In a battle of two Philadelphia teams, the struggling Villanova Wildcats will take on the unsteady Temple Owls
WHO: Villanova Wildcats (18-6, 8-4) vs. Temple Owls (13-11, 5-7)
TV SCHEDULE: Sunday, February 16th, 2020 at 10:00 AM ET, ESPN
LOCATION: Liacouras Center in Philadelphia, PA
The Villanova Wildcats are not where they thought they would be at this point in the season with three losses in their last four games. In fact, their only win in the terrible four-game stretch was a one-point win against Marquette. The best part about this stretch is the Wildcats head coach; Jay Wright. Wright has been through times like this before which is not the most important part. He has been able to pull his team through tough stretches similar to this which is the most important part. You cannot quantify the impact a coach with actual leadership qualities has on his team during the run to March Madness.
On the other end of the spectrum is the Temple Owls with first-year head coach Aaron McKie. Since the start of 2020, the Owls have gone an abysmal 4-8. In the first half of their season, the Owls six of their first seven and ended 2019 with a 9-3 record. Unlike Jay Wright, McKie does not have the same experience as a head coach. McKie is facing his first real test of leadership.
The team probably does not have the talent to compete with Villanova but this will be a good test for a young player like sophomore forward Jake Forrester. Forrester, presumably, will be in the program for two more years. As a young player and a possible future leader, it is important to see how he responds to negative events and if he has the resilience to continue fighting.
Villanova, as always, has a plethora of top recruits on their roster including the number 15 prospect last year, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl. The freshman forward has had an immediate impact on the Wildcats. On the year, Robinson-Earl has averaged almost a double-double per game. Robinson-Earl has hit 44.4% of his field goals which is good for 11.1 points per game. He is also grabbing a team-leading 9.7 rebounds per game as he continues to be a force for the Wildcats in the paint.
The other two Wildcats who have been major performers on the offensive end are sophomore forward Saddiq Bey and junior guard Collin Gillespie. Bey has averaged a team-high 15.7 points per game while grabbing 5 rebounds. Bey has been an efficient shooter this year. Overall, he has hit on nearly half of his shots (48.2% field goal percentage) and is shooting an astounding 46.8% from three-point range on a little more than five attempts per game.
Gillespie, a local product, has averaged a career-high 15.6 points per game while distributing the ball for the Wildcat offense. He has increased his passing this year and it shows as he has about two more assists per game this year than his career average indicates (4.6 assists per game in 2019-20 compared to 2.6 assists per game in his career).
The Wildcats, despite their recent struggles, will be too much for the Temple Owls on their home court. The Owls still have a lot to learn and have not yet proven they can work through adversity. The Wildcats, with their experience on the court and leadership off the court, will be able to turn their season around beginning with this local game against the Temple Owls.
Prediction: Villanova 81, Temple 71