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.