***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game
Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.
The Big Five takes center stage tonight followed by an under the radar matchup in Missouri. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.
#25 Temple @ #9 Villanova – 7 pm on ESPN2 (****)
Temple won last year’s Big Five meeting between these squads but Villanova holds a slight edge in the series, 43-41. Each team enters on a winning streak and both are rated in the top ten in defensive efficiency. However, Temple has been the more consistent defensive team over the years and Villanova has a tendency to lapse back into a weaker defense against better opponents. Temple is 2-0 against the Big East, having defeated Seton Hall and Georgetown at home earlier this season, and will look to make it three on the road tonight. Interior play and rebounding will be important aspects of this game. Temple gets two thirds of its points from two point range, mostly due to the fact that they can’t shoot the three. The Owls are one of the worst teams from deep (27%) and Villanova plays very good defense on the arc. Don’t expect Temple to get to the line much either, making points inside the arc extremely important for Fran Dunphy’s team. Lavoy Allen has a tendency to disappear on offense and it would be wise if he didn’t pick this game to do it again. The 6’9 forward is talented and a strong defensive player but must provide the Owls with offensive production inside. Getting him the ball is another story and that’s where Juan Fernandez comes in. He’s struggled with his shooting (six for his last 23) as well as turnovers but has averaged seven assists over his last three games, using his strong dribble penetration to get others involved. Fernandez’s shooting has been so bad that his three point shooting is down a stunning 25% from last season. He has to get the ball inside to Allen and fellow guard Ramone Moore (30 points against Georgetown). Moore has the ability to drive and make some crafty shots around the tin. Temple is not a deep team and must defend and rebound well in order to win on the road against a strong Villanova team. The Wildcats have a talented starting five with pretty good balance, at least in terms of their height. However, Villanova’s guards take the majority of shots, sometimes not for the better. Jay Wright should look to utilize his big men more, especially against a Temple team that can be severely limited when their bigs get into foul trouble. Antonio Pena (59% FG) figures to have an advantage, though he’ll have to work hard against a Temple defense ranked #12 inside the arc. Villanova’s offense revolves around its talented trio of guards. While Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns haven’t exactly shot the lights out, Corey Stokes remains a constant threat on the arc for the Wildcats as the senior from New Jersey has connected on 14 of his last 30 triples. 14 makes is more than Fisher and Wayns have made all year. Stokes has taken 30-40 more threes than his back court teammates and the Temple defense must make them shoot to get the ball out of Stokes’ hands. Coach Dunphy may want to try a box-and-one defense on Stokes, forcing Fisher and Wayns to beat him. Temple will look to slow the pace down and get into a half court game, a situation where they excel on both ends of the floor. The rebounding battle will be huge as both teams rank in the top ten in keeping their opponent off the offensive glass. Grabbing offensive rebounds will be crucial, especially for Temple. Villanova has a significant edge at the free throw line and should look to penetrate and pick up some early fouls on the Temple front court players. Big Five games are usually close and this shouldn’t be an exception. Playing on campus at the Pavilion, expect Villanova to take this contest by single digits with Temple hanging close throughout the game.
Old Dominion @ #10 Missouri – 8 pm on ESPN3.com/ESPN FullCourt (***)