Temple Plays Faux-Host to No. 53 Duke at Wells Fargo Tonight

Temple Plays Faux-Host to No. 53 Duke at Wells Fargo Tonight

As part of their pseudo-home-and-home agreement with the Duke University Blue Devils (12-1), the Temple Owls (9-3) will meet the fifth (or third) best team in country tonight at the Wells Fargo Center.

Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. (ESPN 2 / 1210 AM).

Injuries have played a big role in the Owls' season, but Temple will not look any more short-handed than when it takes the floor against Duke. With Mason Plumlee, Miles Plumlee and Ryan Kelly all checking into the game at 6-10 or more, Temple simply cannot match that height with only 6-9 freshman Anthony Lee and 6-6 junior Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson.

To make matters worse, Temple had its serious difficulties giving up dribble-penetration into the lane in its last outing, a 66-63 win over the Delaware Blue Hens. And while the Owls may have been able to overcome their struggles at both ends against lesser opponents like Delaware and Buffalo in games that went down to the wire, dealing with Austin Rivers, Seth Curry and all that height are altogether different obstacles.

For Temple to hang in this game, it will not only need to improve its perimeter defense, but also dramatically improve its jump shooting. Starting guards Juan Fernandez, Ramone Moore and Khalif Wyatt have gone a combined 29 for 92 (31.5%) over their last two games, while the team as a whole has shot well under 40%.

What has helped the Owls over that stretch is their fantastic work on the glass, nabbing more than 15 offensive rebounds in each of their last two games. But against the height of Duke, unless long rebounds start becoming super-long rebounds, the Owls may not have enough to speed to overcome the sheer size of the Duke frontcourt. Either way, the Temple guards will need to crash the glass hard and hopefully use their limited size to their advantage in generating extra possessions.

As for the glass at the other end, Temple is going to need to push the ball off every single defensive rebound. With the way they have struggled in the half court and the obstacles Duke will present inside, Temple has to do its real damage in transition—the Khalif Wyatt pull-up three, for example.

Sadly for the Owls, it is doubtful that Mike Kryzyzewski will make the same mistake Jay Wright did earlier this season in going small in an to attempt to better match up on defense. Duke is a big program and its bigs under the basket are its biggest strength against a team like Temple. Consequently, the Owls only recourse will be to fight like hell and use every bit of their speed and depth at the guard position to play a drastically different style than their opponent.

The first five to ten minutes are going to especially key for Temple in terms of setting the tone. They cannot afford to the play the basketball they have over their last two outings if they are going to have any shot at even staying with Duke, let alone beating them. If the guards can find their missing jumpers and Temple can use its small size to its advantage both in transition and crashing the offensive boards, than the undersized and undermanned Owls can give the Dukies a game. On the hand, if they start as slow and out of sync on offense as they have of recent, this one could be over early.

------------------Notes--------------------

Temple is not Afraid (is not Afraid)
Inspirational quotes from Juan Fernandez and Khalif Wyatt on tonight's game courtesy of Keith Pompey's ever-brilliant work on the Owls Inq. blog at Philly.com:

--  “I don’t think we are ever going to approach a game by saying let us lose by less points,” Temple point guard Juan Fernandez said. “No team should approach a game like that, especially not us. That’s not how we’ve done it in the past few years. And that’s not our mentality.

“We are practicing to beat Duke. And it will be a statement if we win.”

-- “We don’t do moral victories around here,” Temple guard Khalif Wyatt said. “We are trying to win. And we are going in thinking we can win and knowing we can win.

“We are confident. Coach [Fran Dunphy] is confident. And we are just going to prepare like we prepare for every game.”

Future Owls in Attendance?
Pompey is also reporting that recruits Rysheed Jordan (Vaux) and Jeremiah ("LUUUMP") Worthem (Math, Civics & Sciences) will be in attendance for tonight's game. Temple, Villanova and Maryland are all figured to by frontrunners for the 6-6 Jordan, while Temple has already offered (the also 6-6) Worthem a scholarship.

Home Sweet [Wells Fargo Center]
I was going to go off on this myself—and did touch on it toward the bottom of this post just a little bit yesterday—but John Lamb over at the OwlsBlog really nailed it with his thoughts on Temple signing up for more of a home-and-neutral than a true home-and-home.

That said, maybe the Owls should be grateful. I've become quite partial to that Liacouras Center unbeaten streak Temple has put together since its last loss at home to then-No. 1 Kansas in January 2010. No reason to waste that baby on the Blue Devils (code for "unlike Juan, Khalif and Marshall, I am afraid").

Taking on Duke with and without Lavoy Allen
Before this even begins, I am not, nor should anyone at this stage, even think about comparing a first-year Anthony Lee to a fourth-year Lavoy Allen.

With that out of the way, and with injuries to Scootie Randall and Michael Eric once more plaguing the Owls, this is the exact same Temple lineup that took on the Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor last season, save, of course, for the Lee-Allen swap and the addition of freshman Will Cummings off the bench.

Again, this is not a Lee vs. Allen comparison because that would be wholly pointless. It is, however, a call to recognize just how invaluable Lavoy Allen was to this basketball team as the only man in the middle for those Temple supporters and Lavoy detractors who complained of the 6-9 power forward's soft play over the last two months of last season.

You're right, they would have stood a much better chance in double overtime against San Diego State had he fouled out with four to play in regulation (code for "you're wrong").

The Plumvi in a Pistachio Ad

Playing Blue Devil's Advocate:

When this post first went live, I actually had a few anti-Duke videos posted at the bottom and a picture of a t-shirt (now seen
to the right) which reads "Friends Don't Let Friends Root for Duke." I even took a cheap shot at them yesterday, posting a wholly unnecessary video of Jon Scheyer walking on three separate occasions just for laughs.

Frankly, it's as fun for some of us to root against Duke as it is for plenty of you to root for Duke (without any reasonable affiliation on either side). The Blue Devils are nothing short of the New York Yankees of college basketball, a comparison not without its limitations, but with some very real similarities built in once you tease it out.

But regardless of what you think about Blue Sox Nation (spineless bunch of frontrunners) or even the way in which the university recruits, Krzyzewski's methods are becoming harder to argue against in the current age of college athletics. I realize there are some legitimate grievances about just who Duke is and is not interested in when it comes awarding scholarships, and I am plenty sympathetic to those who may have felt or even currently feel slighted by the program.

That said, as far as the absolute top of the coaching world goes in today's game, Coach K's program at Duke could be nothing further than those team's put together by someone like John Calipari. The kids come in, play hard and, in many cases, graduate without a barrage of NCAA infractions. One-and-dones are the new reality in college basketball and its come time to accept that, which K ultimately has. He also appears, at least for now, to have accepted it without harming his program.

I add this section not because I'm really a Duke supporter, but because I realized how hypocritical it was to post an image of that t-shirt when I fully allow my very closest friend to root for Duke as he so pleases. Then again, he's also a Calipari fan. So, I guess these things don't have to make sense.

Relevant History
All-Time Series: Duke leads 18-9
Coach K vs. Temple: 11-1
Dunphy (at Temple) vs. Duke: 0-3
Streak: Duke has won last nine straight
Last Meeting: Duke won 78-61 at Cameron Indoor Stadium on February 23, 2011. Kyle Singler led all scorers with 28, while Temple's Lavoy Allen posted a 17 and 13 double-double.
Last Meeting at Wells Fargo: Duke won 74-64 on January 9, 2008. Dionte Christmas led all scorers with 23, while Mark Tyndale had 20.

We'll see you post-game.

Flyers, at this point, should sell a few valuable veterans ahead of deadline

Flyers, at this point, should sell a few valuable veterans ahead of deadline

Dave Hakstol’s Flyers returned home from Vancouver on Monday not quite resembling conquering heroes.

Sure, they salvaged two points from their three-game trek to Western Canada, but for a team that supposedly sees itself as a wild card, that just ain’t gonna get it done.

The Flyers required at least four points — ideally, five — from the trip to give us some proof they’re a legit contender for the wild card.

Right now, their wild-card hopes remain on life support.

Yes, they’re only two points behind Toronto. Thing is, the field of wild-card contenders have officially caught up and even passed them.

When the Flyers left for the trip, they were even in points with the Maple Leafs while holding down the 9-seed in the Eastern Conference. Toronto had the second wild card.

Hakstol's team is the 11-seed now. Toronto, Florida and the New York Islanders are ahead of them with games in hand.

This trip should offer enough evidence to general manager Ron Hextall that his team is still floundering.

There are no moves Hextall can initiate at the trade deadline that will guarantee a playoff spot without mortgaging the future.

Since their return from the All-Star break, the Flyers are 3-5-1. Those numbers don’t suggest they’re headed to the playoffs.

And even if the Flyers were to qualify as the second wild card, they would face a very early exit against the Washington Capitals.

Again.

At this point, with the March 1 NHL trade deadline staring Hextall in the face, he has to be a seller at the deadline.

If you trust Hextall’s long-term plan of patience, you understand that what this is about is preserving assets and preparing young players to be integrated into the system next year and the year after, and the year after that.

Mark Streit and Michael Del Zotto are two unrestricted free agents who could help someone else right now.

Streit has been strong this season on the power play, which is his forte. He’s the perfect deadline rental.

Even if Hextall would like to have Streit’s veteran leadership on the blue line next season on a one-year, low salary to “tutor” Robert Hagg or Sam Morin or Travis Sanheim, he could still move Streit now and re-sign him later this summer.

Del Zotto, at 26, will get a nice return in draft picks or a prospect. Del Zotto is going to want a big contract this summer (he’s making $3.87 million now).

There’s no incentive for Hextall to go that direction given the sheer number of young, outstanding defensive prospects in the system that will be arriving shortly, all of whom come with very low salary cap hits.

Don’t blame Hextall for not getting involved in the Matt Duchene/Gabriel Landeskog saga that is going on in Colorado. GM Joe Sakic is asking a lot.

Hextall seems reluctant to part with any future prospects or young players just to get the same in return.

Much of the fan base has been saying for a while now it’s time to move team captain Claude Giroux. He's in the midst of his fourth consecutive season in which his numbers have declined, and in some respects, dramatically from his two best seasons — 2011-12 (93 points) and 2013-14 (86 points).

Yet there is no indication from Hextall or anyone in the Flyers' organization that such is even being contemplated.

Or that the organization feels Giroux’s leadership abilities have been assumed by Wayne Simmonds, who is arguably the most popular Flyer, two years running now.

Hextall still sees veterans such as Giroux, who is only 29, as a player who would help the transition of younger pups coming along — Travis Konecny, German Rubtsov, Nick Cousins, Jordan Weal, etc. — and he also believes Giroux can recapture his offense.

In short, Hextall is not going to tear his roster apart nor is he going to make a blockbuster trade next Wednesday. But he will likely try to sell veteran assets that make the team younger in some way.

Which is the correct thinking for the Flyers now and right into this summer, as well.

Why the Eagles should ignore big names and buy low at wide receiver

Why the Eagles should ignore big names and buy low at wide receiver

It won't be a surprise if the Eagles go after a big name wide receiver.

The team's receivers were a disaster last year. There's the fact that among the Eagles' receivers, Jordan Matthews' 11 yards per catch led the group (minimum 10 catches). Matthews' also led the receivers in touchdowns with four. The team dropped 24 Carson Wentz passes, the fourth-most for a quarterback last season.

So Alshon Jeffery or DeSean Jackson would be a no-brainer, right? Maybe not.

At the moment, the Eagles' cap situation isn't ideal. Surely they'll take a few more steps to clear space, but signing a high-priced receiver isn't the right way to allocate that money.

Jeffery and Jackson have their pros and cons. Jeffery had two elite seasons in 2013 and 2014, but his last two seasons have been mired by injuries and a PED suspension. Despite being 30, Jackson still has the ability to stretch the field, but his red flags are well-documented. According to Sprotrac, Jeffery is scheduled to become the sixth-highest paid receiver, while Jackson will be the 19th-highest paid.

Sure, there are other options. Veteran Kenny Britt enjoyed a renaissance season under new Eagles receivers coach Mike Groh in L.A. and he's still only 28. He's also coming off a 1,000-yard season and could cash in on that. There's also Kenny Stills, who is only 24 and coming off a season where he averaged 17.3 yards a catch and caught nine touchdowns for Miami. Terrelle Pryor is still learning the position but finished with 77 catches for 1,007 yards and four touchdowns for the Browns.

Any of those guys makes the Eagles' offense better immediately. But in reality, just about any decent receiver would make this group better. Howie Roseman is better off buying low in free agency and building the receiver corps through the draft.

CSNPhilly.com Eagles Insider Reuben Frank recently highlighted the lack of success the Eagles' have had in signing free-agent receivers. The list is basically Irving Fryar and a bunch of guys. While the occasional trade (Terrell Owens) has worked out, the Eagles have been better off drafting receivers.

Looking ahead to the draft, this receiver class is extremely deep. There may not be the elite talent of the 2014 receiver class, but there are plenty of intriguing players to explore. In the first round, Clemson's Mike Williams or Western Michigan's Corey Davis could be available to the Eagles. Oklahoma's Dede Westbrook or Eastern Washington's Cooper Kupp could be there in the second. Even in the middle rounds, guys like Louisiana Tech's Carlos Henderson, Western Kentucky's Taywan Taylor and ECU's Zay Jones could be impactful.

As far as free agents go, the Eagles have other options beyond the big names. Kamar Aiken of the Baltimore Ravens is an intriguing name. The 27 year old had a breakout 2015 (75 catches, 944 yards, five touchdowns) followed by a disappointing 2016 (29 catches, 328 yards, one touchdown). He lost snaps to a healthy Steve Smith, free-agent signee Mike Wallace and former first-round pick Breshad Perriman. The Eagles can buy low on Aiken and hope his production is similar to 2015.

Kendall Wright, also 27, had a breakout season in 2013 (94 catches, 1,079 yards) but has fought injuries and inconsistencies over the last few seasons in Tennessee. Then there's Brian Quick from the L.A. Rams, another 27 year old who hasn't quite put it together. He had a career year in 2016, hauling in 41 catches for 564 yards under new Eagles receivers coach Mike Groh.

The Eagles' best bet would be to take a flyer and buy low on one of these receivers and dig deep on this draft. Aiken or Wright and two rookies could help overhaul the position and create serious competition.

Can the Eagles count on Roseman to deliver the next Irving Fryar? The safer bet is him delivering the next DeSean Jackson... instead of the actual DeSean Jackson.