Saint Joseph's Hosts Temple with Big 5 Title on the Line

Saint Joseph's Hosts Temple with Big 5 Title on the Line

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.

Thanks,
Nick

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.

Thanks,
Nick

The (Not Free-Throw) Line
Four hours to tip and Temple is a three-point favorite.

Have Fun Tonight You Crazy Kids

Give and Go: How much credit does Brett Brown deserve for Sixers' improvement?

Give and Go: How much credit does Brett Brown deserve for Sixers' improvement?

With the team at the All-Star break, our resident basketball analysts will discuss some of the hottest topics involving the Sixers.

Running the Give and Go are CSNPhilly.com producer/reporters Matt Haughton and Paul Hudrick.

In this edition, we analyze the job head coach Brett Brown has done this season.

Haughton
Brown's performance has already resulted in more wins than any other season under his leadership, but it continues to be a complex judgment.

He's still tied to an extremely young roster, which lends itself to the high number of turnovers, mistakes coming out of timeouts and defensive breakdowns. 

However, he has managed to get several players to show growth in their games and make sure the Sixers remain balanced even with Joel Embiid's emergence. That can also be attributed to Brown's emphasis on state of play and not state of pay.

He turned to T.J. McConnell ($874,636 salary) at starting point guard over Sergio Rodriguez ($8 million) because the second-year pro has proven to be a better fit and has routinely moved Gerald Henderson ($9 million) from starter to reserve.

Then of course, there has been Brown's handling of the Sixers' mashup at center. The coach has found each guy minutes when he can and, according to the players, been up front about all potential minutes and trade scenarios.

Perhaps Brown's finest job this season has come in a role he thought was over: team delegate. Once Sam Hinkie exited and Bryan Colangelo proclaimed he would be more open with information, Brown certainly had to think his days of standing in front of the media to explain every single thing going on with the franchise were over. Think again. 

Still, Brown's been there each day, answering just about every question thrown his way from injuries to trade rumors. If nothing else, he deserves to be commended for dealing with that ... again.

Hudrick
It's amazing what a few NBA-caliber players can do.

After accumulating a 47-199 record over his first three seasons, Brown has led the Sixers to a 21-35 mark so far this season. Sure, much of the credit for the team's success has to do with adding legitimate NBA talent (and a legitimate NBA star in Embiid). With that said, you're finally starting to see Brown's fingerprints on the Sixers.

A protégé of Gregg Popovich's with the Spurs, Brown preaches defense and ball movement. The Sixers' defense has been a catalyst for their success this season. As Brown says in his Bostralian accent, the defensive end is where the Sixers' "bread is buttered." 

With unselfish players with decent court vision like Dario Saric and Gerald Henderson added to the mix, the Sixers don't look like a total disaster in the half court. They're ninth in the NBA at 23.5 assists per game. They haven't finished higher than 15th in the league in any of Brown's three seasons. 

When you consider what Brown has gone through and how he's managed to keep everything positive, it's incredible. Hinkie pegged Brown as his guy, knowing that Brown was an excellent teacher and had the right attitude to deal with losing. You have to be encouraged by what you've seen out of Brown and the Sixers this season.

Flyers Skate Update: Power play shakeup seems to be working

Flyers Skate Update: Power play shakeup seems to be working

VOORHEES, N.J. — They had taken another “0-for” on the power play on the road and lost a game in which they deserved to at least get a point.

Dave Hakstol had seen enough. Numbers don’t always tell a story. Yet, in the Flyers' case, they did: 4 for 42 on the power play over 12 games, including that 3-1 loss at Calgary.

The next morning in Edmonton, Hakstol met privately with Jakub Voracek to discuss, among other things, the power play. That night, Hakstol moved Voracek off the first unit power play and replaced him with Ivan Provorov.

He then told Shayne Gostisbehere to change his location on the power play on the half wall and let Provorov, the Russian rookie, worry about the blue line.

In the two games since, the power play is 3 for 6 and has the Flyers back up to ninth in the NHL after falling to 13th during that 12-game span of utter futility.

How the power play goes tonight against the Washington Capitals is critical if the Flyers have any shot of taking points away from the top club in the league.

“It’s a little bit different look,” Hakstol said. “We’re comfortable with either of the setups we have there. Whether it’s with Jake on the flank of the [Claude] Giroux unit or having Ghost there.

“Both are effective. Within the game, we can go back and forth with the other. We’ve had some pretty good play out of the other unit, regardless of the setup.”

Provorov has a very accurate point shot. Gostisbehere has the hardest shot of any on the top unit. The rest of the first unit – Giroux, Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds – hasn’t changed.

“We can’t score,” Provorov said bluntly. “We needed to change something up to spark the scoring. It definitely helped us. Now the two units have a different setup in the zone.

“Just a little different. It took us first game to get used to. We did pretty good in the second game [Vancouver].”

Ghost has never played the half-wall. He thinks this will help him snap a 32-game goal drought. He had three assists – two on the power play – against the Canucks on Sunday.

“It’s completely different,” Gostisbehere said. “I’ve always been at the top [blue line]. It’s definitely a different perspective from that view. I think I’ll get a lot more shots and plays that can be made.”

Voracek watches him when that unit is on the ice and offers advice after the shift.

“I have been talking to Jake a ton for pointers,” Gostisbehere said. “When I am out there, if you see something I could have done, please tell me. He is such an easy guy to talk to. He will give you the pointers right away.”

Hakstol said moving Ghost closer to the net has a payoff.

“He is in a pure one-timer side there if he gets himself in the right position,” Hakstol said. “But there is still some work we have to do there in terms of his overall positioning in that spot.

“He brings a different element than Jake does in that spot. Both of them were very, very effective in that spot. They just have different weapons.”

Even though there have been changes, Voracek still rotates back to the first unit if Provorov is on the ice the previous shift before the power play begins.

Because of Travis Konecny’s knee and ankle injuries, Sean Couturier’s second unit has changed the most. Mark Streit anchors from the point with Coots, Nick Cousins and Matt Read below the blue line and Voracek on the right-wall.

That unit has more player rotation on the ice than the top unit.

Hakstol doesn’t buy the argument the Flyers' power play crashed because it became too predictable. 

“In the game now, there’s not much hidden,” Hakstol said. “Everyone knows what the other team is trying to do, regardless of 5-on-5 or special teams.

“For us, it was a good time to make a small change that changes the look for our guys on the ice.”

Loose pucks
• A dozen players showed up for the optional morning skate at Skate Zone, more than half of what was expected. 

• Michal Neuvirth will start in goal tonight against Washington. 

• On Tuesday, Voracek got hit with a puck below the belt, during a tip drill in which Voracek tipped a shot into himself. “Feeling better,” he said today. 

• This morning was goalie Steve Mason’s turn to get hit. He took a point shot from Andrew MacDonald in the mask. Mason was temporarily shaken but no damage to either him or his mask.  

Lineup
F:
Schenn-Giroux-Simmonds
Weise-Couturier-Voracek
Raffl-Cousins-Read
VandeVelde-Bellemare-Lyubimov

D: Provorov-Manning
Gostisbehere-Streit
Del Zotto-Gudas

G: Neuvirth