College Hoops Thursday: Your Commentary

December 30th, 2010
There should be little doubt as to what the game of the day is on Thursday with a Big 5 battle on the docket. Temple (9-2, 0-0 Big 5) makes the short trip to Villanova (10-1, 3-0 Big 5) with hopes of picking up their second win over a ranked Big East team this season, and they've got the horses to do so. Head coach Fran Dunphy, who understands the meaning of the Big 5 as much as anyone in the city (having played at La Salle and coached at Penn before making the move to Temple), has led his team through a tough non-conference schedule with just two losses and has six players averaging at least seven points per game. When talking Temple most jump immediately to guard Juan Fernandez and forward Lavoy Allen and with good reason. Allen's the preseason Atlantic 10 Player of the Year and Fernandez has a game that reminds some of fellow countryman (Argentina) and former Temple great Pepe Sanchez. But despite the offensive gifts of both neither leads this team in scoring. That distinction belongs to Ramone Moore, who lit up Georgetown for 30 points in that 68-65 victory.

Moore's averaging 14.9 points per game and shooting 44% from the field and 33% from three, and has the ability to beat you via the jumper or drive to the basket. Micheal Eric, Rahlir Jefferson and Scootie Randall are all within the 7-8 points per game range but their biggest contributions tend to come on the boards and defensively. Temple's frontcourt could be an issue for Villanova but the Wildcats do match up well from a depth standpoint along with skill (although none of the Nova bigs are asked to score like Allen). Mouphtaou Yarou and senior Antonio Pena lead the way with a combined average of 19.0 points and 15.6 rebounds per game while Isaiah Armwood and Maurice Sutton provide insurance off the bench. Head coach Jay Wright also has the ability to go small and use four guards but more often than not the Wildcats have gone with two bigs on the floor. And if you're going to talk Villanova Basketball you have to talk guard play, something that's been a staple for years in this program.

The combo of Corey Fisher and Malik Wayns has been solid for most of the season while sharpshooter Corey Stokes has been one of the best shooters in the Big East and leads the team in scoring. Stokes (15.7 ppg) is making 46% of his shots from the field and 41% from beyond the arc, and 80 of his 119 field goal attempts have come from deep. Within 30 feet of the basket the senior from New Jersey can fire away with accuracy, meaning that Temple will need to identify where he is almost immediately. Wayns and Fisher both have assist to turnover ratios near 2-to-1 on the season but neither is shooting as well as hoped from the field (Fisher 37.9%, Wayns 38.8%). They'll need to get going soon, beginning with tonight, if this squad is to reach its full potential and contend for a Big East title. Some have wondered if they're attacking at the same level that Villanova guards have throughout the Wright era but even if there has been a drop-off it only takes one moment for any of these guards to go off.

Villanova's done a better job on the boards with a rebounding margin of plus-9 on the season but overall they haven't played the schedule that Temple has (SOS: 29 to Nova's 190). The Wildcats also do a better job of getting to the foul line, having made more free throws (205) than their opponents have taken (190). Both teams have capable shooters but an all-out shootout from the perimeter would do more harm than good for the Owls (66.2% of their points come from two, meaning that would be a severe departure from who they are offensively), who need a solid night from Allen on the block if they're to leave The Pavilion with a win. Defensively the Owls have done a better job of turning opponents over (20% turnover rate) but the Wildcats limit shooters to 36.6% from the field and 27% from three. Look for this to be your typical Big 5 battle, with every inch and point to be fought for until the final buzzer.

In other action tonight the two ranked teams from Conference USA could both be pushed to the limit tonight as they host preseason favorites from the Ivy League and Atlantic Sun. UCF, who is still undefeated with a record of 12-0, hosts Princeton in a game that will test the Knights' defensive discipline. But for Sydney Johnson's Tigers to win the game they'll need big nights from forwards Ian Hummer and Kareem Maddox in dealing with Keith Clanton, who has been arguably the best frontcourt player in C-USA to date. And Memphis hosts one of the top teams in the Atlantic Sun, Lipscomb, who also boasts one of the best forwards few people talk about in Adnan Hodzic. The preseason A-Sun Player of the Year averages 20.2 points and 8.9 rebounds per game, and if the young Tigers aren't ready to go this game could be an upset possibility. Add in Old Dominion's trip west to take on Missouri and Oakland going to Oral Roberts in a crucial Summit League contest and you've got plenty of viewing options today.

Top 25
7:00 PM (25) Temple at (8) Villanova (ESPN2)
8:00 PM Old Dominion at (10) Missouri (ESPN3)
7:00 PM (16) Brigham Young at Buffalo
7:30 PM Princeton at (21) UCF
8:00 PM Lipscomb at (22) Memphis

NCAA Division I Games
1:30 PM Miami (OH) at Belmont
2:00 PM USC Upstate at Virginia Tech
2:00 PM Charlotte at Mercer
4:30 PM Texas A&M-CC vs. Montreat College*
5:00 PM Northeastern vs. Furman*
5:00 PM Cornell vs. Wofford*
5:30 PM Mississippi Valley State vs. Southeastern Louisiana*
6:00 PM Pepperdine at Miami (FL)
6:00 PM Colorado State vs. Dominican (Cal)*
7:00 PM Western Illinois at IUPUI
7:00 PM Texas-San Antonio at Bowling Green
7:00 PM Norfolk State at Ohio
7:00 PM Georgia State at Chattanooga
7:00 PM Rogers State at Houston
7:00 PM Columbia at Maine
7:00 PM Loyola (IL) at Cleveland State
7:00 PM Toledo at UNC Wilmington
7:00 PM Albany State (GA) at Alabama State
7:00 PM Milligan at Appalachian State
7:00 PM Dartmouth at Bucknell
7:00 PM St. Joseph's (ME) at Davidson
7:00 PM Green Bay at Detroit
7:00 PM Campbell at East Tennessee State
7:00 PM Niagara at UMBC
7:00 PM Binghamton at Morehead State
7:00 PM Robert Morris at Morgan State
7:00 PM Long Island at Navy
7:00 PM NJIT at St. Francis (NY)
7:00 PM Albany at Wagner
7:00 PM Milwaukee at Wright State
7:05 PM Illinois-Chicago at Youngstown State
7:15 PM Bethune-Cookman at Jacksonville
7:30 PM New Hampshire at VCU
8:00 PM Alcorn State at Mississippi (ESPN3)
8:00 PM South Dakota School of Mines at North Dakota
8:00 PM Central Arkansas at Oklahoma (ESPN3)
8:00 PM TCU at Tulsa
8:00 PM Doane at South Dakota
8:00 PM Arkansas-Little Rock at North Texas
8:00 PM Iowa State at Virginia
8:00 PM IPFW at Centenary
8:00 PM Savannah State at Southern Miss
8:00 PM Crowley's Ridge College at Tennessee Tech
8:00 PM Lamar at Tulane
8:05 PM South Dakota State at UMKC
8:05 PM Oakland at Oral Roberts (ESPN3)
8:30 PM SIU-Edwardsville at Murray State
9:00 PM North Dakota State at Southern Utah
9:00 PM Louisiana-Lafayette at Denver
9:00 PM Fordham at Santa Clara
9:05 PM South Alabama at Arkansas State
10:00 PM Long Beach State at Cal Poly
10:00 PM Loyola Marymount at UC Irvine
10:00 PM Central Michigan at UNLV
10:00 PM Arizona at Oregon (FSN)
10:00 PM Hampton at San Francisco
10:05 PM Pacific at Cal State Fullerton
10:05 PM UC Davis at Cal State Northridge
10:30 PM Arizona State at Oregon State
11:15 PM American University at Delaware

Hoops Talk Live 6-7 PM EST