Setting: 1776 N. Broad Street is the site for a Top 20 tangle as Bill Self’s No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks (12-0) visit the Liacouras Center in downtown Philadelphia for a tilt with Fran Dunphy’s No. 18 Temple Owls (11-2).
Plot: Temple finished an undefeated month of December with a victory over Northern Illinois, 70-60. Kansas throttled Belmont, 81-51 to close out 2009. Temple opens A-10 play on Wednesday. Kansas does not start conference play until January 13th.
Sub-plots: Temple leads its Atlantic 10 rivals, as the conference has ascended to a number four ranking in the RPI. Kansas and No. 2 Texas lead a Big 12 conference ranked number two.
Flashback: Dionte Christmas scored 18 of his game-high 21, but the Jayhawks won last December, 71-59. Kansas holds a 6-3 advantage all-time against Temple. In 1995, the Owls trimmed then-No. 1 Kansas in overtime, 74-66.
The two schools rank in the top ten of total victories for Division I schools. Kansas sits at third with 1,982 wins. Temple is in sixth with 1,722. Kentucky leads the way with 2,002 triumphs. North Carolina follows with 1,997.
Foreshadowing: 52 former Jayhawks have played in the NBA. Currently, nine Jayhawks roam the NBA hard courts: Darrell Arthur, Mario Chalmers, Nick Collison, Drew Gooden, Kirk Hinrich, Darnell Jackson, Paul Pierce, Brandon Rush, and Julian Wright.
Thirty-three former Owls have played in the NBA. Mardy Collins is the lone Temple alum in the league.
Conflict: Temple averages 64 points per game while Kansas fills it up to the tune of 87 per game. The Owls hold opponents to 54; Self’s Jayhawks limit adversaries to 58.
Who will dictate the tempo of this game?
Kansas wants to run the floor. Temple wants to run half court.
Temple’s Juan Fernandez is capable of carrying the Owls. The sophomore guard has scored 20 or more in three of Temple’s last four games. Fernandez knocked down 11 triples as Temple downed then-No. 3, Villanova, 75-65. The 6′4″ Argentine leads the Owls hitting 32-of-69 (.464) from long range.
When will the Owls decide to air it out? Conventional wisdom suggests the home team should get out of the gate quickly. Fran Dunphy knows these Jayhawks have too much firepower for an early game deluge.
Freshman Xavier Henry with 16 points per game, leads four Jayhawks in double figures. Sherron Collins follows with 13 points and 51 total assists. Marcus Morris and Cole Aldrich chip in 11 apiece.
Kansas is 13th in the nation with a rebounding margin of 8.3. Alrich leads the way with 10. Morris and Henry combine for nine.
The Jayhawks are number three in the land with a field goal percentage defense of .346 including .278 from behind the arc.
Ryan Brooks leads the Cherry and White with 15.8 per game. Lavoy Allen averages a double-double with 10.6 rebounds and points per game.
Fernandez and Luiz Guzman combine for six-and-a-half assists per game.
The Owls have turned the ball over just 137 times thus far while opponents have fumbled the ball 159 times. For the Owls to be successful, this trend will need to continue.
Allen gives up two inches and 20 pounds to Aldrich. Temple will be hard pressed to find an advantage on the boards today. Instead, the Owls will need to value possession of the ball. Poor shots will result in layups at the other end. Fernandez and Guzman will need to control the flow.
Resolution: Kansas is too athletic to knock out in the first half. The Jayhawks are undefeated, but they have not played a team that is as disciplined on the offensive end and tenacious on the defensive end as are the Owls.
When the Temple band strikes up "Living On A Prayer," the Cherry and White will still have the Jayhawks in their sights. Fernandez will struggle early from the field, but he will find his mark and lead the Owls to the upset.