As they have the last two years, Villanova will suspend their Big East campaign for one night this week to close out the Philadelphia Big 5 slate against a Temple team that is currently leading the American Athletic Conference. The 'Cats enter the road game as a favorite, checking in at number-one in both major polls and a potential top seed in the NCAA tournament. That doesn't mean it will be a cakewalk, however.
Big 5 games tend to bring out the best in opponents; the history and extra meaning of taking down the Wildcats is a huge motivator for the cross-town rivals.
Here are three things to watch for when Villanova and Temple tip off at the Liacouras Center.
1. Temple is on a five-game winning streak
The Owls have knocked off South Florida, Tulsa, UCF, UConn and South Florida (again) consecutively over their last five games. Those wins have them sitting atop the AAC standings with a 10-3 record and they're at 16-8 overall. The current streak is their longest of the season, with their previous best of three-in-a row coming between January 16th and 24th. They have played a tough non-conference slate and have just three losses since the New Year, and conference play, began.
2. Temple's strength is defense
KenPom.com rates the Temple defense as 62nd in the country, and other than a few outliers, they have mostly held the total score in their games down this season. They held a good UConn team to 53 and 58 points in their two meetings, and handed SMU -- a top-ten offensive team -- their first loss of the season. They are a high-energy team with talented guards that can use their hustle to get stops and create turnovers.
3. Though unranked, they have three wins against Top-25 opponents
Don't let anything about this Temple team fool you. They know what it takes to score an upset victory. They knocked off #22 Cincinnati in December and followed up with #23 Connecticut less than a week later. The coup de gras to date, however, has been their takedown of an undefeated #8-ranked SMU.
While Temple lost three other games to ranked opponents earlier in the season, they've been on something of a winning streak against the teams favored by the AP Poll since then.
Bonus: Quentin DeCosey is a stud.
The senior guard has been putting in work for the Owls this season and unquestionably is their star this season. He put up a career high of 30 points to push them past USF at the end of last month, and averages 16.6 points per game, 6 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.2 steals, while shooting 44.5% from the field, 41.2% from deep, and over 80% from the charity stripe. He's a handful to deal with, and while Temple has other players who can score, DeCosey is obviously a handful to defend.