Villanova, a football school, will welcome Temple, a basketball school, to the Little Willy on Wednesday night for game two of their Big 5 slate.
Temple currently sits at 7-1 and leads the AAC, a conference that presumably possesses nude photos of the University of Connecticut. The Owls are by far the most formidable Big 5 opponent for the ‘Cats this year, ranking 75th in KenPom.
Let’s begin with noting the, well, weirdness, surrounding Fran Dunphy. Dunphy, a Big 5 legend who has coached at La Salle, Penn, and Temple, has been the head coach of the Owls since 2006. Last April, in a statement that read more like a eulogy than a press release, Temple announced that Fran Dunphy would be stepping down...at the end of this season...to be replaced by his current assistant Aaron McKie. So, for what it’s worth, this may be the last match-up between Jay Wright and Fran Dunphy.
While the Owls have thus far played a relatively weak schedule, their highest opponent being #96 Missouri, they have looked pretty good, especially on defense. Temple ranks #71 in AdjD, a ranking buoyed by the fact that they rank 1st in steal percentage and top-40 in turnover percentage. While competition obviously needs to be taken into consideration, the numbers are impressive. Their only defensive weakness appears to be defending the three as their prefer to crowd the paint.
On offense, the Owls exist nearly entirely within the arc as well, ranking sub-280 in 3P% and sub-240 in 3-point point distribution. They rely heavily on 2-point shots and are hitting them at 52%. They don’t turn the ball over and are a decent free-throw shooting team, though they do not shoot many.
The Owls are led by senior guard Shizz Alston and junior guard Quinton Rose. The pair are averaging 17 points a piece in over 33 minutes a game. I don’t think it’s out of line to say this is may be the strongest guard tandem the ‘Cats have faced thus far this year. Shizz Alston is the type of player that can go off, especially from deep where he is currently hitting at a 37% clip. He’s a great distributor, averaging nearly 6 assists a game, and is one of the best free-throw shooters in the country.
Quinton Rose is likely Temple’s best athlete and may be a challenge for Villanova’s smaller guards. Rose, a 6’8 guard in a forward’s body, has been excellent inside, shooting 52% from two. He takes the lion’s share of Temple’s shots and is involved in nearly every possession.
In terms of finding something to watch for, this game, on paper, appears like it could be a challenge for Villanova’s guard play. Regardless of how you feel concerning Phil Booth, Collin Gillespie, and Jahvon Quinerly, it’s clear that the kinks are still being worked out concerning ball-handling and initiating on offense. Additionally, the entire team has struggled with turnovers all season.
Alston and Rose are two tough veteran guards playing within a defense that makes its money on turnovers. It will be interesting to see how Villanova initiates on offense if Temple is able to turn the guards over off the dribble or clog the initial passing lanes. Of course, as mentioned above, the Owls have played a weak schedule and have not faced a team of Villanova’s caliber. Something has gotta give!
Overall, I think this is a game where it is paramount that Villanova comes out sharp. Villanova’s guards are skilled enough to withstand Temple’s defense but if the early minutes are marred by turnovers and sloppy play, this could be a long night. If Villanova is able to withstand the on-the-ball pressure and find shooters around the arc, the team should be able to handle the Owls. Regardless, this game will be a nice test.
The game tips off tomorrow night at 8:30 p.m. on FS1.