#1 Villanova Wildcats (10-0) vs Temple Owls (7-3)
When: Tuesday, December 13, 2016, at 7p.m.
Where: The Pavilion
Coverage: Fox Sports 1
KenPom Prediction: 77-60, Villanova (95%)
Temple’s Previous Season Record: 21-12, Won the American Conference Regular Season title, Lost in Opening Round of NCAA Tournament to Iowa
Key Players for Temple: #0 Obi Enechionyia (6-10, 220) Jr., F; #3 Shizz Alston Jr. (6-4, 180) So., G; #1 Josh Brown (6-3, 195) Sr., G
Scouting Report: Temple is coming off their seventh trip to the NCAA Tournament and were actually very close to squaring off against the Wildcats in the Round of 32, but lost in a heartbreaking, last-second basket to Iowa in overtime. With the losses of former captains in double-double machine Jaylen Bond and leading scorer Quenton DeCosey, head coach Fran Dunphy has a resurgent team that is going to be competitive in the American Conference again this season. Despite a 1-2 start, these young Owls have proven that they cannot be taken lightly. Over Thanksgiving weekend, they won the Pre-Season NIT Tip-Off with wins over Florida State–overcoming an 18 point deficit at one point in that game–and Bob Huggins’ West Virginia Mountaineers. Both Florida State and West Virginia were ranked in the top 25 at the time, and earning back-to-back wins against ranked teams has done wonders for their morale and confidence. Since then, the Owls have only lost once. Temple is led by junior Obi Enechionyia, who leads the Owls in scoring, averaging 18.6 points per game this year. Enechionyia has done a great job in stepping into his role as a leading man, and has drastically improved as a versatile big man who can score on the block and can stretch opposing defenses with his 3-point shooting. He’s posting career-high scoring numbers, as well as doing so in the most efficient manner he’s ever done in his career, shooting 46.9 percent overall and an even better 49.2 percent from deep. He’s got the help from fifth-year senior Daniel Dingle, who, like Enechionyia–is enjoying his most productive season to date. He’s averaging in double figures for the first time ever, with 11.4 points per game. Then there’s Josh Brown, who is amidst a seven-game trial period after suffering a torn Achilles during the offseason. He will have to decide by the end of this month if he will take a medical redshirt year or come back and spend his final season next year. So far, he’s gradually been playing more minutes and is coming off of his most effective performance yet. In Temple’s win over DePaul, he scored 10 points, tallied seven steals, and dished out five assists. While the team’s veterans are doing well, it helps having some of the younger guys step up, too. Rising sophomore and Philadelphia native Shizz Alston Jr. is second on the team in scoring, averaging 12.6 points per game. However, Alston is quite inefficient, shooting below 40 percent overall and below 30 percent from deep. Dunphy’s squad is also getting contributions from two freshmen who are making an immediate impact for the Owls, Quinten Rose, who plays a great role in the Temple rotation after dropping 26 against Florida State. Then there’s Alani Moore II, who might not be the biggest at 5-10, but is another player to watch out for. Despite his height, Moore is a scrappy guard that makes an immediate impact when he’s on the floor. He is capable of quietly stringing along a few baskets together.
Outlook: Temple is a versatile team that epitomizes what Philadelphia basketball is all about: a tough, hard nosed, team that plays tough defense and moves the ball effectively in order to get the right shot. The Owls are fortunate to have their younger players blend well with their veterans, as they’ve been a lot tougher than expected. The losses of DeCosey and Bond haven’t hurt as big as it first seemed. Like Villanova, Temple is 3-0 in Big 5 play, but La Salle, Penn, and St. Joe’s don’t quite match up to the level of Villanova. While Temple doesn’t turn the ball over too much (ranked 28th for lowest turnover rate), Jay Wright may want to amp up their three-quarter, full-court press, as Temple struggled against the West Virginia press, turning the ball over 19 times. With Enechionyia’s ability to stretch the floor and shoot the three, it may be a tough matchup for Darryl Reynolds. While the Owls are no stranger to upsetting teams, the Wildcats are just much more talented across the board. Look for point guard Jalen Brunson to continue to wreck opposing Big 5 teams. Through seven career games thus far against those Philadelphia schools, he’s averaging 16.6 points per game and recently had a career-high 26 points against La Salle at the Palestra last Tuesday. Also, you can’t forget the 25 points he dropped at the Liacouras Center against Temple last season, too. Then there’s Josh Hart, who’s coming off that monstrous 37 point, 11 rebound performance against Notre Dame. Pencil in Villanova for the Big 5 crown, and the senior class will get to finish their careers without a Big 5 loss.