By Paul Gotham
Setting: It’s a battle for first place in the Atlantic 10 at 1776 N. Broad Street as Chris Mack’s Xavier Musketeers (12-5/4-0) take on Fran Dunphy’s No. 16 Temple Owls (15-3/3-0).
Plot: Both Temple and Xavier bring four-game winning streaks into the tilt.
Sub-plot: This is the Musketeers lone road game for the remainder of the month. Xavier is coming off an emotional win over Dayton on Saturday. Temple plays their next two games on the road: Saturday at Fordham and next Wednesday at Charlotte.
Xavier is 1-1 against ranked opponents this year. The Muskies lost a heart-breaker to then No. 21, Butler, 69-68. Xavier knocked off then No.19 Cincinnati, 83-79 in double overtime.
Xavier has won the last three regular season A10 titles. Temple won the last two A10 tournaments.
The Atlantic 10 is ranked fourth by the RPI.
Flashback: Dionte Christmas scored 20 and Lavoy Allen grabbed 10 boards as the Owls beat the Muskies, 55-53 in the semi-finals of last year’s A10 tournament.
Temple leads the series 11-9 with a 78-59 victory the last time the two met at the Liacouras Center.
Temple has made 27 appearances in the NCAA tournament including Elite Eight spots in ’01, ’99, ’93, ’91, and ’88. Xavier has reached the tournament 20 times with Elite Eight showings in ’08 and ’04.
Foreshadowing: Sixteen Musketeers have played in the NBA including current stars Derrick Brown, James Posey , and David West. Thirty-three former Owls have played in the Association. Mardy Collins is the lone Temple alum in the league.
Conflict: Xavier is 11-1 when scoring 70 or more points this season with their only loss coming in double overtime to Wake Forest. The Muskies make 45.1 percent of their shots from the field.
Temple opponents only hit 37.5 percent of their field goals while scoring 56 points per game.
Temple grabs fewer rebounds per game (38.2) than Xavier (39.2), but the Owls hold an advantage in rebound margin 3.7 to 1.8.
Xavier turns over the ball 12.9 times per game; Temple loses the rock 10.7 times. Xavier gets 6.4 steals per game while Temple swipes 4.7.
Ryan Brooks earned A10 Player-of-the-Week honors averaging 20 points and five rebounds as the Owls went 3-0 last week. The senior guard hit 10 three pointers for the week.
Juan Fernandez hits threes at a rate of 44.7 percent and leads the Owls with 42 total trifectas.
Temple will need these two to open up the floor for success inside.
Lavoy Allen leads the Cherry and White with 10.3 rebounds including 69 offensive boards.
Luis Guzman averages almost three assist per game.
Ramone Moore and Craig Williams combine for 10 points and five rebounds.
Xavier has held opponents to 29.6 from the three point arc. Terrell Holloway, Mark Lyons, Dante Jackson, and Jordan Crawford frustrate opposing perimeter shooters.
Jackson has established himself as the most versatile player on the Xavier squad. At 6’5″, the junior can defend players on the perimeter, but he has also drawn the assignment of bigger players such as Wake Forest’s 6’9″ Al-Farouq Aminu. Jackson hit five threes en route to a game-high 19 as the Muskies knocked off Dayton Saturday. He also grabs three boards per game.
Crawford leads three X-Men in double figures with 19 points. Crawford dished out four assists in Saturday’s win. The transfer has struggled at times trying to do too much. He averages 2.6 assists per game. This number needs to increase for Xavier to be successful over the long haul.
Holloway is a lunch pail type of player who scores 11 a game and has an assist to turnover ratio of 2.5:1. Holloway hits 90.7 percent from the free throw line. The sophomore performs his best in the tightest of games. Saturday, he hit 13 of 14. Against Cincinnati, Holloway was a perfect 11 of 11 line from the charity stripe.
Jason Love contributes 10 point and nine rebounds. The senior center has developed a jump hook that is nearly indefensible.
Kenny Frease rounds out Xavier’s starting five. The seven-footer averages just under six points and a tad below five rebounds per game.
Resolution: Dunphy deploys eight of his Owls for 13 or more minutes per game. Mack uses eight guys for 16 or minutes. Temple likes to front the post. Look for Xavier to try some lob entries into Frease. Jamel McLean will provide valuable minutes off the XU bench. The junior forward will be counted on to control the boards.
Brad Redford provides a spark off the bench for Xavier. Redford hits 47.9 percent from behind the three-point arc. The sophomore has learned how to get open in transition and finish from long range. Holloway and Jackson will need to continue to find the three-point threat.
It’s been a while since Xavier has won in Philly, but that changes Wednesday night. The Muskies with their balanced attack will win a one-possession game.
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