Temple-St. Joseph's: 'Nuff Said

Temple-St. Joseph's: 'Nuff Said

The "most played rivalry" in Big 5 history is set to tip off for the 153rd time on Saturday afternoon when the St. Joseph's Hawks travel to North Philadelphia to take on the Temple Owls. Game time is scheduled for 4 p.m. from the inside the sold-out Apollo on Broad (The Comcast Network, 1210 AM).

This is the first meeting between the sides since the Temple student section held a mock funeral for the Hawk last season. Though the ceremony was pretty clever (and remarkably well-executed), it only seemed to spark a renewal in the St. Joseph's program, jump-starting the Hawks on a 17-11 run since that afternoon (Feb 20, 2011). Really, the steak was even more impressive (14-6) before the team lost five of its last eight.

And so, here we are to catch you up on both the Owls and Hawks heading into Saturday's A10 matchup. All the relevant news and notes (including C.J. Aiken in short-shorts!) after the jump…

How They Got Here
As mentioned above, St. Joseph's (13-8, 3-3) has lost five of its last eight and has struggled since forfeiting a five game win streak to Harvard on Dec. 31. That said, after dropping four of five, the Hawks came away with a huge 77-63 home win against the Dayton Flyers on Wednesday night. The Flyers were 14-5 to that point and 4-1 in conference, having beaten both Temple and La Salle within the month of the January.

Temple (14-5, 3-2), meanwhile, is on a three game win streak since taking an absolute pounding on the road at Richmond on Jan. 14. Since that time, the Owls won a close contest against La Salle, picked up their second victory against the ACC this season in their win over Maryland and claimed victory at Charlotte's Halton Arena for the first time in the program's history. The team has also welcomed senior Micheal Eric back into the lineup, after the 6-10 center missed a full eight weeks with an injury to his patella.

Hot 'n' Cold
Saint Joseph's junior guard Carl Jones was absent for the team's Jan. 14 loss to the Xaiver Musketeers and has struggled with his shot as of late. Jones, who shot exactly 50% from the floor for the first month of the season, has gone a less than stellar 11-41 over his last four games (27%). Still the team's leading scorer at 16.7 points per game, Jones could figure a difficult cover for the Owls, who struggle with small guards.

For Temple, junior guard Khalif Wyatt -- last year's A10 Sixth Man of the Year who was promoted to the starting lineup due to the absence of medical redshirt Scootie Randall -- has scored 20 or more points in five of his last seven games. He comes into Saturday's contest shooting 41% from behind the three point line and a career best 48% from the field. He trails only senior guard Ramone Moore (17.2 ppg) for the team lead in scoring at 16.3 points per game.

Battle of the Bigs
Though the talent of each team's respective backcourt (Jones and Galloway v. Wyatt, Fernandez and Moore) is well-documented, the matchups under the basket are not to be overlooked.

Temple has played small for the majority of the year, placing the 6-9 but paper-thin Anthony Lee as undersized center beside the 6-6 Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson as an undersized power forward.

The Hawks, on the other hand, feature three bigs who all see substantial minutes in C.J Aiken, Ronald Roberts and Halil Kanacevic. Aiken (who is second in the nation in blocked shots with 4.3 per game) and Roberts (who was apparently born to dunk a basketball) can both jump out of the building, presenting almost constant alley-oop possibilities for any guard with his head up. Add to that Kanacevic, who presents a very difficult cover as a 6-8 forward with skills both down low and on the perimeter, and Temple is going to have its hands full.

The key to the game could be the contributions of Eric, who has played only 24 of a possible 80 minutes since his return. On the floor for just seven minutes against Maryland, he was able to take on another 10 at Charlotte for 17 total on Wednesday night. Seeing another increase of 10 -- from 17 to 27 -- is probably wishful thinking, but solid contributions for anywhere from 20-25 minutes could really prove valuable for the Owls.

Without an inside presence, Temple may be forced to have its veteran backcourt and sharpshooting sophomore Aaron Brown launch jumpers from the perimeter. As a team, Temple is shooting 39.4% from three, good enough 23rd in the nation and second overall in the A10.

We're Going Streaking
Temple has won its last nine in a row over Saint Joseph's. The Hawks last win in the series came way back in 2008 when Pat Calathes hit a late three to upend Temple at the Liacouras Center. The Owls would go on to win that season's rematch at the Palestra shortly thereafter, before ultimately defeating the Hawks in the rubber match for the 2008 Atlantic 10 Championship.

Since that time, St. Joe's has struggled on and off the floor, losing both games and recruits over three forgettable seasons. The rivalry had become so temporarily lopsided that the Temple students went so far as to host this memorable funeral for the Hawk last season:

Unamused, Martelli was quick to remind reporters after the game just how cyclical these matters can be. Prior to the Owls ripping off nine in a row, the Hawks had actually taken 11 of the last 12, dating back to the 2002-03 season.

With SJU once more on the rise, Saturday should finally prove an even matchup.

Is This the Big 5 Game?
No, that will be played on Feb. 25 at the SJU Fieldhouse. Current Big 5 standings and remaining schedule listed below:

Temple               2-0
Saint Joseph's      1-1
Villanova            2-2
La Salle              1-1
Penn                   1-3

Sat. Feb. 4 -- La Salle vs. St Joseph's (The Palestra)
Wed. Feb. 22 -- Temple at La Salle (The Gola)
Sat. Feb. 25 -- Temple at St. Joseph's (The Fieldhouse)

So This Video Showed up Yesterday
Apparently the folks over at Yahoo! Sports have their own version of a hidden camera show called "BlindSided." While we don't know exactly when this prank took place, given the details mentioned in the film ("Saturday," "rivalry game," "retro night"), it's possible that it could have been this week, with the Temple game as the primary motivation/selling point. Honestly, C.J. Aiken wearing these for 40 minutes would just…

…moving on.

Coaches versus Cancer
Members of both coaching staffs will be donning "suits and sneakers" tomorrow in support of the American Cancer Society. Learn more here.

Relevant Numbers to Consider if You're into That Sort of Thing
The online oddsmakers at VegasInsider have Temple favored by 6.5 as of 9 a.m. Saturday morning. The over/under is listed at 141.5 total (down 1.5 from Friday night).

History
Series: Temple leads 87-65
At Temple: Temple leads 45-18
At Liacouras Center: Temple leads 8-6
Dunphy vs. Saint Joseph's: 15-16 (9-4 with Temple)
Martelli vs. Temple: 16-22
Streak: Temple has won last nine in a row
Lasting Meeting: Temple defeated St. Joe's 66-52 on Feb. 20, 2011 at the Liacouras Center. See recap here.

Most Recent Turning Point in the Series

And we'll see you postgame.

Tranquillo Barnetta will not return to Union next season

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USA Today Images

Tranquillo Barnetta will not return to Union next season

Tranquillo Barnetta is going home.

In an abrupt announcement on Tuesday, the Union declared that the skillful Swiss attacking midfielder will not renew his contract with the club and will return to Switzerland following the 2016 season to play for his hometown club, FC St. Gallen.

According to MLS Players Union, Barnetta’s exit will free the Union of $687,500 next season.

“The entire soccer community here was so welcoming and I’m so thankful to everyone at Philadelphia Union for making me feel so appreciated,” Barnetta said. “Playing in front of my friends and family and making plans for life at the end of my career where I want to live is a force I can’t resist.”

Although the timing of the announcement is a surprise, the move isn’t one. With Alejandro Bedoya now in the mix, currently playing out of position in a box-to-box midfield role, the Union will replace Barnetta with Bedoya at the center attacking midfield spot. It’s a position that Bedoya is comfortable in, playing there with his previous club, FC Nantes.

Bedoya played for the injured Barnetta in the center midfield spot last Saturday and scored his first goal of the season in a 1-1 draw with Toronto FC.

But even with Bedoya ready to take over, the Union will miss Barnetta. Since joining the Union in 2015, Barnetta, 31, has been one of the better possession playmakers in MLS, scoring six goals and seven assists in 37 games.

“Tranquillo has been a key piece in what we’re trying to build here in Philadelphia but we appreciate his decision to return to Switzerland,” said Union sporting director Earnie Stewart, whose club has three matches left in the 2016 season, and will likely make the playoffs. “We look forward to continuing to push for the postseason.”

As Eagles enter bye, Doug Pederson aims to thwart complacency

As Eagles enter bye, Doug Pederson aims to thwart complacency

The Eagles are 3-0. They’re alone atop the NFC East and have been the biggest surprise of the young NFL season.

Doug Pederson’s message to his team: You haven’t done anything yet.

Although the Eagles are riding high, Pederson doesn’t want his team to change its outlook or hard work. That’s what teams have to worry about once they’ve found some success.

“The biggest thing is complacency,” Pederson said Monday. “You think you've arrived. You think you are all that. When that creeps in, that's when you get beat. It's my job not to let that creep in. I've got to keep the guys focused and grounded. I told them this week they're going to travel and go home and people are going to pat them on the back and say how great they are.

“But next Monday, I'm going to tell them, ‘Hey, we're back to work. We're 0-0. This is Game 1 and let's go.’ That's just the way it has to be. You are building for one ultimate goal and that's a few weeks down the road. That's what you are trying to get to. But you can't get there unless you take care of the next opponent. It's my job to keep them focused that way.”

Being 3-0 (they’re one of five 3-0 teams) gives the Eagles a head start, but it certainly doesn’t guarantee them a playoff spot. This is the ninth 3-0 start in franchise history. They’ve made the playoffs just five times in the previous eight. And they recently missed the playoffs after starting 3-0 in 2014 under Chip Kelly.

In NFL history (before this season), there have been 276 teams to start with 3-0 records. Of them, 200 (72.3 percent) have made the playoffs.

“We just have to approach it the same, one day at a time,” Pederson said. “That's the way this business goes. You are on top of the world one minute, and you can be at the bottom of the heap the next. Just got to keep things even-keeled and can't get too high, can't get too low. Approach it the same. Like I mentioned earlier, you can't substitute for hard work. That pays off on Sundays. We just have to stay the course. Again, a lot of football left.”

While the Week 4 bye comes pretty early, the Eagles have a couple key players who will use the time to get healthy. And Connor Barwin pointed out that the bye is coming about closer to the halfway point between when the team started its tough training camp and the end of the season.

Pederson told his players to use the week to get away from football and free their minds. Meanwhile, Pederson and his coaches will use the extra time to self-scout and prepare for the final 13 games of the regular season.

With a first-year head coach and a rookie quarterback who was thrust into action a week before the opener, expectations outside (and perhaps inside) the building were tempered.

The Eagles aren’t an underdog anymore.

“We kind of enjoyed flying under the radar, but obviously a win like this against a team like the Steelers will open some eyes around the league,” Malcolm Jenkins said. “For us, nothing different. We’ll keep our preparation the same. We’ll stick our heads down and focus on the work day to day and understand what’s gotten us to 3-0.”

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