The Temple Owls did a very rude thing on January 22. They came into the Houston Cougars' house and upset the team that was #1 in the nation at the time. Is Houston, a squad that seems to have everything going for it, equipped for revenge? That's something BetOnline customers will have to sort out before they watch this game on ESPN2 at 6 PM ET from the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia.
It's not as if Temple (14-9) wasn't able to beat good opponents; the Owls had registered victories over Villanova, Cincinnati and VCU, and also took down Rutgers, a legitimate Big Ten power, in the fourth game of the season. But the biggest win, by far, was the 56-55 triumph in Houston a few weeks ago. In that contest, Temple made only 14 of its 45 shots from the field, but made 20 free throws and got sixteen points off the bench from Damian Dunn. Could they do anything to replicate that?
The fundamentals would seem to cast doubt upon that. Houston is that rare team that is ranked in the top ten in both offensive and defensive efficiency, and there are few clubs who are as aggressive on the boards as Kelvin Sampson's bunch. And although Temple didn't, by any stretch, play a perfect game in the last meeting, they are not a particularly formidable team, on the glass, which won't do them any favors.
In the college basketball betting odds that have been posted on this game by the folks at BetOnline, the Cougars are laying double digits on the road:
Houston Cougars -10.5
Temple Owls +10.5
Over 131.5 points -110
Under 131.5 points -110
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Temple will need to work the ball around the halfcourt, as Houston forces its opponents to take a lot of time each time down the floor. But it's dangerous when you are as careless as the Owls often are; they turn it over on 20% of their possessions.
Aaron McKie's team is not the type to beat opponents with its long-range wizardry; as you look at this game, you have to understand that they are just 31.5% from three-point range. Houston is going to shut that down anyway, but the thing is, they have muzzled teams when they come inside the arc, allowing just 43% two-pointers. And they lead the nation in blocked-shot percentage. A key here is J'wan Roberts, a 6-7 frontcourt man from the Virgin Islands who also shoots almost 65% and has the top Offensive Rating in the American Athletic Conference.
Temple is not going to rattle Houston with pressure defense, although the Owls are capable of getting out there and guarding the perimeter. But when the Cougars miss a shot, you have to defend them twice; this is the fourth-best offensive rebounding team in the nation. So they hit the boards with abandon.
Houston is indeed motivated for revenge. But there are a couple of things that give us some caution. For one thing, Temple's Khalif Battle, a fourth-year sophomore, has been on a hot streak, scoring 51 points in the last two games. And the Cougars haven't made a habit of going for the jugular; they have scored only four wins of more than ten points against teams that are in KenPom's top 100.
Then again, the Liacouras Center has hardly been a fortress for the Owls, as they have lost to the likes of Wagner, Vanderbilt and Maryland-Eastern Shore on that floor.
Again, as we examine the fundamentals, the Cougars have all the equipment necessary to get what they are looking for, so they're the only side we're looking at here.
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