehere, along with Team Czech Republic’s Jake Voracek and Michael Neuvirth, in their return to Voorhees for their first practice with the Flyers on Monday. Team Canada’s Claude Giroux and the Team Europe duo of Mark Streit and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare will be competing in the finals this week.

While it may have been an early exit for the first wave of Flyers who reported back, the experience of playing in a tournament with that high of intensity has left them more confident than they’ve ever felt at this time of the year, particularly for Gostisbehere. 

The Calder Trophy runner-up underwent offseason hip surgery following his 46-point season. Having missed a season two years ago because of a torn ACL, Gostisbehere is thankful for how much the World Cup prepared him for his second year. He says he feels better now than he ever has in his career after picking up four assists in the tournament.

“You don’t play in those games in September normally so it was pretty cool to do,” Gostisbehere said. “I think the tournament was a good stepping stone for me and to branch off my injury and give yourself the confidence that you’re feeling good for the year.”

Like Couturier and Gostisbehere, Voracek said the World Cup gameplay mirrored that of the NHL postseason. 

“When I look at the season for the Flyers, it was the best thing that could have happened for me,” Voracek said. “The World Cup was high level… I’m six games in before training camp even starts.”

After what he calls a “good offseason” of training, Voracek saw this opportunity as almost a saving grace – a chance to regain form before embarking on his sixth season in Philadelphia. The winger had one goal and one assist in three games that “felt like I was playing in the playoffs.”

Had this tournament occurred in 2015, the mindset coming back may have been different. Dave Hakstol was coaching his first professional season and as evidenced by their record to start the year and the comments made throughout, things took a little longer than expected when it came to picking up the new coach’s system.

That process is behind the Flyers, and it makes missing the first weekend of camp and possibly the first week of preseason games an easier obstacle to overcome.

“It’s always better when you know the system and what Hak wants in you,” Voracek said. “It’s obviously going to get better and better.”

The best-of-three World Cup finals will begin on Tuesday with the third game (if needed) commencing on Saturday. If the teams go the full distance, the remaining three Flyers involved would likely not play their first preseason game until October 6 if not October 8, the final exhibition game. 

Carson Wentz By the Numbers: Not much precedent for this success

Carson Wentz By the Numbers: Not much precedent for this success

The way Carson Wentz is playing, we may have to make this a regular feature.

Generally, when an Eagles quarterback plays lights out, we pull out the [Insert Name Here] By the Numbers.

We did it for Nick Foles after his seven-touchdown game against the Raiders, we did it for Sam Bradford a couple times late last year, we did it for Michael Vick a couple times during his hot 2010 season.

With Wentz? This might have to happen every week.

He's been that good.

So here is this week's Carson Wentz By the Numbers. Don't be surprised if you see it again very soon.

• Wentz is the first rookie in NFL history to have a game in which he completed 74 percent of his passes with 300 yards, two or more touchdowns and no interceptions. He’s also only the fourth Eagle to have such a game. Randall Cunningham did it against the Giants in 1988, Donovan did it four times (in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2007) and Nick Foles did it against the Raiders with his historic seven-TD game in 2013.

• Wentz is the first quarterback in NFL history to throw 30 or more passes with no interceptions in each of his first three career games.

• Wentz’s 73-yard TD pass to Darren Sproles was the longest touchdown pass by an Eagles rookie since John Reaves' 77-yarder to Harold Carmichael against the Giants at Yankee Stadium in 1972.

• Wentz is only the second quarterback in NFL history to be 3-0 three games into his rookie year. The other one is former Eagle and current Cowboy Mark Sanchez, who opened his career in 2009 with wins over the Texans, Patriots and Titans. Sanchez then lost six of his next seven starts.

• Wentz is the fourth quarterback to win his first three NFL starts (not necessarily as rookies). That list includes Wentz, Sanchez, 35-year-old Dieter Brock of the Rams in 1985 (who had played a decade in the CFL) and Marc Bulger of the Rams in 2002 (in his third NFL season).

• Among quarterbacks who’ve thrown at least 100 passes in their career, Wentz now has the second-highest passer rating in NFL history at 103.8. He trails only Aaron Rodgers’ 104.0 figure. The only other quarterback over 100 is Russell Wilson, at 101.1.

• Wentz’s 125.9 passer rating Sunday against the Steelers is highest ever by an Eagles rookie. The previous high was A.J. Feeley’s 114.0 mark against Tampa in 2001. But Feeley didn’t start that game. So the previous high by a rookie Eagles starter was John Reaves’ 105.7 rating against the Browns in 1972.

• Wentz has already tied Mike Boryla’s franchise record for most wins by a rookie quarterback. Boryla won three games in 1974. Since then, Eagles rookie quarterbacks were a combined 5-21.  

• Wentz’s 102 pass attempts without an interception are the most in NFL history by a rookie in his first three games. Second-most are Dak Prescott’s current streak of 99 attempts. The record before Wentz and Prescott came along was 86 by Chad Hutchinson of the Cowboys in 2002.

• It was widely reported that Wentz had broken the NFL record for most pass attempts without an interception to begin a career at 102. But he actually has the second-longest streak. Tom Brady began his career with 147 attempts without an interception before getting picked off by safety Eric Brown of the Broncos in his seventh career game.  

• Wentz's 103.8 passer rating is third-highest in NFL history by a quarterback three games into his rookie year. His trails only Greg Cook of the Bengals (111.9 in 1969) and Marcus Mariota of the Titans (110.3 last year). Robert Griffin III (103.5 with the Redskins in 2012) and Jacky Lee (102.5 with the Oilers in 1960) are the only other quarterbacks over 100 after Week 3 of their rookie season (based on a minimum of 50 attempts).

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