When the Temple Owls strut into The Pavilion on Wednesday evening, they'll be sporting a perfect 5-0 record to start the season as they gear up for an Atlantic 10 title bid. They'll also have confidence that they can continue their recent dominance over Villanova after last year's double-digit win at The Liacouras Center.
However, the main players this year are going to be different than last season - and for both teams. Ramone Moore, who terrorized 'Nova for 32 points in last year's meeting, has since moved on. Maalik Wayns (23 points last year) and Dominic Cheek (2-8 3P FG) are no longer in the fold for Villanova.
(That last bit may have Wildcat fans feeling better about this year's matchup.)
There will be some familiar faces however that made a strong impact on last year's matchup and will be expected to playing starring roles this time around. Mouphtaou Yarou had 14 points and 8 rebounds last year and seems to be hitting his stride over the last couple of outings for 'Nova. JayVaughn Pinkston, now the go-to guy for Villanova, will be expected to carry the scoring load against an always tough Temple defense.
On the Owls side, Fran Dunphy will be pleased to see than Scootie Randall has really stepped up his production since last season as he now leads the team in scoring (15.8 ppg) and rebounding (7.2 rpg) to lead the way to Temple's unbeaten start. At 6'6", he's a tough matchup for anyone in the country - expect James Bell and Achraf Yacoubou to share the defensive duties against the Temple star.
Khalif Wyatt is option 1A and will also pose a threat to the 'Nova defense. Wyatt is averaging 15.6 ppg and 5 apg. Better yet, he's sporting an assist-to-turnover ratio greater than 2, making him one of the most capable lead guards in the conference. Young Ryan Arcidiacono and Tony Chennault will need to be on top of their game if they're to slow down Wyatt, who really makes the Temple offense go.
Down on the blocks, Temple will go with senior Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson, and undersized but battle tested forward and sophomore Anthony Lee, who is averaging over 10 ppg and 7 rpg. Villanova's frontline of Yarou, Pinkston, Daniel Ochefu and Maurice Sutton have been playing very well of late, and should have an advantage here if they can exploit the less-talented portion of the Owls.
While you might look at Temple's schedule so far and come away unimpressed, the Owls have been extremely well-coached and disciplined under Dunphy and are a rugged matchup for even the best teams in the country. Couple that grit with the star-power of Randall and Wyatt and Villanova will have their hands full on Wednesday night.
Here's what the Wildcats need to do to come away with a win.
Turnovers vs. Assists - While Villanova's turnover total came down significantly against Vanderbilt, their assists came down as well. They haven't yet played a game where they had a positive ratio, and this would be a great time to start. Temple is a grind-you-out defensive team and 'Nova is going to need to be patient and not force the issue. Temple will take advantage and make the 'Cats pay.
Offense through JVP - JayVaughn Pinkston played his best game of the season against Vanderbilt, and he looked to exploit a mismatch consistently in the post. He seems to have figured out that he can do some real damage in the paint as he uses his quickness and strength to beat taller and slower opponents. Despite his effectiveness against Vandy, he could have gotten many more touches. Villanova should be running the offense through Pinkston and he should be taking 12+ shots a game.
How will Arch hold up? - As the season has progressed, the scouting report has come out on Arcidiacono. He's a great shooter - when open. Opponents have pressed him harder and he's struggled to find his offense, often forcing up bad shots. If he can play within himself, and show some of his defensive prowess in slowing down Wyatt, it could open the door for much needed 'Nova victory.
The game will tip-off at 9 pm ET and will be aired on ESPN2.