This week, we’ll find out whether Temple’s 5-0 start is a result of playing inferior competition or a sign that the Owls are a legitimately good team.
The Owls will face Big 5 rival Villanova at the Pavilion on Wednesday. Then they will meet second-ranked Duke on Saturday at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, NJ.
“Obviously, Villanova is fantastic basketball program,” Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. "It’s going to be a tough game out there no question. And Duke speaks for itself.”
While the Wildcats (4-3, 0-1 Big 5) haven’t been overly impressive, they’re only the second team Temple will face with a winning record.
Kent State (5-3) was the other. Meanwhile, Rice (2-5), Delaware (2-6), Buffalo (2-7) and Wagner (2-4) are a combined 8-22 record.
Plus, the Owls have extra motivation.
Villanova has won the last six meetings with Temple at the Pavilion. The Owls’ last victory in the building was a 70-57 decision on Nov. 29, 1990.
Temple, which won last season’s meeting at the Liacouras Center, also looks to post consecutive series wins for the first time since beating Nova in 1993 and 1995. There was no series meeting in 1994.
“They are a good team,” Owls guard Khalif Wyatt said. “It’s a Big 5 game. So I mean, it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be a great atmosphere. It’s going to be a Big 5 Dandy.”
One can only assume Duke (8-0) will look at Saturday’s contest as a revenge game.
The Owls upset the then third-ranked Blue Devils, 78-73, last season at the Well Fargo Center. That marked Temple’s first win over Duke since Jan. 25, 1996, snapping a nine-game losing streak to the Blue Devils.
Duke returns four starters and 10 players overall from last season’s squad. The Blue Devils also added two former McDonald’s All Americans in freshmen Rasheed Sulaimon (guard) and Amile Jefferson (forward). Jefferson, a West Philadelphia native, played at Friends' Central.
Here’s a look at the probable starters, coaches’ records and series information:
32 Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson F 6-6 Sr. 9 ppg. 5.6 rpg.
3 Anthony Lee F 6-9 Soph. 10.4 ppg. 7.2 rpg.
33 Scootie Randall G/F 6-6 Sr. 15.8 ppg 7.2 rpg.
1 Khalif Wyatt G 6-4 Sr. 15.6 ppg. 5 apg.
2 Will Cummings G 6-2 Soph.. 5.4 ppg. 1.8 apg.
13 Mouphtaou Yarou F 6-10 Sr. 9 ppg. 5.6 rpg.
25 Maurice Sutton F/C 6-11 Sr. 5.9 ppg. 3.7 rpg
32 James Bell G/F 6-5 Jr. 10.7 ppg. 4.7 rpg.
15 Ryan Arcidiacono G 6-3 Fr. 12.9 ppg. 3.3 rpg
4 Darrun Hilliard G 6-6 Soph. 10.3 ppg. 2.7 rpg.
Fran Dunphy (449-228 career record)
Jay Wright (363-218)
The Wildcats hold a 43-41 advantage.
Temple prevailed, 78-67, at the Liacouras Center on Dec. 10, 2011.