#1 Villanova Wildcats (22-3) vs. Temple Owls (16-8)
When: Wednesday, February 17, 2016, at 7 p.m.
Where: Liacouras Center, Philadelphia, Pa.
Temple’s Previous Season Record: 26-11, Lost to Miami in Semifinals of NIT
Key Players for Temple: #25 Quenton DeCosey (6-5, 205) Sr., G; #0 Obi Enechionyia (6-9, 220) So., F; #15 Jaylen Bond (6-8, 240) Sr., F
Scouting Report: Temple will be ready to host #1 Villanova with a raucous crowd ready to fill up the sold-out Liacouras Center. The Owls have some great wins, and a number of close losses. They’re currently atop the American Conference and have a 3-3 record against Top 25 teams. However, as of Monday’s polls, only two of those teams are still ranked–North Carolina, who blew out Temple to start the season, and SMU, who was the last undefeated team before getting its first loss at the hands of the Owls. Temple has been hot as of late, winning eight of its last nine games. The Owls also have the third-lowest turnover rate in Division-I. They take great care of the ball and average only 9.3 turnovers per game.
A big part of Temple’s success is made possible through the efforts of senior guard Quenton DeCosey, who is enjoying a revitalized season after a disappointing junior year. After a strong sophomore campaign in his first season as a starter, DeCosey’s production dropped. He averaged 12.3 points per game after putting up 15.4 a season before and shot a subpar 37.7% from the field. He’s saved his best for his final year as an Owl, averaging career highs in almost every category–points (16.6), rebounds (6.0), shooting percentage (45.5%), 3-point shooting percentage (41.2%), and free-throw shooting percentage (80.7%). DeCosey is an all-around player who does almost everything for the Owls. However, he’s got a pretty good supporting cast around him that he doesn’t need to shoulder the load all by himself, but he leaves for a nice weapon to lean on.
Temple can also rely on Jaylen Bond down low and wing Obi Enechionyia. Bond is a bruiser in the post and a solid rebounder. He’s averaging 9.9 points per game and 8.4 boards per game. The 6-foot-8 forward can hang with bigger guys inside and is excellent at grabbing offensive rebounds that can become second chance points. However, there are two blaring flaws to his play. The first is his terrible free throw shooting. So far this season, he has converted only 13-of-33 (39.4%) free throws. Also, he tends to put himself in foul trouble often. In the last five games, two of them he was limited, because he was in foul trouble. When he can stay on the floor, he can easily put up double-double type numbers and has done so in three of the last five games.As for Enechionyia, he has been able to find his groove as of late. He hasn’t been consistent for the first half of the season, but is hitting his stride at an important time for Temple. The sophomore has been a lot more comfortable as of late, and his 9.2 points per game don’t tell the whole story. Over the last six games, he’s averaging 13.7 points per game. He can make himself a reliable third option and score from anywhere when he’s hot, which is much evolved from the interior oriented play from last season.
Also keep an eye out for Devin Coleman, who has a knack for shooting well in big games. His most impressive performance came against then-ranked #8 SMU, when he scored 23 points and a perfect 7-for-7 from beyond the arc. He can be inconsistent, but when the shots fall, they’ll fall at a high rate. He’s a lucky charm for the Owls. Since coming off the bench in January, Temple is 7-0 when he can reach double figures in points. However, so far against the Big 5 opponents Temple has played, Coleman is averaging a meager 3.0 points per game. Facilitating the offense will be Josh Brown, who has a better assist-to-turnover ratio than Villanova’s own Ryan Arcidiacono. He’s not the scorer like Arcidiacono, but he does have a 4.7 to 1.4 ratio.
Outlook: The Big 5 crown is at stake for this one. A win gives Villanova sole possession of the title once again but a loss means there will be a three-way tie between St. Joe’s, Villanova, and Temple. With all that aside, this is ramping up to be a big game that’s in the spirit of the glory days of the Big 5. Aside from Daniel Ochefu‘s performance, Villanova didn’t look that impressive against St. John’s. The Wildcats will need him to control the paint and the boards. This is going to be Villanova’s first true test since becoming the top ranked team in the nation. With all due respect to DePaul and St. John’s, they’re not going to hang in there with a hot Temple team. The Owls and their fans have been looking forward to this one and this one has upset-alert written all over it.
The deciding factor for who wins the game will be Temple’s offense versus Villanova’s defense. The Owls take great care of the ball, while the Wildcats will look to disorient opponents and force turnovers. If Temple keeps its turnovers low like it has all season, it’ll be very beneficial for the Owls. Villanova will need to get in Temple’s face and find success with its press or else it might be in big trouble. The ‘Cats have used the press to create a lot of scoring opportunities, they will need to do the same against a team that doesn’t turn the ball over much if they want to get out of the Liacouras Center with a win. It might not be a bad idea for Villanova to “Hack-a-Bond”, with Temple’s Jaylen Bond shooting only 39.4% from the charity stripe.