The No. 1 Villanova Wildcats (10-0) will wrap up Big 5 play when they head down to the Liacouras Center to take on the rivaling Temple Owls (6-2).
Villanova has yet to lose, but got a scare from a hot-shooting La Salle squad in the Wildcats' previous outing. As for Temple, it enters Wednesday night's game coming off of back-to-back wins against Wisconsin and another Big 5 rival in Saint Joseph's.
How To Watch, Listen, and Stream
Game Time: Wednesday, December 13, 2017, at 7 p.m.
TV: ESPN2 (Jason Benetti, Dan Dakich)
RADIO: 1210 AM WPHT (Temple), 610AM Sports Radio (Villanova)
STREAM: Watch ESPN (Where available)
Villanova leads the all-time series against Temple, 47-42. The Wildcats have won each of the last four meetings rather comfortably, downing the Owls by double figures since previously losing to them in 2012.
According to Oddsshark, the Wildcats are a 7-point favorite against the Owls.
KenPom rates Villanova 74 percent favorite to beat Temple, predicting a score of 77-70.
What to Watch For
Big 5 Champs, Again?
With Sunday's win over La Salle, Villanova has already clinched at least a title share of the Big 5. A win on Wednesday night would secure another outright title for the ‘Cats and grant their fifth-straight sweep. The Wildcats have not lost a Big 5 game since they played--you guessed it, Temple--back in 2012.
The Big 5 is a city rivalry between the five major Philadelphia basketball programs--Villanova Wildcats, Saint Joseph's Hawks, La Salle Explorers, Temple Owls, and the Penn Quakers (sorry Drexel). There is no trophy for winning the Big 5, but they do give out individual accolades like a conference would with a Big 5 Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, Rookie of the Year, and all-Big 5 team. Anyone from Philadelphia will tell you even though there is no trophy to put the in case, the winner does get bragging rights and get to say that they are the kings of Philadelphia basketball, which seems to be enough.
There is no tournament to decide the winner. The champion or co-champions are selected based on their annual record against Big 5 opponents. Since the Big 5 was formed back in 1955, Temple has won the most Big 5 championships, with 27. However, Villanova is in hot pursuit, with 25 to its name.
This is a similar circumstance as the last two years. Villanova beat Temple over the last couple of seasons to go 4-0 and secure the outright Big 5 title. The Wildcats also happened to be ranked No. 1 in both instances, just like Wednesday night. Is the third time the charm for Temple, when it comes to pulling off the upset?
The Rise of the Second-Year Starters
Temple has its veteran guys like Obi Enechionyia, a stretch big that can also bang around inside and play tough interior defense on the other end as a shot blocker. Then there's Josh Brown, the redshirt senior point guard who has returned after an Achilles injury preemptively ended his 2016-17 season. He's starting off a bit slowly shooting-wise (just 36.2 percent on the floor), but he's a versatile guard that also crashes the boards well and distributes.
However, this team has been spearheaded by the Owls' second-year starters. They also aren't seniors yet, so Fran Dunphy will be happy to know he doesn't have to rush to find their replacements right away. Junior guard Shizz Alston Jr. is shooting the lights out to start out the season. He's really improved his three-point stroke and is knocking them down from deep at a 53.5 percent clip. He leads the team in scoring, averaging 17.3 points per game. He's automatic from the free throw line, so it'll a take a clean but tight defensive effort to lock him down. Also keep an eye out for Quinton Rose, the sophomore forward. He made a name for himself as one of the top freshmen in the Big 5, and he's only building off of last year. He's doubled his scoring output, also averaging 17.3 points per game. He's also the Owls' top rebounder and one of their better defenders. He's a lengthy 6-foot-8 versatile player that can play almost anywhere. He occasionally knocks down the three, but does most of his damage attacking the basket. He's a liability from the free throw line, however, shooting just 61.5 percent--so the 'Cats shouldn't feel too badly if they foul him. This Alston-Rose one-two combination will be vital for the Owls' odds at pulling off the upset and for Villanova, they should be the focal point of their defensive schemes.
Brunson, the Big 5 Slayer
There's something to be said for when Jalen Brunson goes up against a Big 5 team. Two of his top five highest-scoring games of his career came against Big 5 opponents. Temple happened to be one of those games, as he had a 25-point outing the last time the 'Cats visited the Liacouras Center his freshman year. While that game was impressive, his highest-scoring game against a Big 5 opponent actually came last season, when he dropped 26 points on La Salle.
Overall, he plays very well against Big 5 opponents. He scored in double figures in 10 of 11 career games against those Philadelphia-area schools. The one time he missed the mark was against St. Joe's his freshman year. Other than that, he's been excellent. Since his Villanova debut, he's averaged 16.1 points per game against them. He's shooting an impressive 55.3 percent on the floor and 53.3 percent from deep. He boasts an assist-to-turnover ratio of 4.5:1.5.
This season alone, he's averaging 16.0 points per game in the three Big 5 games Villanova already played. He's also draining 60 percent of his shots overall and he's 6-of-10 from long range. Brunson is dishing out just under six assists per game during this three-game stretch. If his track record is indicative of anything, he's primed for a good night and the Wildcats hope to see him mimic or exceed his previous performance at the Liacouras Center. His freshman year self quickly silenced the Temple faithful with that 25-point game, in which he shot 9-of-11 on the floor.