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.

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

NEW ORLEANS -- The weeks and months have quickly piled up. Nerlens Noel has not played an NBA regular-season game since last season ended for the Sixers on April 13. Nearly eight months later, Noel is nearing the return he has been eyeing for quite some time now. 

“It’s always an excitement to be able to play basketball after this amount of time, including the summer, not being able to play organized basketball at a competitive level,” Noel said Thursday. “I’ve been really looking forward to this. I think I’ve gained some momentum coming back from this minor surgery, and I think I’m in a really good place and I’m feeling good with my body. Everything is on point.”

Noel has been sidelined since undergoing elective left knee surgery in October to address an inflamed plica. He traveled to New Orleans on Wednesday to join the Sixers ahead of their 99-88 win over the Pelicans (see game recap). Noel continued his rehab Thursday while the team prepped for the game. 

“I’ve been able do five-on-five, full contact,” Noel said. “I’ve tried to maximize my opportunities of that with the team being gone on the road. I came down here and went through most of shootaround and it went well. Now these next couple of days, [I will be] going through practice, still working on my wind. I do like where I’m at now.”

The Sixers’ next game is Sunday against the Pistons in Detroit. Brett Brown had given Noel’s availability for that game a “maybe” (see story)

“I’m not sure,” Noel said of playing Sunday. “I’m ready to go with these next couple of days and see how my wind feels and how my body feels, which I have been feeling good. So it’s a possibility.”

When Noel does return, there is a scenario in which he could be paired with center Joel Embiid. Last year, the Sixers struggled finding the best way to utilize Noel and Jahlil Okafor, also a center, at the same time playing the four and five positions. As Okafor has said of playing with Embiid, Noel also believes his off-the-court friendship with the towering rookie would translate onto the court. 

“I think it would be something that’s experimented,” Noel said. “It’d definitely be interesting.”

Noel candidly expressed his opinion of the Sixers’ logjammed frontcourt at the start of the season. Since speaking to the media after his surgery, Noel has mentioned he is in a good mental place (see story). For him, that means being out on the court again. 

“I love myself and I love the game of basketball,” Noel said. “When I step out here to come and play, it just brings a lot of enjoyment and excitement to me. Regardless of what the details of it are, I just love the game and I’m happy to just be playing.”

Best of NHL: Flames edge Coyotes in OT for fifth straight win

Best of NHL: Flames edge Coyotes in OT for fifth straight win

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dougie Hamilton scored 1:09 into overtime, Chad Johnson stopped 27 shots and the Calgary Flames beat the Arizona Coyotes 2-1 on Thursday night.

Mark Giordano scored for the Flames in a chippy game filled with big hits and multiple fights.

Hamilton capped a fast-paced overtime by deking Arizona's Mike Smith with a forehand before flipping in a backhander. Calgary has won five straight and eight of 11 (8-2-1).

Max Domi scored before leaving with an upper-body injury and Smith stopped 33 shots for the Coyotes, who have lost six straight and 11 of 14 (3-7-4).

Arizona captain Shane Doan became Arizona's all-time assist leader and is the fifth player in NHL history to own his team's records for games played, goals, assists, points, game-winning goals and power-play goals (see full recap).

Crosby, Penguins roll over Panthers
SUNRISE, Fla. -- Sidney Crosby got his 18th goal and added an assist to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins over the Florida Panthers 5-1 on Thursday night.

Conor Sheary, Tom Kuhnhackl, Matt Cullen and Carl Hagelin also scored for Pittsburgh. Matt Murray made 28 saves.

The Penguins have won four straight and five of their past six.

Jaromir Jagr scored his 755th career goal, and Roberto Luongo stopped 25 shots for the Panthers. Luongo allowed three goals on Pittsburgh's first five shots.

Panthers coach Tom Rowe, who replaced Gerard Gallant on Nov. 28, made his home debut. The Panthers have lost five of six under Rowe, but managed a point in three of those losses (see full recap).

Price loses cool as Habs beat Devils
MONTREAL -- Carey Price lost his temper after being bumped twice in his crease and made 19 saves to help the Montreal Canadiens beat the New Jersey Devils 5-2 on Thursday night.

Torrey Mitchell scored twice and Phillip Danault, Artturi Lehkonen and Max Pacioretty also had goals for the Canadiens in their return from a five-game trip.

Adam Henrique scored a goal and set up one by Taylor Hall for New Jersey, which ended a two-game winning streak.

Montreal had a season-high 49 shots on Cory Schneider.

A wild first period included three goals, four goal reviews and Price's meltdown (see full recap).