There will be a lot on the line Wednesday night as the Villanova Wildcats head to the Liacouras Center to take on the Temple Owls. For the third straight season, Villanova is ranked #1 in the AP poll, and defending that ranking starts tomorrow.
But more importantly to Philadelphia basketball fans, the Big 5 title will be decided. A Villanova win means a 5th consecutive sweep of the city schools, and the extension of a 21 game winning streak. Both would be records in the 62 year history of the round robin, and none of the Wildcats want to be responsible for ending this run. Temple, on the other hand, will be anxious to be the school that finally takes down the kings of Philly.
The Road Trip Begins
Villanova will play its next four games on the road, not returning to the Wells Fargo Center until January 6th. Temple may be only a short bus ride away, but it’s still going to be a hostile environment that should be even more savage now that they’re hosting the #1 team in the country. The NCAA’s recent decision to include game locations when determining seeding is further proof that home-court advantage is a real thing in college basketball. Add that to the fact that Temple is a Top 50 KenPom team this season, and coming away with a victory will be no easy task for the Wildcats.
Temple Has Its Own Pair Of Rising Stars
The Owls have a 1-2 punch that Nova will have to shut down in order to win. Shizz Alston Jr. is Temple’s sharp shooter at guard, averaging 17.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.5 assists. The 6’4” junior is shooting over 53% from deep and has only missed one free throw all season. He’ll draw a combo of Booth and DiVincenzo on defense, both of whom will have to focus on running Alston off the arc without fouling. Not easy, but not impossible.
His running mate is sophomore forward Quinton Rose, averaging 17.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.9 steals. He’s Temple’s version of Mikal Bridges, and the two will likely draw each other in what will be the most exciting matchup of the game. Bridges will have the advantage in experience and skill, but never underestimate a young player at home who’s hungry to prove that he can play with the big boys.
Rebounding Will Be The Key For Villanova
The biggest advantage Villanova has going into this game will be on the boards. The Wildcats currently rank 22nd nationally in defensive rebounding percentage, while the Owls come in ranked 225th. Temple may have a slightly taller front court, but the two sides are pretty even matched when it comes to overall size.
The real separator here is that Villanova rebounds as a team better than almost anyone else in the country. The Wildcats have seven players that average three or more rebounds per game, compared to just four players for Temple. Unless the Owls can keep the rebounding margin close, Nova could run away with this one.